Saturday, September 6, 2014

Patriots' Injury Report - Is "Jimmy Clipboard" Ready For Spot Duty?

With the rumor mill working overtime in the 72 hours before the New England Patriots kick off their 2014 season against the Dolphins in Miami Gardens, news that Tom Brady was missing from practice on Thursday but present on the injury report nearly broke the internet.

But with sources suggesting that Brady will be fine after tweaking a calf muscle and is slated to start Sunday's 1:00pm kickoff, many fans are breathing a little easier - though those inhalations are guarded and not quite as deep as they could be, and things will remain that way until they actually see Brady ambulatory and firing bullets to his plethora of receivers.
Garoppolo is ions away from Brady as far as system efficiency

The episode brings up an interesting question, however: Is Jimmy Garoppolo ready to lead this offense?

"Jimmy-G".  "Superman".  "G-Cool", or simply "Jimmy Clipboard", the news on Thursday shocked many fans into denial, leaving the ones who still had control of their facilities to ponder the notion that this team is one Tom Brady injury away from - well - we just don't know.

Certainly, they can't be better than they are with Brady under center, but there are some that feel that any quarterback with half a brain and a decent arm could run Bill Belichick's version of the Erhardt-Perkins offense - which is probably true, but to what level?

Some argue that Tom Brady couldn't be a system quarterback, given that he has been the one constant amongst a constantly evolving roster - but in essence, that is the greatest argument for him being a system quarterback.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that he's just a pawn in Bill Belichick's scheme, it simply means that he runs Belichick's scheme with all due efficiency - and with it being true that Belichick targets only certain players that fit his scheme - those being of the cerebral, versatile variety - Brady was selected as a developmental project with that system in mind.

So, the question looms: is Brady a system quarterback?

No, he is an opportunist who combined his skill set and dedication to his craft with a system that also required top shelf football IQ, and played like he had the balls of an elephant, prompting Belichick to meticulously stock the positions around Brady with compatibly skilled players that are equally dedicated and at least reasonably intelligent.

It has been a process full of hit-and-miss experimentation, the lone constant being Brady - and seeing as it really hasn't mattered whether Belichick hit or missed with his personnel decisions when it came to the success of the offense, it is reasonable to postulate that while Brady is to some extent the product of the system, it is also fair to state that he runs the offensive system better than any other quarterback in the NFL.

That said, the rookie Garoppolo probably could lead the offense to success, but he is years away from approaching Brady's efficiency and intimate fellowship with the system which, of course, is why the offense flourishes regardless of the supporting cast - and also why Belichick spent second-round draft capital on the Eastern Illinois product now, so he could learn from the master.

So for now, let's continue to refer to him as "Jimmy Clipboard" while reveling in Brady's golden years, secure in the knowledge that the greatest quarterback to ever lace up a pair of cleats is still at the top of his game.


Besides Brady's presence, the Patriots injury report reads like yesterday's news:

New England Patriots
Player Position Injury Participation Designation
Buchanan, Michael DE/OLB Ankle Limited Out
Jones, Chris DT Ankle Limited Out
Brady, Tom QB Calf Limited Questionable
Gronkowski, Rob TE Knee Limited Questionable
Siliga, Sealver NT Wrist Limited Questionable
Miami Dolphins
Player Position Injury Participation Designation
Fede, Terrence DE Knee Out Out
Pouncey, Mike C Hip Out Out
Tripp, Jordan LB Chest Out Out
Wheeler, Philip LB Thumb Out Out
Turner, Billy G Foot Limited Doubtful
Aikens, Walt S Hand Limited Probable
McCain, Chris LB Hip Limited Probable
Misi, Koa LB Shoulder Limited Probable
Taylor, Jamar CB Hip Limited Probable

The presence of Siliga as questionable adds an element of intrigue to the list as he was absent for most of the preseason with a soft cast on his hand and wrist, so for him to be potentially available is huge in that there is not another big body to spell Wilfork in the steamy Miami heat with the exception of Joe Vellano, who at 6' 2" and 300 pounds simply isn't big enough - though with the problems that the Dolphins have along the interior of their offensive line, he may be able to hold up as a two-gapper.

The Jones injury could cause some problems, particularly if rookie Dominique Easley isn't effective initially.  It could be possible that the team activates Kelcy Quarles from the practice squad, though if they do they will have to subject him to waivers to retain him on the squad when Jones is ready to compete.

The Dolphins' linebacking corps is in shambles, though Koa being listed as probable is an excellent sign for them as he is the heart and soul of the second level, though one injury to any of the remaining linebackers could spell doom for Miami's run defense.

It certainly places a lot of pressure on the defensive line for the Dolphins, who are all speedy sack artists and who rely on the 'backers to plug the gaps vacated by the penetrating tackles.  This could be a major advantage for New England as they break in an amended offensive line and attempt to get a stagnant running game off the schneid.

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