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Practicing against Jarrett Stidham allowed Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore ‘to get better’

Related: Making the case for Jarrett Stidham as the Patriots’ next quarterback

New England Patriots Practice Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

While Jarrett Stidham’s NFL résumé has only 15 regular season and no playoff snaps on it, the 23-year-old enters the 2020 season with plenty of experience in the New England Patriots’ system. Stidham served as the team’s number two quarterback behind Tom Brady last year, after all, and saw considerable in-practice action against the league’s best defense and as a stand-in for Brady when the starter dealt with an elbow injury late during the year.

Moving forward, the expectation is that Stidham will again fill the replacement role for the Patriots: Brady left the team in free agency and will play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020, leaving the second-year man as the top in-house candidate to replace him. Whether he will actually win the job and prove himself a capable QB1 remains to be seen, but his short time in the league did already leave a positive impression on one of his teammates.

“He came in and worked hard and got better and better as the year went on,” starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore told ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss last week when asked about Stidham. “He has a strong arm. He makes some tough throws. Definitely made it hard on me in practice each and every week, going against whoever I was covering, making some great throws. It allowed me to get better in practice to prepare for the games.”

One of the more experienced players on the team’s roster, Gilmore will resume his role as the Patriots’ number one cornerback this season and as such again play a pivotal role within a defensive backfield that was the best in all of football last year. The 29-year-old’s possible impact extends beyond his steady on-field performance, however, especially with Brady and fellow veteran players such as Kyle Van Noy and Duron Harmon no longer on the team.

How New England will fill the leadership void created by those high-profile departures remains to be seen, but Gilmore seems confident that the team will find proper replacements within its ranks: “You have to earn that leadership and earn that trust every year — leading by example, leading by making plays. That’s the type of thing once you come together, and see what type of team you have, you can see who can be that guy.”

Stidham will get his fair share of chances to earn not just the Patriots’ starting quarterback role, but also become a leader within the new-look offense. That said, Gilmore acknowledged that predictions or expectations can change quickly at this time of the year and that the team will not find concrete answers to its current offseason questions until the on-field workouts or the season itself have been kicked off (whenever this will actually be).

“You don’t know what you have until you actually get there. Everybody, it’s a clean slate right now. Everybody has to prove themselves, each and every year. No matter where you’re at, it starts over every year,” Gilmore said before also touching on being named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the 2019 season: “Of course, it was a great award, but you have to put it behind you. You have to prove yourself every year. No one cares what you did last year.”

“I try to take that mindset each and every year, and show everyone that I can be the player I want to be.”