Saturday’s news that Cam Newton tested positive for the novel Coronavirus, has kicked off a flurry of follow-up reports: from the New England Patriots’ game against the Kansas City Chiefs being postponed to either Monday or Tuesday, pending further testing, to the Chiefs themselves having a positive test, to Newton becoming his team’s first player to be moved to the new Reserve/Covid-19 list.
While the Patriots as a whole remain in limbo at the moment, there is a chance that they will travel to Kansas City in the coming days after all. If that is the case, Newton will not be a part of the team. In fact, he might be out for the foreseeable future: he will miss at least five days after the initial test, but depending on whether or not he develops Covid-19 symptoms could be out considerably longer than that.
The virus obvious makes football a secondary concern. With a non-zero chance that Patriots will play the Chiefs either tomorrow or on Tuesday, however, we will still have to take a look at the team’s quarterback position to see how Newton will be replaced during his absence.
Let’s therefore take a look at the three other quarterbacks currently under contract.
Based on the first three games of the regular season, Brian Hoyer is expected to take over as the Patriots’ new starting quarterback for however long Newton will be sidelined: Hoyer served as the number two all year long even though he has not yet taken the field. That said, the veteran has considerable experience both within the team’s offensive system and as a starting-level player on other teams across the NFL.
After arriving in the league as a rookie free agent, Hoyer spent three years in New England as Tom Brady’s backup before spending the subsequent six seasons on seven different teams. Along the way, he started 36 games — including a career-high 13 during his 2014 season with the Cleveland Browns. Hoyer eventually returned to the Patriots in 2017, after the team had traded Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers.
Hoyer served as Brady’s backup for one-and-a-half years before losing the backup job to rookie Jarrett Stidham in 2019. He went on to join the Indianapolis Colts, for whom he started one game, before returning to New England for another time earlier this year. All in all, Hoyer has 71 in-game appearances on his résumé while having completed 58.8 percent of his passes for a combined 10,410 yards, 52 touchdowns and 38 interceptions. As a Patriot, he has completed 62.7 percent of his throws for 335 yards with one TD and one pick.
While a stylistically different quarterback than Cam Newton, and naturally a downgrade from the starter, Hoyer’s experience could help him keep the ship afloat for the time being. While the game against Kansas City will be a major challenge with a backup under center, the one against the Denver Broncos in Week 5 — if played as planned and with Newton still out — appears to be a more winnable affair.
Following Tom Brady’s free agency departure in March, Jarrett Stidham was projected to take over as the Patriots’ new starting quarterback. Cam Newton being picked up in late June as well as a groin injury suffered in the first week of full-team training camp practices changed the outlook, however: Stidham lost practice reps to both Newton and Hoyer and eventually started the regular season as the number three on the depth chart, being inactive each time.
With Newton now out at least five days and possibly more, Stidham will move up one spot to number two again and become a game-day active whenever it is the Patriots next take the field (unless Newton is back by then, of course). Following a disappointing training camp, that is his role at this point in his career: Stidham is an emergency option whose long-term outlook remains somewhat unclear.
Newton and Hoyer will try to hold down the fort on the active roster, but the Patriots also have another quarterback under contract to offer additional depth: second-year man Jake Dolegala. The 6-foot-7 passer originally arrived in the NFL as an undrafted free agency signing by the Cincinnati Bengals last year, and was able to carve out a role on the team’s active roster as a third quarterback.
Dolegala showed some promise in his first year in the league despite not appearing in a single regular season name, the Bengals, who had selected Joe Burrow first overall in April’s draft, decided to release him as part of their final roster cutdowns in September. Two weeks later, he was brought in for a workout and later signed to the practice squad. Accordingly, Dolegala is the last layer of quarterback depth at the moment.