By Kieran Patterson (@DCCYTFootball)
The 2020 NFL is only months away and one of the biggest questions still remains unanswered… Is Jarrett Stidham any good?
This is uncharted territory for the Patriots. They’ve not had uncertainty at the quarterback position for 20 years. I think the biggest question here is how good can the patriots be without Tom Brady? If we look at it objectively then the Patriots can be just as good with Jarrett Stidham under center given how he stacks up and his coachability. Let’s run through what the Patriots offence has to work with and what makes Jarrett Stidham the Patriots quarterback of the future.
Who is Jarrett Stidham? Is he the next Tom Brady? I’m not sure anyone will be, but he isn’t a scrub that will fall flat on his face. Let’s take a bit of a deeper dive on the Auburn QB entering his 2nd year in the NFL.
Let’s look at his College profile:
The numbers look OK, but he wasn’t asked to do too much of anything. Screens and short passes (Stidham had one of the greater target shares of passing attempts behind the line of scrimmage in his class). His accuracy anywhere near downfield was average at best, and struggled when pressured. However, that doesn’t usually bother New England the Patriots, just look at Tom Brady and his knocks as he was picked #199 overall. We all know the patriots look at what a player CAN do, rather than what they can’t.
Next, I’m going to start by laying out Stidham’s preseason stats for you so you can get some numbers on him. Stidham completed 61 of 90 passes for 731 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. He also tallied 17 carries for 88 yards on the ground. In the regular season, everyone will remember his pick 6 to safety Jamaal Adams against the Jets and ultimately being benched after being brought in to see the game out, but the foot was hardly on the accelarator. If only Bill and co. had let Stidham try and play some meaningful snaps. It’s hard to draw any conclusions from 4 regular season pass attempts, even if you completed 2 to your team and 1 to the other.
Like I always say though, stats are only half of the story and watching Stidham is where you really get a sense of how he operates.
During his 4 pre-season games he displayed solid pocket awareness knowing when to step up and when to tuck and run if needed. While accuracy was solid he does sometimes need to let his passes go a second or two earlier to hit players in stride. He does have great arm strength and a great understanding on how NFL defenses operate. This IQ allows Stidham to make the right calls in high pressure situations that would avoid turnovers and keep the ball in the Patriots hands.
However, a year behind Brady and learning from Belichick/McDaniels will do wonders for Stidham and he couldn’t really be placed any better to overcome his flaws.
So what has Stidham got to work with? And what state are the Patriots in?
The Patriot’s 2019 offence ranked 8th is passing yards, 18th in rushing yards and 7th in points for. They were 21st in yards per play (5.2), but 13th in total 1st downs (338) and 3rd in total plays. This shows what we all knew about the Patriots offence last year; methodical and efficiently effective, maintaining drives and usually came away with points.
This is all with Tom Brady under center of course, can Jarrett Stidham come in and elevate his game to the level required? And what of those weapons still at his disposal?
Well the first name that comes to mind is veteran wide receiver and Patriots folk hero, Julian Edelman. Despite battling injuries last year Edelman was still Tom Brady’s number one target throughout the season, hitting the century mark for receptions for just the second time in his career which probably says more about the offence in general rather than Edelman’s achievement.
You look at the stats, you’ll see that Edelman’s 2019 was pretty much the eptiome of his career: about 11 yards per target, 6 or 7 TDs and over 3 first downs per game. Edelman is as reliable as they come and it will be interesting to see if Edleman stays with the Patriots with Tom gone, and whether Stidham utilises him in the same way.
Next up 1st round draft pick N’Keal Harry. Sidelined until week 8 of the 2019 campaign Harry did not live up to his 1st round draft capital investment and looked to struggle on the field. Reports from camp last year did seem to show some significant chemistry between him and Stidham though which is a good sign going forwards. Many are also predicting a massive leap forward in year 2.
Now lets move to some of the lesser known guys or players with more things to prove at wide receiver; Jakobi Meyers.
The undrafted free agent had a very pedestrian season last year but he does have a ton of potential and a crazy work ethic which really puts him in a good position inside the patriots organization. The additions of Will Hastings (Jarrett Stidham’s slot receiver from Auburn) former Jaguar Marquise Lee and former Cardinal Damiere Byrd adding some extra veterans to the roster probably doesn’t inspire confidence, but the Patriot way has never really been to have household names unless you are named Randy Moss or Rob Gronkowski.
A name slightly more well known though is Mohammed Sanu, someone who really disappointed last year. I know, I know…he got injured but even then…average at best. While I expect Gunner to see the field too, I don’t think he’ll do more than return punts and kicks in 2020.
At running back we really have some better options and great variety. Let’s start with a personal favorite of mine, James “Sweetfeet” White. White gives this patriots offence a ton of options. He can catch, run and is a real problem for teams in this regard. I expect him to be a great checkdown option for Stidham and a guy who will probably have more receiving yards than he will rushing yards just due to guys like Sony Michel and Damien Harris being a better fit to carry the rock.
Can the Patriots feed Michel, Harris, White and Bolden? That remains to be seen but it’s a bonus for Stidham to have such a wide range of support on the ground. I know I didn’t mention Rex Burkhead but it’s a belief of mine that he’ll be cut before the season begins.
Lastly, let’s talk about tight ends. If I’m being 100 percent honest, I don’t think Ryan Izzo and Matt Lacosse make the final 53 and fully expecting Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene to be the starters come opening week. Both Asiasi and Keene are massive upgrades over Lacosse and Izzo with solid hands but some shortcomings in their blocking game.
To summarise, this Patriots offence is just one or two pieces short of being elite. I can easily see the Patriots slipping into a wildcard slot this year giving Stidham is first taste of post season action. I think 10-6 is a very fair record prediction and not at all a reach like many people would have you believe. I have my ear very close to the ground when it comes to the Patriots and everything I’m hearing is good going forward.
So whilst we know Stidham won’t be asked to come in and be Tom Brady, what will he be, and what will he be asked to do?
Given his play at Auburn it’s clear Stidham can lead and offence and win games, the NFL is different in many ways. This season Stidham won’t be held back though, the coaching staff has belief in him and will expect him to make plays. He’s going to have veteran Julian Edelman in the slot for him, man mountain N’Keal Harry who will be able to high point ball in the endzone and tons of help in the backfield allowing Stidham to check down for 3 to 5 yards when there’s no other options. The offence the Patriots ran with Tom Brady is gone. Due to Stidham being more mobile and having a bigger arm than Brady, look for the play calling to open up a bit more for some designed quarterback runs and some deeper passes down field.
I could talk forever about what Stidham is capable of but the proof is in the pudding. I’m going to throw out some prediction numbers for his first season as an NFL starter and would love to hear what you guys think over on our social media channels, even if it’s to hurl abuse at me!
With Stidham at the helm I see the Patriots going 10-6, Stidham will pass for 3,500 yards, 27 touchdowns and 15 interceptions along with 300 yards on the ground and 5 touchdowns with his feet. Optimistic? Sure, but unrealistic? No, not with the greatest coach to ever do it backing him. Let’s get hyped for the 2020 season Patriots fans, and let’s enjoy life after Tom.
That’s my opinion, but what’s YOURS? Let us know on the social media. Do you think Stidham will be a success? Or is it time for the AFC East have a new king atop of its mountain.
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