Patriots Training Camp Preview, Part 1

Good Monday sports fans! It’s a big week all over the map as the MLB trade deadline is 1 week away and NFL training camps start. Where the Red Sox have already made a few deals, early in the week I am going to concentrate on previewing Patriots training camp. Today we are going to tackle the biggest of those. The QB situation….

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Tom Brady won’t be playing the first 4 games. He hasn’t missed a start since blowing out his knee in the first half of the first game in 2008. Which means we don’t have a ton of information about how the Patriots will work with Jimmy Garrapolo going forward. Or do we? Tom Brady, wasn’t the current Tom Brady in 2001, and through 2004 wasn’t the passing machine he has become.

YEAR PA RA TOTAL PLAYS PASS % RUSH %
2000 565 424 989 57.12841254 42.87158746
2001 482 473 955 50.47120419 49.52879581
2002 605 395 1000 60.5 39.5
2003 537 473 1010 53.16831683 46.83168317
2004 485 524 1009 48.06739346 51.93260654
2005 564 439 1003 56.23130608 43.76869392
2006 527 499 1026 51.36452242 48.63547758
2007 586 451 1037 56.50916104 43.49083896
2008 534 513 1047 51.00286533 48.99713467
2009 592 466 1058 55.95463138 44.04536862
2010 507 454 961 52.75754422 47.24245578
2011 612 438 1050 58.28571429 41.71428571
2012 641 523 1164 55.06872852 44.93127148
2013 628 470 1098 57.19489982 42.80510018
2014 609 438 1047 58.16618911 41.83381089
2015 629 383 1012 62.1541502 37.8458498

A look at the above table shows the percentage of pass plays and runs plays run each year of the Belichick’s tenure in New England. The trends that stand out to me are pretty obvious. When Brady was young and Charlie Weis was the offensive coordinator (2001 through 2004) or Cassell was the QB (2008) the run game was used far more. Best exemplified in 2004 when it actually surpassed the pass game in percentage of plays called. The results? We all know the Patriots won the Super Bowl. In 2002 they missed the playoffs completely. That was part poor play calling, relying too heavily on a young Brady who wasn’t ready to throw 60% of the time and a defense that consistently had the offense chasing points, and having to throw. In 2008 with Cassell under center they also missed the playoffs, this can be attributed mostly the week 3 loss to the Miami Dolphins and their debut and effective use of the Wildcat offense that had Ronnie Brown rush for 4 TDs and pass for another. In the end the Patriots lost the AFC East to the Dolphins on the 4th tiebreaker and lost the wildcard to the Baltimore Ravens on the second tiebreaker.

So what does all that mean? I Tend to think that it means we will see a fairly conservative play calling structure until Brady returns. Which should be fine, with the return of Dante Scarnecchia to coach the offensive line, and Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer to the offensive tackle spots plus the addition of Martellus Bennett to line up opposite Rob Gronkowski the Patriots should be able to open up plenty of rushing lanes for the committee of Legarrette Blount, Dion Lewis, Donald Brown, James White, Brandon Bolden, Tyler Gaffney and D.J. Foster. More on all of that in a minute on last thing about the QBs….

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 8: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots confers with Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick in the second half during a game with the Washington Redskins at Gillette Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

There is one wild card in the mix is Josh McDaniels. In his career McDaniels, like most of the NFL these days has preferred the pass, even with QBs named Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley and Kellen Clemens.

YEAR PA RA TOTAL PLAYS PASS % RUSH % ROLE
2005 564 439 1003 56.23131 43.76869 Unofficial Pats O.C.
2006 527 499 1026 51.36452 48.63548 Pats O.C.
2007 586 451 1037 56.50916 43.49084 Pats O.C.
2008 534 513 1047 51.00287 48.99713 Pats O.C.
2009 558 440 998 55.91182 44.08818 Den H.C.
2010 458 272 730 62.73973 37.26027 Den H.C. 12 games
2011 549 409 958 57.30689 42.69311 Stl. O.C.
2012 641 523 1164 55.06873 44.93127 Pats O.C.
2013 628 470 1098 57.1949 42.8051 Pats O.C.
2014 609 438 1047 58.16619 41.83381 Pats O.C.
2015 629 383 1012 62.15415 37.84585 Pats O.C.
TOT 6283 4837 11120 56.5018 43.4982

Does that mean that maybe they let Jimmy G drop back and throw the heck out of the ball (if Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are healthy)? I don’t know about week 1 in Arizona against a Cardinals team that added more pieces than they lost too a defense that finished 3rd overall in defensive DVOA (2nd in pass DVOA and 4th in rush DVOA). That strikes me as a game that Belichick will want to control the clock and keep the high octane Bruce Arians offense on the sidelines as much as possible. I expect them to run directly at Chandler Jones as much as possible, to be completely honest.

The following weeks though? The Dolphins secondary is a disaster, so if they feel they offensive line can keep Jimmy G. upright I could totally see them letting Jimmy rear back and toss it. The Texans strength is also upfront, so if they believe the line can stand up to J.J. Watt, old friend Vince Wilfork and Jadeveon Clowney then I would expect 53-54% of the play calls to be passes. The Bills are a mess, they can do whatever they feel like with Jacoby Brissett at QB and win. (Sorry, not sorry My Friend Craig.)

So I don’t want to put a definitive prediction out there for what the Patriots record will be with Jimmy G. at the helm before training camp even starts, but I think 2-2 is likely and 3-1 is very achievable.

QB depth chart coming out of training camp

Starter: Jimmy Garrapolo
Back up: Unsigned Veteran
Third String: Jacoby Brissett (won’t dress on game days)
In Case of Emergency: Julian Edelman

Suspended for 4 games
Tom Brady

Come back tomorrow for the Running Backs Preview!

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