Preseason opener sparked Garoppolo's rise

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It is notable that rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will start the New England Patriots' preseason finale against the New York Giants and play extensively, as ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported Monday.

But perhaps even more notable was this nugget from Schefter:

That the top backup to Tom Brady has yet to be officially decided is, in part, a credit to how fast Garoppolo has burst on to the scene. The projection, after all, was that this would be more of a redshirt year for him behind Brady and the top backup the last two years, Ryan Mallett.

The turning point for Garoppolo was the preseason opener Aug. 7 against Washington. Up to that point, he wasn’t taking many practice repetitions in team drills and had been throwing some hard-to-miss interceptions while enduring a tough stretch that could have affected his confidence.

But Garoppolo was lights-out against Washington while playing the entire second half (9 of 13, 157 yards, 1 TD), a performance he acknowledged was a springboard for what has since been a solid three-week stretch for him.

“That was definitely a big building block, going from there,” Garoppolo said Monday in the Patriots’ locker room, before putting an Eastern Illinois backpack over his shoulders and departing to prepare for practice.

“It’s one of those things, you’re going to have your ups and downs as a rookie, that’s just part of the game. You have to just keep gradually improving day in and day out. If you keep doing that, as a rookie, that’s all you can ask for.”

Or, as Garoppolo previously said, “You have to be consistently good, not occasionally great.”

That’s the type of mindset that has to be music to Bill Belichick’s ears. And Garoppolo has backed it up with a solid on-field performance over three games.

Now, in a turn of events that would have been hard to believe before the Aug. 7 preseason opener, Garoppolo has the team considering him as its No. 2 signal-caller.

“I came in with the mindset that I am going to practice and study as if I was the starter,” he said. “If you want to be a successful player in this league, you have to take the mental reps and the physical reps, and take advantage of your opportunities.”

Garoppolo has done so to this point, and now comes another: A starting assignment Thursday with a chance to seize the No. 2 job.