How Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo split reps during training camp will be something to watch. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)
1. With Tom Brady ending his Deflategate fight on Friday afternoon and thus now certainly missing the first four games of the season, there are now a number of things to keep an eye on as it relates to the Patriots. First, at some point the team will likely need to add a fourth quarterback to the roster. With Brady out the first four games, they likely cannot go into the season with rookie Jacoby Brissett backing up Jimmy Garoppolo. Expect the team to add a veteran quarterback between now and the start of the season.
2. In that same realm, it will be interesting to see how the team approaches the reps during training camp, as it is extremely rare for the Patriots to have four quarterbacks on the roster even during training camp. Garoppolo obviously needs to get first-team reps given he will be the starter the first four weeks, but Brady does as well since those will be the players he will be working with when he comes back in Week 5. A realistic expectation is possibly Garoppolo getting 60 percent of the snaps with the first-team offense and Brady the other 40. Brissett will get the majority of the snaps with the second and third teamer’s as it’s important for him to keep developing. Maybe the Patriots would wait until the end of training camp after teams cut down their rosters to add that veteran quarterback, who would come in just as an insurance policy for Garoppolo during the first four weeks.
3. How the quarterback snaps are handled in the preseason games will be fascinating as well. Typically, Brady hasn’t played much at all during the preseason, but that could change this year given his situation and wanting to get some live game reps before his suspension comes into play. On the flip side, the typical way of doing things for the team can’t be altered just for Brady. For instance, the starters likely wouldn’t play in the fourth preseason game just so they can get snaps with Brady. Is it worth Brady playing in preseason games with third and fourth teamer’s? Probably not, but that is a question Bill Belichick and the coaching staff will have to ask themselves. Garoppolo also likely would need more preseason snaps than the average starting quarterback just because of his lack of game experience over his first two years in the league.
4. Brady cannot have any contact with the team during his four-game suspension and cannot be at the Gillette Stadium facility during that time either. This begins Saturday, Sept. 3 and lasts until Monday, Oct. 3 — the day after the Patriots’ Week 4 game against the Bills. There’s no doubt Brady will work as hard as he can on his own during that month, but there will be a rust factor when he returns purely because of not being able to work with his receivers. While it’s unlikely this will have much impact on his timing with players such as Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola — Brady hasn’t worked much with new players Chris Hogan and Martellus Bennett, so that is something to keep in mind for when Brady does come back in Week 5.
5. With the quarterback missing the first four games of the season, it will end his 126-game consecutive start streak including the playoffs, which was the seventh-longest streak all-time by a quarterback. He will fall two short his his previous streak of 128 games, which ended in 2008 when he tore his ACL in Week 1. Courtesy of Pro Football Talk, here’s a list of quarterbacks who have started at least 100 games in a row, including the playoffs: 321: Brett Favre, 1992-2010; 227: Peyton Manning, 1998-2011; 194: Eli Manning, 2004-2016 (active); 169: Philip Rivers, 2006-2016 (active); 137: Joe Flacco, 2008-2015; 128: Tom Brady, 2001-2008; 126: Tom Brady, 2009-2016; 123: Ron Jaworski, 1977-1984; 110: Joe Ferguson, 1977-1984; 103: Matt Ryan, 2009-2016 (active).
6. Brady will return for the Oct. 9 game in Cleveland against the Browns. Everyone is already setting the Vegas lines for Patriots -41.5, but it’s no guarantee Brady and the team will come out and play the way the fans expect and want. It’s a lot to ask of Brady to come back after a month off and instantly set the world on fire and it’s also worth looking back at the so-called “revenge” game against the Colts on Oct. 18 last year when many expected the team to put 50-plus points on the Colts, but they barely sneaked out a 34-27 win. Brady was good, but not great in that game as he went 23-for-37 passing with 312 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
7. As some have already pointed out, the Patriots have two of their first four games of the season in primetime, as Week 1 is on NBC on Sunday night and then Week 3 is on Thursday night, part of the CBS/NFL Network package. They do have three more primetime games — Week 10 against the Seahawks on Sunday night, Week 12 against the Jets on Sunday night and Week 14 against the Ravens on Monday night. When the NFL made the schedule, they likely knew Brady missing the first four games was a possibility so it’s interesting they had two of them be in primetime knowing Brady not playing was a distinct possibility.
8. The schedule makers did do the Patriots a favor by having three of their first four games at home and being against the AFC East, which is a huge advantage for Garoppolo, who will start for the first time in his NFL career. The Patriots own a 71-22 record in regular-season AFC East games since the beginning of the 2001 season, which is the best intra-division record over that time in the NFL. Also worth noting, they have won 81 straight regular-season home games when leading at halftime.
9. Roger Goodell didn’t come to Gillette Stadium last year, even for the Patriots’ Week 1 game when they raised their Super Bowl XLIX banner, so it seems highly unlikely he would come this year for any game. Goodell did appear at MetLife Stadium when the Patriots played the Giants last year and spoke with Robert and Jonathan Kraft on the sidelines before the game, which was a big topic of debate with Patriots fans. The same buzz in the air will likely take place any time the Patriots and Goodell are in the same stadium.
10. Last year Patriots started the “No Brady, no banner” movement and it will be interesting if something along those lines happens this season with him missing the first four games. A game to keep an eye on for something to take place is the Week 3 home game against the Texans, which will air on CBS/NFL Network on Thursday night. NFL Network typically sets up outside the stadium for their pregame shows leading up to the game. It wouldn’t be a total shock to see some fan demonstration or something of that nature for this game.