James Toscano's 3 things to watch for: Patriots ready to tackle Texans - Metro US

James Toscano’s 3 things to watch for: Patriots ready to tackle Texans

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We’re just two games into the Patriots’ season and already there’s been enough action, surprise, happiness, and sadness to fill an entire 16-game schedule.

Jimmy Garoppolo followed up his impressive debut against the Cardinals by picking apart the Dolphins through the first two quarters. According to most Patriots fans midway through the second quarter, he was already either the franchise quarterback or worth a first- and third-round pick in next year’s draft … but disaster struck as Garoppolo hit the ground hard, shoulder-first.

He left the game and wouldn’t return – and it sounds like his status is going to be anybody’s guess right up until game time.

So who’s the next man up for the Patriots? Rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett took over for Garoppolo in Week 2 and managed the team to a win in the second half against the Dolphins, going 6-for-9 for 92 yards as the Pats turned to LeGarrette Blount and the run game. Brissett will have to do the same in Week 3 against the Texans if called upon.

But just as Garoppolo had to make his first NFL start under the bright lights on national TV, so will Brissett – except he’s doing it A. as a rookie, and B. on short rest, as the Patriots host the Texans on Thursday Night Football (8:25 p.m., CBS).

It makes sense to not have much faith that Brissett can get the job done. The Patriots are actually 2.5-point underdogs at home – virtually unheard of around here. Behind those Gillette Stadium doors, however, is a team that believes in one another.

“Whichever guy is out there playing quarterback I think they’re going to have confidence in him and we’re going to have plenty of time to go through what we need to go through in the next three days to prepare ourselves to play well,” said Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Dual Threat in Texas

The Patriots shut down the Texans’ offense last season, but that was with Brian Hoyer at quarterback. This season it’s former Denver Bronco Brock Osweiler. And he has a fun rookie weapon in Will Fuller, who last week became the third wide receiver to start his NFL career with two straight 100-yard receiving games, according to ESPN. The 6-foot-0 Fuller and 6-foot-1 DeAndre Hopkins make for a nice duo, but don’t forget that Logan Ryan shut down Hopkins last year to the tune of three catches for 52 yards, with one 40-yard catch coming in the fourth quarter of a game already out of reach. Expect another battle between those two.

Watt-ch Out

Whoever ends up being the quarterback Thursday night better have his head on a swivel. Reigning sack leader J.J. Watt is arguably the most dangerous defensive lineman in the game. And if he isn’t enough to worry about, athletic freak Jadeveon Clowney and ESPN The Body Issue’s Vince Wilfork will also be hovering around at all times. It will be very interesting to see how the rookie Brissett handles himself without a 20-plus point lead and with Watt coming around the edge, if he is in fact the QB. Ditto for Garoppolo, who with a bum shoulder needs to avoid Watt like the plague.

Plan B-ennett

That the Patriots are 2-0 without Tom Brady is pretty impressive. But they’ve also been without their top receiving weapon in Rob Gronkowski, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury. His status for Thursday is also up in the air, but the Patriots have proven that they can win without him. A big reason for that is fellow tight end Martellus Bennett, who racked up 114 yards and a touchdown on five catches against the Dolphins. Good on Bill Belichick for realizing how important another skilled tight end is in this offense in case Gronkowski went down. And when Gronk returns, the two-headed tight end monster will be unleashed.

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