BOSTON (CBS) — Patriots fans are wondering if Jimmy Garoppolo can, in some way, shape or form, be like Tom Brady on the football field, even just for four games.
Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, who is preparing to face Garoppolo in his first career start on Sunday night, has a different name to throw out there: Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
It’s a comparison that goes a lot deeper than both of the passers coming from Eastern Illinois.
“The skillset. I think they both were similar sizes, arm strength, very accurate. Both moved around good,” Arians told the New England media on a conference call Wednesday morning.
Arians didn’t get to know Garoppolo personally when the QB was coming out of college in 2014, but he did an extensive evaluation of the quarterback. That gives him some general knowledge of the man his defense will face, and while there isn’t much NFL tape on Garoppolo, Arians has been impressed with what he’s seen as he prepares for Sunday night’s opener.
“Jimmy’s an excellent athlete. A very accurate passer. Having been in the system, in that system especially, for the number of years he’s been there, he’s watched Josh (McDaniels) come up with game plans and understands what they’re trying to do,” explained Arians, a two-time NFL Coach of the Year. “But he’s a very good athlete. You have to defend his legs as much as his arm.”
Arians said he thinks Bill Belichick will use Garoppolo’s athleticism in his game plan, and also expects to see a lot of Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett on the field together, New England’s new two-headed tight end monster at tight end.
“You have to be ready for a lot of things,” he said. “They’re extremely well coached.”
The Cardinals coach didn’t save his kind words for just the New England offense. Arians also sees the Patriots’ defense as one of the strongest units in the league.
“There’s no doubt [they’re one of the strongest defenses]. They’re very athletic. A solid secondary group. Interchangeable parts as far as inside and outside linebackers, which can get very confusing at times, and they do a very good job of it. They’re stout upfront. I think when you look back in history, and I’ve gone against them a number of times, you’re going to get pressure. You’re going to get eight-man drops and two deeps and three deeps. So, you’re going to have to be very patient and find ways to run the football,” said Arians.
The only key subtraction from New England’s 2015 defense was defensive end Chandler Jones, who was traded to Arizona. Arians said Jones has been “a true professional,” playing some more outside linebacker for Arians’ squad, and has been a great fit with one of the NFL’s most-feared defenses.
“He sets an edge presence for us. Playing outside linebacker, defensive end, he’s obviously very versatile where you can put him,” Arians said of Jones. “But, he’s adapted well to playing outside linebacker for us and also in our nickel and dime packages being an edge rusher. It’s something that we were looking for. He has the length and the skillset to rush the passer.”