With the NFL and NFLPA agreeing to cancel this year’s preseason in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s going to be tough for roster bubble players and undrafted free agents to really separate themselves from the pack with no competition outside the practice field. Certainly, there’s some veteran positional groups that this will have little effect on, but the New England Patriots are young and inexperienced at some key spots — especially on offense — that could have benefited from even a few preseason games.
It’s hard to look past the quarterback position at the top of that list.
Whether you’re all in on Cam Newton, all in on Jarrett Stidham, or right in the middle of that (hi, Brian Hoyer), there’s no question there will be a quarterback battle going on this training camp. There’s multiple ways you can look at this whole situation, even going back to the signing of Cam Newton and what it meant for him and Stidham. But, preseason getting canceled will have an affect on the both of them.
Let’s start with Cam Newton — a nine-year NFL veteran, who won a league MVP trophy and played in a Super Bowl. Normally, a player of his stature wouldn’t need too much of a preseason to be ready for Week 1. However, it’s been nearly 20 months since his last healthy snap in the NFL, and after signing with the Patriots relatively late in the offseason and not going through the entire virtual offseason period in New England, stepping right into Week 1 may have some growing pains considering his unfamiliarity with the offense.
Also, when talking about Newton’s unique skill set, it’s definitely something that’s more on display during live game action more so than on a practice field. Will he be able to step right in, show he’s healthy, grasp the offense and truly separate himself in training camp alone? I think it’s certainly something to think about.
As for Stidham, who was thought to be “the guy” to succeed Tom Brady until Newton was brought aboard by the Patriots about a month ago. The former fourth-round draft pick been in the system for a year and impressed coaches and players with his development during his rookie season. He should therefore be given every opportunity to win the top spot on the depth chart this year.
Stidham, as opposed to Newton, went through the entire uncommon virtual offseason as the Patriots’ top option at quarterback and this preseason would have given him more of a chance to showcase himself against opposing defenses. It also would have allowed him to show that he can run the offense he spent a year learning.
Like I said above, there’s multiple ways to look at the preseason cancelation in making a case for both guys.
Why does a former MVP need a preseason to show he is ready? Or why would the Patriots go through an entire offseason virtually with Stidham just to turn it over to Newton with no 11-on-11 action? I get it, it’s an interesting conversation surrounding both guys. However, as for my two cents, the current circumstances may favor Stidham a bit more just because he’s been in the building for longer and has an understanding of how things are run in between those doors. Newton, on the other hand, may be limited to show how ready and healthy he is without any live game action.
Whatever happens, happens and Patriots fans have to have trust in Bill Belichick that he will make the right decision that is best for his football team. But whatever happens, embrace the quarterback battle — it’s been almost three decades since New England has had one (how do Bears fans go through this every single year?), so let’s enjoy it!