- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick keeps his players on edge in different ways, and one of them is to insert them in a game when they least expect it. Rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo found that out on Friday night.
"They kind of just threw me in there, it was kind of a last-minute thing," Garoppolo said of entering the Patriots' 42-35 preseason victory over the Philadelphia Eagles with 5:01 remaining in the first quarter. "But you always have to be ready. Whenever the opportunity comes, you have to take advantage of it."
Garoppolo mostly did for the second week in a row, finishing 6-of-12 for 72 yards and 2 touchdowns. After playing only in the second half of the preseason opener, he led the Patriots to touchdowns on his first two drives, his insertion into the game over four-year veteran Ryan Mallett (7-of-11 for 92 yards, 1 TD passing, 1 TD rushing) was notable as the two jostle for positioning on the depth chart behind Tom Brady (8-of-10 for 81 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT).
It was a good night for all of them.
"I thought all three quarterbacks handled themselves pretty well," Belichick said. "There weren't a lot of major problems. … It's always good to see 42 points on the board."
Belichick particularly liked the production in the running game, as the Patriots churned out 250 yards, with 97 coming in the first half. Just as the coach wants his players on edge, he always wants his team to have an edge, and developing a physical mentality on the ground is part of that.
That often comes down to the offensive line, and the Patriots worked with a variety of different combinations up front throughout the game, using an extra offensive lineman as a tight end on eight first-half snaps for more of a power look, while splitting carries between running backs James White (24 snaps), Stevan Ridley (16 snaps), Shane Vereen (8 snaps) and Brandon Bolden (4 snaps) in the opening two quarters.
Ridley looked like the most explosive of the rushers, but his night ended on a second-quarter fumble that, had it been reviewed, might not have been a fumble. It was close. Ridley's ball-security, of course, has been a trouble spot for him in the past.
One of the other downers for the offense was a Brady pick-6 on the opening drive that came as a result of tight end Steve Maneri saying that he ran his route at 8 yards when it was supposed to be at 6, which gave cornerback Cary Williams a chance to jump it and return the pick 77 yards for a touchdown.
"Just miscommunication," Brady said. "It happens and I'm glad it happened in the preseason. The one thing about offensive football is all 11 guys have to be on the same page, so those are things we're all working to try to correct."
Maneri probably deserves some slack on that one, as he just signed with the team Sunday and played extensively on Friday night because the team has a shortage of healthy tight ends.
While they are currently thin at tight end, the Patriots look well-stocked at quarterback with Brady, Garoppolo and Malllett. The only surprise Friday was the order in which they played, with Garoppolo entering ahead of Mallett.
Mallett seemed unfazed.
"I get to play in the game, that's all that matters," he said. "I just want to get out there and try to get better as a player and I felt I did that. I just have to keep building on it."
He's not alone. There was plenty to build on for the Patriots' offense as a whole.