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2016 Patriots Preview: Quarterbacks

The Patriots head into 2016 with their Hall-of-Fame quarterback suspended for four games, and now their third-year project, Jimmy Garoppolo, will get his opportunity to prove he can be an effective starter in the NFL. 2016 3rd Round Pick Jacoby Brissett is also ready to pounce if Garoppolo can't handle the load.

The New England Patriots open training camp on Thursday, so today we begin our series of position previews. For the first time since 2008, the Patriots will be forced to start another quarterback than Tom Brady. Jimmy Garoppolo, the third year pro, finally gets an opportunity to show what he can do in the real games. Garoppolo has been average in his few chances, and in one start versus the Bills to end to 2014 regular season, he was 10-17 for 90 yards and also ran four times for 16 yards. 

Can Garoppolo get the job done versus two division opponents, a top NFC team, and a pass rush from Houston that will test any quarterback (assuming JJ Watt is healthy)? The Patriots seem to think he's ready, but they also drafted Jacoby Brissett of N.C. State in the 3rd Round of the 2016 Draft, so either they are so sold on Garoppolo that they think they need to deal him after the season or they aren't 100% sold on him. They wouldn't invest that high of a pick with Brissett if they believed Garoppolo would be sticking around, so these initial four games are an NFL showcase for him. 

The biggest question facing the quarterbacks, other than the Garoppolo question, is Tom Brady and when he'll finally slow down. Is this the year? Will missing the first four games throw off the rhythm he's had since 2008, the last time he missed a start? It's a valid question, especially for a 39 year old quarterback. Yes, he is a physical specimen and he does everything possible to keep his body young, but at some point he is going to decline, and missing a significant amount of time to start a season is most likely going to hurt him. Don't expect to see the Tom Brady everyone is used to seeing until around Week Eight. 

New England does have a strong depth chart at the quarterback position, but if Garoppolo goes down in the first four weeks, New England is going to be forced to use a rookie, not exactly an ideal situation for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Bill Belichick and Co. sign a veteran backup when Brady's suspension begins because I don't see Brissett getting thrown to the wolves as a rookie. The Patriots will carry three quarterbacks on their roster all season, assuming they don't make a trade.

*Editors Note- A mistake was corrected; Brady will take part in training camp. We fixed the error. Sorry for any confusion. 

Statistics Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com

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