FOXBORO -- It's only minicamp and already Jimmy Garoppolo is noticing that the speed of the NFL game is much different from the pace of play he grew accustomed to at Eastern Illinois, a Football Championship Subdivision program.
"Oh, man," Garoppolo said. "I don’t even know if you can compare the two. It’s night and day."
New England's second-round pick saw plenty of reps during his team's first mini-camp practice on Tuesday since backup quarterback Ryan Mallett was rehabbing an injury and spent the afternoon inside the Dana Farber Field House.
In 11-on-11 work Garoppolo went 17-for-24, completing most of his short and intermediate level passes. At times, he looked slow to find a receiver with a defense swarming around him, and there were several occasions when he had to comb through his first and second options before finding a dump-off emergency valve.
Garoppolo did however look more accurate with the deep ball than he had during OTAs. He completed two long passes down the sideline, the first of which, to undrafted receiver Jeremy Johnson, showed remarkable touch and timing as it dropped between a safety and a cornerback to land right in Johnson's hands for what looked like a 40-yard gain.
"It was a good read," Garoppolo said. "It was just one of those things, you see the safeties rotate. You get your eyes in the right place. You have to have efficient eyes. I did that on that play."
The other was hauled in by 5-foot-7 undrafted running back Roy Finch -- it was thrown slightly behind Finch, but away from the coverage -- that appeared as though it would have gone for about 30 yards.
But as has been the case during the two open OTA sessions in which Garoppolo was present, his day was of the up-and-down variety.
About 10 minutes after completing those two highlight-reel throws, Garoppolo fumbled his first snap back on the field. A few plays later he overthrew running back James White in the end zone. Three plays after that he was nearly intercepted by Nate Ebner when targeting 6-8 tight end Justin Jones.
"It’s very fast, but you know, that’s what coach [Bill] Belichick wants us to be," Garoppolo said. "He wants us to have great tempo in and out of the huddle moving form station to station. I think we did a good job of that today."
As for his own personal progress and dealing with the highs and lows of being a rookie NFL quarterback about a month-and-a-half into his new job, Garoppolo said he was pleased, all things considered.
"Yeah, I mean, it’s a process," he said. "That’s for sure. It’s one of those things you’ve got to take day by day. Each day is different and you have to be consistently good not occasionally great. You have to come out here and do your best every single day and let the coaches see what you can do."