First in a series on the Patriots’ status at each position group heading into training camp.
Training camp is still nearly a month away, so any attempt at projecting the Patriots’ opening-night roster right now is an exercise in futility.
There are 89 men battling for 53 spots, and it’s likely there will be many comings and goings throughout August. In fact, there’s a good chance a player not even under contract will make the final cut while others who seem like locks now won’t be on the sideline in Glendale, Ariz., Sept. 11.
But sometimes exercises in futility can be fun. So we’ll begin our first attempt at locking down the 2016 Patriots by looking at the quarterback spot.
New England has three on the roster: Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Jacoby Brissett.
The question isn’t who will be the starter, it’s when he’ll be allowed to start.
Brady sits in the exact spot he did last summer — in limbo — as he, the Patriots, their fans, legal experts (both real and unreal), and the nation await a resolution, be it a final or temporary one, of his four-game suspension as a result of Deflategate.
If Brady is forced to serve the ban, he won’t count against the 53-man tally until Oct. 3. In any case, the Patriots will go with three signal-callers for the first time since 2011, when Brady had understudies Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett.
Like Brady, Garoppolo enters his second straight summer in limbo. He could be at the controls or he could be on clipboard duty. It’s a unique position for sure, but staying in “starter mode” can only help him.
Garoppolo got plenty of first-team snaps during OTAs and minicamp. Though he ran hot and cold, he was most impressive during the final session when he sizzled after some early struggles. It was a positive sign that he didn’t let his cold snaps linger.
For the first time in his brief career, Garoppolo will have legitimate competition behind him on the depth chart in Brissett.
The rookie third-rounder has excellent size (6 feet 4 inches, 235 pounds) and arm strength. He showed off both at OTAs and minicamp when he threw some quick darts and some pretty long spirals. Most important, he showed some savvy and leadership when he spotted an illegal formation during one drill and immediately barked at his receivers to get it right.
Up next: Running backs.
Jim McBride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org