FOXBORO — Nick Caserio can see what everybody else sees in rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on the practice field.
On Friday and Saturday, the quarterback threw several interceptions and fumbled a snap from center as he struggled. On Sunday, he looked more comfortable, completing passes over the middle, in between the linebackers and secondary. He even looked strong as the music blared from loudspeakers onto the two practice fields, as the quarterbacks worked on their silent counts.
What does Caserio think of the ups and downs so far of the quarterback the Patriots felt was worth a second-round pick?
“If you look at really any player on the field, regardless of the position ‘ quarterback, receiver, running back ‘ everybody is going to have their share of good plays and then they’re going to have their plays that maybe aren’t as good,” Caserio said. “That’s part of the process. Some players have done those plays a little bit more than others. Some players, this is the first time executing a particular play, a particular skill. The most important thing is for the player, when they take ‘ it’s kind of a multi-tiered process.
“You meet in the morning, you install, you go through the process, you go on the field, you execute the play, hopefully you execute it at a high level. If you don’t execute it at a good level, then you go back, you watch the film, you make the correction. Then you look to see, ‘OK, is there improvement? Did we learn from what we did previously?’ Really, that’s what you’re looking for with any player. It’s not specific to a position or to a player. That’s just the approach to the team, I would say.”
As for the early stage of the development process, Caserio said Garoppolo is neither ahead nor behind.
“I think everybody is at the same stage right now,” he said. “We’ve been out there [two days] in pads. You want to talk just about the quarterback position. That position gets magnified because they touch the ball on every play. The ball is in their hand, they’re making a decision, they’re making a read. There are a lot of other people that are involved in the play. You have the tight ends, you have the receivers, you have the running back. So, part of it is are they doing their job as well? It all has to fit together.
“There are a lot of moving parts in every play. It’s a step by step process. Like I said going back to my earlier point, you’re really just trying to build. You establish a foundation, build on that, go out there execute it. Hopefully if you make a mistake, [you] eliminate the mistake or figure out why you made the mistake and then move forward to the next play.”
Garoppolo lit up the record books at Eastern Illinois but is just another rookie trying to learn the playbook now.
“At certain positions they are going to have a little bit more volume and there are a few more things as it relates to the position,” Caserio said. “Really the most important thing, you want to talk about any player that comes into a new program or new system is kind of learning the way we do things, learning the operation, learn your skill, refine your skill, go out there perform the task, your skill, execute and then move on.
“Really the most important thing is to try to see the players that are consistent on a day to day basis that make the improvements. Look, there are going to be some good plays, there are going to be some bad plays. That’s football. That’s just the nature of what we’re doing. The idea is to hopefully minimize those and eliminate them the best you can and then continue to move forward.”
Here are some more tidbits from Caserio on Sunday:
Q: What are your thoughts on the team’s depth right now at tight end?
NC: We’ve had a lot of players ‘ Hooman [Michael Hoomanawanui] played a lot of snaps for us last year. Rob [Gronkowski], when he’s on the field he’s given us a lot of good production. We have a number of young guys that we’re working with. Look, we’re all in the same boat. Everybody is going out there to try to improve at their position. The guys we’ve brought in here, we brought them in here because we felt that they had something that was appealing and they had a particular skill and we’ll keep working with them and we’ll see how it goes.
Q: James Develin has been working with the tight ends a lot recently. What are some of the skills that he has that allows him to do that?
NC: The unique thing about James is he’s a very versatile player. We saw that going back to last season. He was able to line up in the backfield, at tight end, detach from the formation. James is very smart, works very, very hard. He had a great offseason ‘ there are a lot of guys, but just specific to James, had a great offseason. Really as a player, from day one that he entered the program to where he is now, he’s really improved. A lot of that, he’s put in a lot of time. It’s a credit to him but he’s smart, he’s versatile so he gives you a little bit of flexibility because he can do a number of different things. He can block the force in the running game, he can put his hand on the line of scrimmage and block the force on the line of scrimmage. Like in the Baltimore game, we lined him up out there out kind of detached from the formation, we ran a route with he and [Shane] Vereen and because he was able to execute his assignment, we had a play there. James has done a lot of good things since he’s been here. He’s earned all of his opportunities with his performance and his work ethic.
Q: What’s your read on Roy Finch? He’s obviously a smaller guy.
NC: Roy was a player that is good with the ball in his hands. He’s got pretty good quickness. When you have, I would say, not necessarily the running back positions, but even some of the other positions, when you have players that maybe are a little bit undersized relative to some other players at their position, you look for some qualities that stand out. They may separate themselves from somebody else. Even going back to Tyrone Poole, just talking about corners. Tyrone was 5-8, wasn’t the biggest guy, 180 pounds but he had exceptional lateral agility and quickness and he was able to compensate maybe for his size because of his quickness and he had good vertical speed and then he could play the ball. When a guy is maybe a little bit smaller at one position relative to the other, you look for maybe a skill that separates themselves. In Roy, his ability to move laterally. He was good with the ball in his hands. They played a lot of running backs at Oklahoma and when he got touches he was able to make some plays in space. So, I would say those are some of the things relative to Roy.
Q: Bill Belichick mentioned that early in camp is a time in camp. I know you’re evaluating all the time but is there a line or point in time where you say ‘OK, these guys have learned a certain amount at this point and need to get into the nitty gritty evaluation now’?
NC: It’s really a fluid process. It’s really ongoing. You take players, even if it’s veteran players or really going back to May when you start with the team and you start to go out there and practice, so you go through the spring, you see how players develop, how they evolve, what they can retain and then you go into training camp and really, you’re still trying to build that foundation. Like Bill mentioned, there’s a lot of teaching and really there’s a lot of focus on the fundamental techniques as it relates to their particular positions. Once you get into pads then you start to see some of those things, especially in the running game because all spring you can work on a passing game. There’s no contact, the offensive and defensive linemen they really can’t do much. It’s really still you’re evaluating their techniques and they’re working on their fundamentals. The evaluation process is very fluid. It’s really ongoing. Once we get to a point where we have to make a decision about a player or about the team in September in preparation for the season, that’s not the end of it because then there’s a whole set of other players that you evaluate. You get into the season. There are a lot of different factors. Really, it’s a very fluid process and it’s very continuous.
Q: What drew you to Bryan Stork in the scouting process?
NC: Bryan was a pretty durable player. He started, I want to say, 50-some odd games. He played a lot of football. He played against good people. It’s a good team they have down there at Florida State. Obviously they won the national championship last year. Smart guy, tough, good playing strength, had a good playing style, good demeanor. He did a lot of good things and there was a lot to like about him.
Q: When you draft a center, what’s been your experience scouting that position? Is it sort of like quarterback in that there aren’t that many that fit for you each year?
NC: I’d say, just generally speaking at that position, we’ve gone through the years and if you look at a lot of the guys that have played on the interior of the offensive line, a lot of them have the same sort of traits and sort of makeup in terms of their intelligence, their toughness, their playing style, their work ethic, their competitiveness. Guys like Joe Andruzzi, Russ Hochstein, those guys. They weren’t drafted ‘ or Russ may have been a late round draft pick [fifth round] but anyway Joe wasn’t drafted. But those guys had a certain demeanor and a certain mentality and we try to, once we get them in the program, through the years [former offensive line coach] Dante [Scarnecchia] spent a lot of time with those players. You’re trying to look at some of those traits and some of those things and then you look at their physical skills and what they actually do on the field. Some maybe do certain things a little better than others. But I’d say just generally speaking, that position, there are certain things that have kind of carried it over through the years with the guys that we’ve brought in here that have had some success and the guys that maybe haven’t worked out.