Pats backup QB Garoppolo helps defense prepare for Wilson

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PHOENIX (AP) -- A rookie who probably won't play in the Super Bowl could help the New England Patriots win it.

By the time the game starts Sunday night, Jimmy Garoppolo will have done his primary job of preparing the team's defense by imitating speedy Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson in practice.

"I've had to get a lot faster real fast," Garoppolo said with a smile.

Drafted in the second round out of Eastern Illinois, he threw just 27 passes as Tom Brady's backup. His behind-the-scenes role has been much more valuable to the team preparing to face the defending champion Seahawks.

"When we play quarterbacks like we're going to see this weekend, that's a huge role for us," defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. "This is definitely a kind of unsung hero job."

It also was a new one for Garoppolo.

As a college star, he didn't play on the scout team. So when he joined the Patriots he had to start from the beginning. As the season progressed, so did he.

He met on Tuesdays with defensive coaches. He imitated the skills and quirks of quarterbacks as diverse as pocket passers Peyton Manning and Kyle Orton and more mobile quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck.

"I've been, what is it, 18 different quarterbacks?" Garoppolo said. "You just try to do the best you can for the defense You're trying to give them a look and, at the same time, perfect your craft."

The more time running plays in practice, even on the scout team, the more experience a player has that should help him when he gets into the game. Even if he never does, it can be rewarding.

Jim Miller didn't play as a backup to Brady during the 2004 season. But he enthusiastically ran the scout team and ended up with a Super Bowl ring.

"He'd get in the huddle every single day and be like, `all right, guys. You love football. Let's go,'" said Patricia, who ran the scout team at the time. "And it just set the right tone for everybody to go out and practice extremely hard."

Garoppolo may not have much to do on game days, but he's had to learn how to manage his time during the week. He studies opposing quarterbacks in film sessions so he can help the defense and still has to prepare to play if Brady gets hurt or comes out of the game during a blowout.

"He's been practice player of the week for us a number of weeks, probably could've been more, for the look that he gives the defense," coach Bill Belichick said.

From one week to the next, Garoppolo must forget the tendencies of one quarterback and learn those of another.

The next quarterback's cadence, habits at the line of scrimmage and amount of time he tries to throw to his primary receiver before dumping the ball off to another are part of Garoppolo's imitations.

Does the opponent use an up-tempo offense or huddle after most plays?

The better Garoppolo can copy the opposing quarterback, the better chance a defense has to stop him in a game.

"There have definitely been a couple of times when it's like, `hey, they did the exact same thing to me in practice. It's paying off,'" he said.

Previous quarterbacks who ran the Patriots' scout team were Matt Cassel, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett. All moved on to other teams.

But when the Patriots took Garoppolo so early in the draft, he was seen as a more likely heir apparent to the 37-year-old starter, even though Brady has said he'd like to play into his 40s.

Meanwhile, Garoppolo is doing more for the Patriots' defense than for their offense.

This week, he helped it prepare for Wilson, a dual threat and a Super Bowl champion.

"It takes you a little out of your comfort zone, that's for sure," Garoppolo said, "but I'm an athlete. I'll make do."

His defensive teammates certainly appreciate that.

"He's given us a great look, whether he's dropping back and trying to make a play, whether it's being zone read and running," safety Devin McCourty said. "Obviously, we're not going to get Russell Wilson in practice but we got a good showing of what we could see on Sunday."

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2014 Patriots Season
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Pats backup QB Garoppolo helps defense prepare for Wilson

Week 1: Patriots at Dolphins, 33-20 loss
Record: 0-1

Shane Vereen #34 of the New England Patriots avoids a tackle by Jimmy Wilson #27 of the Miami Dolphins during the game at Sun Life Stadium on September 7, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Photo Credit: Rob Foldy, Getty Images

Jim Basquil and Greg Garber talk about who should get more credit for the Patriots' success, Tom Brady or Bill Belichick.

Week 2: Patriots at Vikings, 30-7 win
Record: 1-1

New England Patriots Malcolm Butler breaks up a pass play intended for Minnesota Vikings Jarius Wright during fourth quarter action at TCF Stadium on Sunday, September 14, 2014.

Photo Credit: Matthew J. Lee, The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Week 3: Patriots vs Raiders, 16-9 win
Record: 2-1

New England Patriots Nate Ebner, left, and Darrelle Revis, right, tackle Oakland Raiders James Jones during the second half of play at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Photo Credit: Jessica Rinaldi, The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Week 4: Patriots at Chiefs, 41-14 loss
Record: 2-2

Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali (91) strips the football out of the hands of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) during the third quarter on Monday, Sept. 29, 2014, at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.

Photo Credit: David Eulitt, Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty Images

Week 8: Patriots vs Bears, 51-23 win
Record: 6-2

New England Patriots running back Jonas Gray rumbles for a first quarter first down. The New England Patriots hosted the Chicago Bears in a regular season NFL game at Gillette Stadium.

Photo Credit: Jim Davis, The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Week 9: Patriots vs Broncos, 43-21 win
Record: 7-2

Julian Edelman #11 of the New England Patriots carries the ball during the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium on November 2, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Photo Credit: Jim Rogash, Getty Images

Week 10: Bye Week
Record: 7-2

Tom Brady cracks a smile during Patriots practice warmups at Gillette Stadium.

Photo Credit: John Tlumacki, The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Week 11: Patriots at Colts, 42-20 win
Record: 8-2

Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots scores a touchdown against Vontae Davis #21 of the Indianapolis Colts during the fourth quarter of the game at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 16, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Photo Credit: Andy Lyons, Getty Images

Week 13: Patriots at Packers, 26-21 loss
Record: 9-3

Tight end Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots makes a reception against the Green Bay Packers during the NFL game at Lambeau Field on November 30, 2014 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Patriots 26-21.

Photo Credit: Christian Petersen, Getty Images

Week 17: Patriots vs Bills, 17-9 loss
Record: 12-4

Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the New England Patriots runs against the Buffalo Bills during the second half at Gillette Stadium on December 28, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Photo Credit: Jerome Davis, Getty Images

Wild Card Playoff: Bye Week
Advance to Divisional Round

The New England Patriots held practice in preparation for their playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens on January 10, 2015. Rob Ninkovich and Vince Wilfork take a breather during practice.

Photo Credit: John Tlumacki, The Boston Globe via Getty Images

AFC Divisional Round: Patriots vs Ravens, 35-31 win
Advance to Conference Championship

Duron Harmon #30 of the New England Patriots intercepts a pass late in the game during the 2015 AFC Divisional Playoffs game against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham, Getty Images

AFC Championship: Patriots vs Colts, 45-7 win
Advance to Super Bowl XLIX

The Patriots' LeGarrette Blount scores in 3rd quarter action during the AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium on January 18, 2015.

Photo Credit: Matthew J. Lee, The Boston Globe via Getty Images


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