Sep. 23, 2016
How will the Patriots do with Jacob Brissett as their starting quarterback?
Catastrophe hit the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon.
New England was already without Hall of Fame-bound quarterback Tom Brady because of his four-game “Deflategate” suspension. They are 2-0 thus far but are now on to their third string quarterback.
That man is Jacoby Brissett, a 23-year-old rookie.
Brissett made his NFL debut against the Dolphins once Garoppolo left just before halftime. In his first appearance, he was not assigned much responsibility; Brissett handed the ball off 21 times and only attempted nine passes.
It was clear that head coach Bill Belichick did not trust his rookie signal caller to have complete freedom with the offense yet.
He’s got a good reason to feel that way. When Brissett entered the game, the Patriots were at the Dolphins 21 after advancing 31 yards in five plays.
Brissett only got to the Dolphins 16, but Stephen Gostkowski was able to make a 34-yard field goal to make it 24-0, Patriots.
From when Brissett entered the game to its conclusion, the Dolphins outscored the Patriots 24-7.
Granted, Brissett surely felt a mix of rust and nerves kicking in during his NFL debut.
That said, the Patriots can’t have that happen again in Week 3 or 4.
Match-ups with the Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills linger. Garroppolo is listed as doubtful for the Houston matchup. Brissett is the guy.
Fortunately for the Patriots, both of those games come at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, where New England is 30-4 since 2012.
Problem is, Brissett only has had three days to prepare for the Texans. The Thursday Night Football spotlight is shining brightest on Brissett.
Houston’s defense finished third in the NFL last season in points allowed per game with 13.0 and has only allowed a combined 26 points in two wins.
What does Brissett have to do to win?
1) Keep it simple.
Brissett can’t be looking to win the game with every throw. He doesn’t have to be the hero. With LeGarrette Blount at running back, Brissett can confidently hand the ball off at least 20 times to him.
Brissett will need to make throws, but he shouldn’t be throwing passing more than 20 yards too often. With Blount running the ball regularly, Brissett can run the clock. When a throw is needed, Brissett can make it, but don’t expect New England to go for it on 4th and 10.
2) Get in Gostkowski’s range
There isn’t a better kicker in the NFL than Stephen Gostkowski. In all but two of his 11 years in the NFL, Gostkowski has made a field goal of 50 yards or more.
If Brissett can just advance into Houston territory, the New England kicker can add three points on fourth down. Assuming the Patriots start all of their possessions at their own 25 because of touchbacks and or/fair catches, this is not a difficult task for Brissett to advance 30 yards.
Even if Brissett keeps it simple and gets in range, it might not be enough. Brock Osweiler, the Texans quarterback, is a gunslinger and has excellent options in DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. Osweiler will be tossing deep passes far more often that Brissett.
For New England to win, it can’t rely on Brissett. It’s defense must rise to the occasion. The Patriots are only outscoring their 2016 opponents 54-45 thus far.
The world will have a much better idea of Brissett after Thursday night. That said, even if he has an awful game, he’ll have nine days to prepare for the Patriots next game, October 2nd against the Bills. However, Garoppolo may be healthy enough to return by then.
If Brissett faces the Texans and Bills, the Patriots’ best-case-scenario is a split. Worst case would obviously be losing both.
Even if Brissett has to start Week 4, it could be his last start of the season. With Brady back for Week 5 against the Cleveland Browns, the quarterback issues in New England will be over.
For now, Brissett just has to be a game-manager and not try and do too much. It might not be enough against the Texans, but against a struggling Bills team, it could lead to victory.