Even though they are expected to select a quarterback at one point in next week’s draft, there is no guarantee said passer will be the New England Patriots’ starter come the 2021 season. While the team’s projected first-round targets — Justin Fields (Ohio State), Trey Lance (North Dakota State), Mac Jones (Alabama) — are all more than capable, the coaching staff might prefer to go with a more experienced option after all.
There are two of those on the Patriots’ current roster: incumbent starter Cam Newton as well as third-year backup Jarrett Stidham. Both are participating in the team’s voluntary offseason workout program, and will once again compete for the starting job this summer.
Newton should be seen as the favorite given his career résumé and status as the reigning QB1, but Stidham will apparently not go down without a fight either. In fact, the former fourth-round draft selection has reportedly left a positive impression within the organization due to his approach this offseason so far.
“There is a pretty good feeling about what Jarrett Stidham has done over the course of this offseason,” NFL Network’s Mike Giardi said on the air earlier this week. “They like sort of his demeanor right now, they feel like there’s a bit more urgency to his operation, if you will. He’s the one who organized the workouts on the West Coast earlier this offseason. Maybe Jarrett Stidham is saying, ‘I’m not done just yet; this isn’t Cam’s job just yet.’”
Stidham spent the first season of his career as Tom Brady’s backup and appeared to be in the driver’s seat for the starting role until Newton was brought aboard in late June. A hip injury and inconsistent performances in training camp eventually led to him beginning the 2020 season as the third passer on the depth chart behind Newton and fellow offseason addition Brian Hoyer.
While he eventually leap-frogged Hoyer, Stidham was unable to surpass Newton despite the veteran’s struggles following his Covid-19 diagnosis. He eventually ended the season as the number two, and having appeared in five games: Stidham completed 22 of 44 pass attempts for 256 yards as well as two touchdowns and three interceptions.
How the 2021 offseason will go for him is anyone’s guess. He could make a sizable leap in Year 3 and end up earning the starting role over Newton and the projected rookie addition, but is no less likely to simply fizzle out and get cut in favor of other options.
At the moment, however, there appears to be some positive momentum on his side — momentum that was also noted by Patriots owner Robert Kraft during a media conference call in March.
“I think he’s a great young man and I know that he’s eager to compete and look for an opportunity to play. One thing I like is that he’s shown great initiative in putting these workouts together on his own out in California,” Kraft said about the third-year QB while also nothing that he would be a “really big fan of his.”
“I’m not sure he’s really been tested. ... We all know, long-term, we have to find a way — either Jarrett Stidham or someone new we bring in.”
New England will not hand the starting job to anybody this summer; Stidham, just like Newton or a rookie addition, will have to earn it. However, it seems as if the 24-year-old is showing the urgency that some within the organization felt was lacking last spring. That alone will not be enough to finally get his NFL career on track, but it does give him a solid foundation to work with come training camp and preseason.