For the past two decades, the New England Patriots quarterback room has been led by Tom Brady: the six-time Super Bowl champion and future Hall of Famer who has solidified his case as the greatest of all time. However, the 42-year old decided to take his talents to Tampa Bay this offseason, leaving the Patriots without a franchise quarterback for the first time in a long time.
The torch seems to have been passed off to second-year passer Jarrett Stidham. New England drafted Stidham in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft and his strong performance in training camp and preseason earned him the number two spot behind Brady on the depth chart.
The 23-year old’s appeared in just three regular-season games and went 2-for-4 passing with 14 yards and one interception last season.
Nevertheless, Stidham did all the right things behind the scenes, making a lot of progress on the practice field and steadily improving his knowledge and grasping the offense. While the team brought back Brian Hoyer this offseason, the starting job is his to lose.
The Miami Dolphins face the Patriots in week one, so I decided to take an in-depth look on who Stidham is.
By the numbers
After leading the Tigers in wins over Alabama and Georgia, being named SEC’s Newcomer of the Year and receiving second-team all-conference player honors in 2017, His numbers went down the following season. His completion percentage dropped from 66.5 to 60.7, and his team put together an 8-5 record. Once viewed as a first-round pick, his draft stock fell severely, as he was selected with the No. 133.
Stidham’s skills and abilities as a passer weren’t displayed very much at Auburn. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound quarterback isn’t extremely mobile, which made it hard for him to thrive with the Tigers. There are a couple of reasons why: bad receivers, non-existent offensive line, the wrong system.
It’s hard to determine what type of quarterback Stidham is simply based on his college game. But there are two things that stood out the most from him heading into the draft: decision making and mechanics.
“I thought he was the most mechanically sound quarterback in the draft,” former Patriots scout and Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy told CBS Sports’s, Phil Perry. “He throws an absolutely beautiful football. When the people in New England can go to training camp this year and see this kid throw the ball, it comes off his hand so clean and it’s such a pretty ball. He’s fun to watch throw.”
We got our first look at Stidham in the 2019 preseason, where he completed 61 of his 90 passes for 731 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception.
He clearly impressed, constantly throwing accurate balls, mostly deep ones, when given time in the pocket.
When being scouted, many pointed out his inability to make throws under pressure, with the pocket collapsing. However, Stidham completed 40 percent of his passes under pressure in the preseason, according to PFF, with 61 percent of his throws were deemed as accurate.
The young quarterback was patient and smart with his decisions, even when it meant taking a hit.
The Patriots championship offense led by Brady relied on short sweet passes, designed to milk the defense while driving the ball down the field. Stidham had the sixth-best completion percentage of any preseason quarterback when throwing in 2.5 seconds or less (81.4), per PFF. He also recorded a 115.5 rating on those throws, which was the eighth-best in the league.
But just like the scouts predicted, he had instances where he couldn’t take the pressure and made errors.
Stidham came into New England needing to sit at least one season in order to adapt to the NFL, and I don’t think there’s a better way to learn than by sitting behind Brady and practicing against the league’s best defense every day.
In October, about midway through Stidham’s first year, Belichick was impressed with what he’d seen from the rookie.
“Jarrett is a smart kid,” Belichick said. “He picks things up very quickly. He has a good grasp of the offense given where he is in his career. He’s handled everything we’ve thrown at him. In practice, he does a good job. He gets a lot of passes on our defense and when he has the opportunity to get the offensive snaps, he’s prepared and does a good job of those.”
Belichick, who has a rich history of developing talent at the quarterback position, seems sold on Stidham keeping the starting job in 2020. Only time will tell if the all-time great coach strikes again on another gem.
Thank you Phil Perry for reference.