The number one story coming out of the New England Patriots’ training camp at this early stage in the process is the quarterback competition. Second-year man Jarrett Stidham, former league MVP Cam Newton, and long-time Patriots backup passer Brian Hoyer are all fighting for practice reps and a chance to take over the starting spot that has belonged to future Hall of Famer Tom Brady for the last two decades.
Two days into training camp, however, no clear-cut frontrunner has established himself as the Patriots have split reps equally between the three QBs. All of them also had their moments, with Stidham and Hoyer regularly showing off their experience in the system and Newton appearing to be fully healthy again coming off back-to-back seasons that prematurely ended due to injury.
In an election year, this race is still far too close to call. At one point, however, the Patriots will have to make one and start giving more reps to the eventual number one — something Bill Belichick also acknowledged during a media conference call on Wednesday.
“Obviously, there’s some point where that’s going to happen,” New England’s head coach said. “Right now, we want to try to give everybody an opportunity to get the basics. We’re really doing that at all positions. Everybody’s rotating through, and we’re trying to give everybody an opportunity to run the basic plays, get the basic fundamentals down. Of course, at some point we will have to non-equalize the reps — that’s obvious — but we’re not there now.”
According to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, Stidham has been the number one in terms of leading off practice periods. But while he may have started more series than Newton or Hoyer, this is not necessarily an indication of the coaching staff’s intentions one way or another. Earlier in camp, after all, the quarterbacks went through drills based on seniority, with Hoyer coming up first followed by Stidham, Newton and undrafted rookie Brian Lewerke.
As noted above, however, Belichick will eventually have to make a decision about who to name as Brady’s heir this year. At this point in time, all the non-Lewerke options still appear to be on the table — including possibly using a quarterback platoon to open the season.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss suggested this approach earlier on Wednesday, and the topic later came up during Belichick’s media session as well. True to form, the veteran coach deferred to his old mantra of doing what is best for the team when answering the question.
“I always say that I’ll do what’s best for the team, what gives us the best chance to win,” Belichick pointed out when talking about potentially using his quarterbacks based not on a clear depth chart but rather opponent or situation. “Whatever that is, I would certainly consider it. If it’s running an unbalanced line or a double-unbalanced line, or 23-personnel, whatever it is. If it helps us win, I would consider everything.”