One throw could have very well changed the overall assessment of Jimmy Garoppolo’s performance last Thursday against Chicago.
Garoppolo had looked completely poised, on rhythm and decisive, carving up the Bears on four straight drives, including an impressive march to open the third quarter. And then, on third down in the red zone, the Pats quarterback correctly read man-under coverage, with a single high safety floating. But with his first two reads covered, Garoppolo pivoted back to his right and threw almost sight unseen to James White. One problem: Bears linebacker John Timu was sitting in the passing lane and dropped what should have an interception.
“Yeah, the linebacker made a nice jump on it,” said Garoppolo. “It’s unfortunate what happened.”
What happened was the Pats escaped with three points and Garoppolo exiting to excellent reviews. But that was a gift from the football gods, though the third-year pro shrugged it off.
“It was just one of those bang-bang plays,” said Garoppolo. “In the red zone, there are tight windows down there, so sometimes you’re going to make throws that get tipped or whatever it may be. You don’t try to make those happen, but sometimes it happens down there.”
A deeper review of the Pats approach versus the Bears showed a greater emphasis on Garoppolo getting rid of the ball the moment those feet settled on repeated three- and five-step drops. That resulted in the best performance by the Pats signal caller since before that full practice scrimmage in which the QB on the other side - a fella by the name of Tom Brady - went 25-for-25. That day, Garoppolo waded into choppy waters and took nearly two weeks to find solid footing.
“I think part of that comes with just learning the offense overall,” said Garoppolo when asked about his decision making. “Year after year, you’re going to be more comfortable in the system, whatever it may be. I think I’m progressing the right way. There’s obviously a long way to go, you always want to be as precise and decisive as you can be, but I think I’m working in the right direction.”
No denying that, although now comes another test, the preseason tilt Friday night in Carolina against the defending NFC champion Panthers. There may be a greater strain put on Garoppolo and the starters, but as for the idea this is the closest thing to a dress rehearsal for the regular season, Bill Belichick reminds you not to get it twisted.
“I think this is a good opportunity for us to compete against arguably as good as any team in the league. [With] all that being said, we’re not talking about a regular-season game here, “ he said. “We’re not talking about game planning and all of those kind of things, which I can’t imagine would happen in this game, but they’re going to happen in a couple of weeks so it’s a whole different ballgame. I don’t think you can compare this game to a regular-season game even though I’ve heard people try to do that. I’m not sure what game they’re looking at. “
Maybe the same thing as Garoppolo is…
“It’s pretty much the closest thing we’ll get to Week 1, so we’ll see how it goes,” he said.
The Patriots are in the final stages of trading for Browns outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo.
Mingo, the former No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 draft, is in the final year of his rookie deal. It is not yet known what the Patriots will send to Cleveland in return for Mingo.
The LSU product was selected by the Browns when Michael Lombardi was the team's general manager in 2013. Lombardi was let go after one season in Cleveland and was an assistant to the Patriots coaching staff Patriots in 2014 and 2015. The Patriots have made moves in the past to acquire other former Browns who overlapped with Lombardi such as Jabaal Sheard and Dion Lewis.
Mingo, 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, has played in all but two regular-season games over the course of his three years as a pro. He has racked up 70 tackles, assisted on 38, and he's recorded seven sacks.
More to come . . .
Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Tyler Zeller. For a look at the other profiles, click here.
BOSTON – The NBA is a league full of highs and lows for players.
There are few who understand this as well as Tyler Zeller, a player who has gone from starting to being a backup to not playing at all – at times in the same week.
And through it all, you never heard him gripe about it publicly or privately to teammates.
It’s among the many reasons you constantly hear his teammates talk about how much they respect the way he has handled some extremely difficult situations.
This past season was especially tough for him considering he was heading into free agency and looking to do all he could to not just win, but showcase what he could do as player.
There were many nights when Zeller didn’t have that opportunity, but he understood.
The Celtics have been and will continue to be a team that’s about finding ways to win and on many nights coach Brad Stevens decided to go in a direction that didn’t include Zeller playing.
As the summer dragged on and the Celtics’ joined the handful of teams that came up short in landing Kevin Durant, Zeller’s return became more likely.
And Zeller’s patience was rewarded with a two-year, $16 million contract with the second year of the deal being a team option.
Now that he’s back in the fold, what’s next?
The ceiling for Zeller: Part-time starter
It may not happen on opening night and it may not happen in the first week, or even first month, of the season.
But at some point, Tyler Zeller will be in the Celtics’ starting lineup.
And when he’s there, he’ll do a lot of good things that he has proven he’s capable of doing.
When it comes to running the floor in transition, Zeller has distinguished himself as one of the Celtics best big men.
The Celtics are big on playing with space and pace and there are few 7-footers who can run the floor as well as Zeller.
In fact, his PACE (number of possessions per 48 minutes) last season was 101.93 which was tops among all Celtics frontcourt players and second overall to guard Marcus Smart (102.46).
It’ll get the Celtics a few easy buckets here and there, but it won’t score enough points with the coaching staff to keep a starting job, which would then relegate him back to being one of the team’s frontcourt reserves.
Still, Zeller is a luxury that few teams have: a player who won’t get (overly) bent out of shape even if his minutes resemble this.
The floor for Zeller: On the roster
Zeller has spent the bulk of his NBA career as a back-to-the-basket center, but showed more desire to score more from the perimeter last season, which is one of the reasons why he shot a career-low 47.6 percent from the field.
He’s trying to expand his game because of the direction that the NBA is going with big men who need to be able to score further away from the basket in addition to providing a presence around the rim.
While Zeller has decent mechanics on his perimeter shot, it’s clear that he’s not yet totally comfortable being a “stretch big.”
According to NBA.com/stats, Zeller shot 30.9 percent from the field last season on wide open shot attempts from at least 10 feet away.
With the addition of Al Horford and the return of Amir Johnson as well as Kelly Olynyk, Boston has a nice group of stretch centers they can put on the floor. And let’s not forget about Jonas Jerebko, who closed out the playoffs as a starter for Boston.
Minutes will once again be hard to come by for Zeller with any kind of consistency.
In fact, there’s a very good chance that he will have some games in which he doesn’t play (coaches decision) at all.
And depending on injuries, he may have to be inactive at times just to ensure Boston has depth on the perimeter.
Whether he’s starting, coming off the bench or not suited up at all, Zeller is an important part of this Celtics squad. Above all else, he provides depth, which continues to be one of the hallmarks for this franchise under Stevens.