Ready, Brissett, Go!

Photo courtesy of “The Boston Globe.”

The leaves aren’t the only thing falling in New England this September — Patriots players are dropping like flies.

As if the injuries to star tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring), signal-calling linebacker Dont’a Hightower (knee), and up and coming defensive end Trey Flowers (shoulder) weren’t enough, New England lost its second favorite quarterback Sunday afternoon.

With 4:55 remaining in the first half of Sunday’s home opener against the Miami Dolphins, Jimmy Garoppolo escaped a collapsing pocket and rolled out to his right. Heavily pursued by Miami linebacker Kiko Alonso (aka “Public enemy #2” as Roger Goodell has #1 locked up), Garoppolo released the ball and immediately absorbed Alonso’s hit. The 240 pound linebacker fell on Garoppolo as he tackled him to the ground and Jimmy G suffered the first injury of his NFL career — a right shoulder AC joint sprain.

For all of you non-doctors out there, myself included, have no fear! M.D. Armin Tehrany is an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in shoulder injuries. Tehrany says the AC joint (acromioclavicular joint) is a joint near the shoulder and is often sprained when someone falls on their side (like Garoppolo did on Sunday). AC joint sprains are graded from one to six with one being less worrisome (ice and physical therapy) and six being an extreme sprain (ten week surgical process). It is yet to be determined how serious Garoppolo’s injury is and conflicting reports are not making it easy to determine just how long the Patriots will be without their starting QB.

There are even rumors that Garoppolo might serve as the backup quarterback this Thursday when the Patriots host the Houston Texans on Thursday Night Football. With Tom Brady still suspended and Jimmy Garoppolo nursing an injury, who will the Patriots start at QB Thursday against the 2–0 Texans?

It would be nearly impossible for a veteran to come into Foxborough and learn Josh McDaniels’ complicated offense in just two days, so the Patriots will rely on rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett to lead the charge against a stout Texans defense Thursday night.

Brissett, the 91st overall pick in this year’s draft, relieved Garoppolo for the final 34 minutes in Sunday’s game. In his first real NFL action (preseason aside), Brissett looked rather impressive. In the 38 snaps Brissett took, he completed 6 of his 9 passing attempts for 92 yards. Brissett rushed for 12 yards and was sacked twice, although miscommunication on the offensive line was more to blame than the rookie QB. The offense managed to score 10 points (although Garoppolo was the one who got the Pats in field goal range on Brissett’s first drive) with the rookie out of NC State at the helm.

The Patriots ultimately outlasted a surging Dolphins second half attack and escaped with a 31–24 victory.

So here we are again Patriots Nation — another new quarterback after 15 years of consistency (with one minor Cassel bump). Although Garoppolo hasn’t officially been ruled out Thursday, Brissett looks like he will be the first African American quarterback to start a game in the long 56 year history of the New England Patriots. With limited preseason snaps, let’s look at his college stats to see how he’ll fare.

In 2011 former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis (2000–2004) left the Kansas City Chiefs to become the offensive coordinator for the Florida Gators. Weis’s first quarterback? Jacoby Brissett. Brissett only played in 8 games his freshman year (attempting on 39 passes) and Weis left Florida after only one short (and horrendous) season. However, Weis spoke highly of the current Patriot in a recent interview with the Boston Herald: “He has a lot of confidence in himself. He’s a hard-working, diligent guy. He’s a team guy. I think he’ll really be looking forward to the opportunity.” After only appearing in 5 games his sophomore season (2012), Brissett decided to transfer schools. His next feat? North Carolina State.

After taking his mandatory one year off (transfer students must sit out one year due to NCAA rules), Brissett was named the starting QB for the Wolf Pack’s 2014 season. Brissett played in all 13 games and lead his team to a St. Petersburg Bowl 34–27 victory. Brissett boasted an impressive 136.7 QB rating, with 23 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions all season long. He also rushed for over 500 yards and 3 TDs and put himself on many NFL teams radars.

In Brissett’s senior season, the dual-threat quarterback mimicked his junior season. With almost identical passing numbers, he managed to increase his rushing touchdowns to six. Soon after another bowl appearance (although he suffered a loss this time), the New England Patriots drafted Jacoby Brissett with the 91st overall pick.

Here’s why:

  1. His body. The 6’4”, 235 pound monster had one of the biggest arms in the draft and Bill Belichick noticed. His strong legs allows him to shed off would-be tacklers and scramble for first downs when needed (as we saw early in the second half on Sunday).
  2. His work-ethic. Bill Belichick praised the rookie in a Tuesday press conference when he said, “Jacoby’s done a good job for us, he’s improved every day. He’s a hard working kid. He’s in here early, stays late, study’s the game mentally, he’s a good physical talent. He’s improved steadily since he’s been here.”
  3. His poise. Brissett looked calm and collected on Sunday afternoon and stepped into his role with confidence. His coaches and teammates raved about him after the game, with team captain Matthew Slater saying: “I think Jacoby has a great deal of maturity for a young player…He was ready to go when his number was called, as I said earlier I don’t think the moment was too big for him and that’s a tribute to the way that he’s prepared himself from the time he stepped in this building.”

Even Tom Brady believes in his younger teammate — which was evident when he spoke about Brissett on his weekly interview with Westwood One Sports: “He’s got a great demeanor about him. I love working with him. I think he shows up to work every day working hard. He’s very competitive.” With the support of the locker room and the positivity surrounding the 23 year old prospect, what can Patriots fans expect to see Thursday night?

It’s simple. Success.

Brissett will excel in Josh McDaniels' simple and basic offense. The rookie will do this by completing short and quick throws (Houston’s front seven loves to get after the quarterback) and using his legs to move the chains when necessary. Brissett will rely on his playmakers to…well, make plays. Edelman, Hogan, Bennett, and (hopefully) Rob Gronkowski will all need to gain yards after the catch and continue to move the ball down the field. The offensive line will have to give Brissett enough time to read the coverage and will be asked to open running lanes for running backs LeGarrette Blount and James White on first and second down. If the Pats stick to a simple game plan and shorten the game, Brissett will look like a stud on Thursday night.

The most important thing for Jacoby B (it doesn’t have the same ring as Jimmy G but it’s a start) will be to remain calm and poised. With the heavy praise from his teammates and coaches, Brissett will continue to find confidence in himself. His legs will be his best friend on Thursday night with a hungry J.J. Watt breathing down his neck. He will need to complete short outs, hitches, flats, and screens and let his playmakers do the rest.

If Brissett can stick to the game plan and maintain his composure, there is a very good chance the Patriots will head into Week 4 with an improbable 3–0 record.