By Nick Shook
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With Tom Brady exiled from Gillette Stadium for another two weeks and Jimmy Garoppolo recovering from a right shoulder injury, all eyes are on rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
Oh, and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has yet to play a game in 2016 due to a hamstring injury. He, Garoppolo and linebacker Dont’a Hightower were limited participants in Patriots practice Tuesday in Foxboro.
It’s encouraging for Gronkowski, of course, but is even more significant for the Patriots‘ depth chart situation at quarterback. With the Patriots now down to their third and final signal-caller in Brissett, it was expected they’d have to add a veteran arm. But after Garoppolo’s appearance in practice on a limited basis, the door is open for him to possibly dress as a backup for Brissett and eliminate the need to bring in another quarterback, which would help the Pats avoid cutting a player elsewhere to open a roster spot.
Roster decisions aside, Brissett is preparing as best he can to take advantage of this opportunity, which he couldn’t have envisioned arriving this quickly when he was selected by New England in the third round of the 2016 draft.
New England is 2-0 but faces a tough task at home against the upstart Houston Texans. A pass rush featuring J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney is far from a friendly first test for a rookie quarterback, even with Brissett’s mobility. Gronkowski’s participation would be a big help, but there’s no guarantee he plays in Week 3. He sounded optimistic on Tuesday, NFL Network’s Courtney Fallon reported, saying he feels much better and is improving every day. Brissett would welcome his return.