BOSTON (CBS) — Jimmy Garoppolo had never been to an NFL game until Thursday night.
The first game he attended just so happened to be the first game he would play in as well.
The Patriots second-round pick in May’s NFL Draft made his unofficial NFL debut Thursday night in New England’s 23-6 preseason loss to the Washington Redskins.
After Ryan Mallett was unimpressive in the first half of the game, Garoppolo took over in the second half and looked much more polished than the four-year vet he took over for. For the night, Garoppolo completed nine of his 13 passes for 157 yards and led New England on their only scoring drive of the game, finding receiver Brian Tyms for a lovely 26-yard touchdown strike with 1:23 left in the contest.
For a wide-eyed rookie who had never seen the NFL spotlight before, the 22-year-old did pretty well. His first pass of the night fell incomplete, a drop by rookie tight end Justin Jones, but he connected with second-year receiver Josh Boyce for seven yards on his second pass, and after a pass interference call on Washington on a nice deep pass to Tyms a few plays later, the rookie QB had the Patriots in deep in Redskins territory.
The Patriots couldn’t score on that drive, as they ended up turning it over on downs when Garoppolo’s fourth-down pass to Boyce in the end zone was knocked down, but it was a solid first drive by the rookie. He later would show off his legs, rushing for nine yards on a first down, before the Patriots were stopped for a three-and-out.
Overall it was a good performance for a kid in his first NFL game. But after the loss, all Garoppolo could think about was the final score.
“It was tough,” Garoppolo said after the loss. “Losing like that is never fun, but it was a good experience in my first preseason game. I had fun out there.”
The modest rookie wasn’t too impressed by what he did on the field, and opted to hold his judgement on the performance until after he watches the game film on Friday.
“I did alright; there is a lot of stuff I can improve on. It’s a process,” he said. “For any rookie quarterback there is a lot to learn from. We’ll watch the tape tomorrow and fix those things.”
There were plenty of questions surrounding Garoppolo after the Patriots used the 62nd overall pick on the passer out of Eastern Illinois, most of them focusing on whether or not he was the quarterback of the future in New England. But when training camp got underway the focus has since shifted to his transition from a low-level school to the NFL, as he showed some rookie struggles on the practice field.
“It’s faster than college, that’s for sure. It’s something you have to adapt to and adapt quickly,” Garoppolo said of the transition.
But when he took the field in the second half, those rookie jitters didn’t take long to disappear, and Garoppolo was simply playing the game he grew up with.
“After one or two plays, it’s just football. You just have to go out and do what you always do and the rest will take care of itself,” he said. “The offense, we struggled at times but we were clicking at times too. It’s a process, so we try to take it in stride and keep getting better.”
And as for his first experience at an NFL game, it was one he got to enjoy with his family, making an even better one.
“It was really cool. My parents, brothers, grandpa were all here and they got to see it,” he said. “It was a great experience.”
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