Jimmy Garoppolo not only has Tony Romo's shadow to contend with—they both played quarterback at Eastern Illinois—but he now has the monumental task of building a bridge to the post-Tom Brady era in New England.
Incumbent backup Ryan Mallett is on the final year of his rookie contract, so Garoppolo will likely be asked to be the primary backup to Tom Brady next year, if not sooner if Mallett were to be moved in a trade.
When quarterbacks come from shotgun-only college offenses—like Eastern Illinois—sometimes their footwork suffers. Darryl Slater from The Star-Ledger spoke with Garoppolo about his feet:
"The hardest thing is probably just the footwork. My footwork in college was: Catch the ball, one, two, three. Or maybe just set and throw at times. So getting used to the five- and seven-step drop, that’s been the biggest adjustment."
Just because he hasn't done it a lot, doesn't mean he can't. He has clean, active feet in the pocket and should have a full year or two to get his feet right before he needs to take meaningful snaps in a game.
While his five- or seven-step drop might not be silky smooth yet, his footwork in the pocket is sound. He keeps a nice base when going through his progressions and is able to slide and maneuver his way to space if presented with pressure in the pocket.
At 6'2" and 226 pounds, he isn't a gazelle like Colin Kaepernick, but he can gain some yards with his feet if needed. Most importantly, he is able to buy time with his feet.
If there is one thing that you can point to with Garoppolo as a surefire strength, it is his quick release. With Garoppolo in the shotgun, he is sometimes able to get rid of the ball within a second of receiving the snap, He told Don Banks of Sports Illustrated that his ability to get the ball out of his hand quickly has been praised in NFL circles:
A lot of coaches and personnel people keep telling me, "Don't change anything with your release. Keep it the same." I've always taken pride in that. It's been my thing since I started playing quarterback. I get the ball out quickly. It's a great trait to have. It helps avoid sacks and helps beat the blitz.
When going up against the stout defensive lines in the AFC East—Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Co. immediately come to mind—getting the ball out quick is placed at a premium.
Garoppolo doesn't just use his body to play football, he wins with his mind. Nick Underhill from MassLive.com has an example from last year's game against Towson:
He takes a snap from the shotgun and sets his feet. His first read is covered, so he pump fakes, turns and then looks up the middle to his second read. That receiver is also covered. Garoppolo shifts further left, and fires a pass to an open receiver for a first down. His footwork on the play stands out more than anything else, and this is also the first time during the game when he looks like an NFL quarterback.
If anything with Garoppolo, he goes through his progressions too quickly at times, missing some open receivers. Another critique is that the Eastern Illinois offense is geared to quick, one-read throws. While true, the same could be said of myriad college offenses, including that of fellow second-round quarterback Derek Carr.
Watch Garoppolo manipulate the defense on this double-move by using a strong pump fake. Many pundits have complained about his small hands, but he doesn't have any problems here. You can see his footwork in action as well, keeping a good base and keeping the shoulders square to the target.