The New England Patriots’ first organized team activity open to the media saw incumbent starter Cam Newton and first-round rookie Mac Jones serve as the first two players up at the quarterback position. The second open session last Friday, meanwhile, went in a different direction.
With Newton unable to finish practice after injuring his right throwing hand, and with Jones having an up-and-down day as well as some missed opportunities, Jarrett Stidham stepped into the spotlight. The third-year man was the best quarterback on the field and delivered some on-point throws while going 13-for-14 during team drills.
In a quarterback competition with Newton and Jones seemingly at the center, Stidham showed that he would not be going down without a fight either.
Stidham’s strong outing during Friday’s practice is the latest development in what has been perceived as a positive offseason for him. Team owner Robert Kraft praised him for the initiative he showed in organizing throwing sessions in California, while there reportedly is a “pretty good feeling about what Jarrett Stidham has done over the course of this offseason” inside the organization as well.
Whether or not all of that translates into Stidham making a leap in Year 3 and competing for the starting job remains to be seen. The signs he showed on Friday were promising, though.
A fourth-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2019, 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 last offseason 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.
His performance as well as Newton’s underwhelming first year as New England’s starter prompted the team to select Jones 15th overall in April. The youngster looked impressive in his first open practice while sharing top-level reps with the incumbent, but he had a so-and-so day filling in for Newton after he exited Friday’s session.
In turn, Stidham stepped up.
He looked quick and decisive with his decisions, according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, and made the two best throws of the session when he connected with wide receivers Jakobi Meyers and Isaiah Zuber. Stidham has struggled with consistency in the past but there were no such issues on display when he took over QB1 reps late on Friday.
The final two weeks of offseason workouts — four additional OTAs plus mandatory minicamp — will therefore be fascinating to watch regardless of Newton’s status. Will Stidham show that his last practice was no fluke, and that he indeed is on a positive path? Will he challenge Jones’ standing as the second quarterback on the depth, or even compete for the starting role? Will he finally live up to the promise he showed in flashes over the last two years?
Voluntary workouts will not give definitive answers to these questions, but they might help Stidham lay the groundwork for a more competitive training camp than he had last year.