Typically, the majority of the preseason games really aren’t all that exciting with the starters getting little, if any playing time, especially with the games following joint practices.
But, that won’t completely be the case this year for the Patriots thanks to rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
The Auburn product was selected in the fourth round of April’s NFL draft and has impressed in his first few weeks as a rookie. While he’s made plenty of mistakes, as all rookies do, he’s also shown clear signs of having a great deal of talent. The biggest knock against him has been he’s held onto the ball too long in the pocket, but once he’s let it go, it’s been very accurate.
Some of his most notable throws have been a perfect pass to James White on a wheel route for a touchdown, and also a deep strike to rookie N’Keal Harry on a go route. He’s shown the ability to make all the throws, which some rookies struggle to do and for Stidham it's only taken a few practices to show he can.
With that being said, Stidham’s performance in practices has led some to think back to Jimmy Garoppolo, who didn’t always look particularly sharp all the time in practice, but once the lights came on and it was time for game action, he shined.
If Stidham performs well in these preseason games, things could potentially get very interesting at the quarterback position behind Tom Brady.
Brian Hoyer is the veteran backup, but if the rookie proves he’s learned the system and has the talent to be a NFL quarterback, there’s really no need to keep Hoyer around.
And if Bill Belichick wants to keep three quarterbacks, Danny Etling is always an option for the practice squad. It should be pointed out no matter how Stidham performs in the preseason he’s making the 53-man roster because he wouldn’t pass through waivers.
Based on reports from Wednesday’s walkthrough in Detroit, Hoyer will likely start the game and play the entire first half and then Stidham will take over for the second half. How Stidham performs could also impact how the rest of the preseason goes.
Playing in the second half, the rookie obviously will not be playing with the starters, and likely won’t be playing with the second team either. But, if Stidham can complete passes to the likes of what will likely be veterans Braxton Berrios and Dontrelle Inman as well as undrafted rookies Ryan Davis and Gunner Olszewski, he likely would see some work earlier in preseason game No. 2 with some wide outs higher on the depth chart.
If that were to happen, then things could really get interesting for Hoyer, as that would be taking away some of his reps.
Belichick has always been all about about value and getting the most out of his roster. Keeping both Stidham and Hoyer if Stidham shows he’s capable of being a backup really does not make any sense. A case could also be made that Hoyer would likely go unsigned if cut, and there could be an agreement put in place where he would stay in the Foxboro area to be called upon in case of emergency.
Of course, all this is predicated on how Stidham performs in the four preseason games.
The two biggest things to keep an eye is the time he takes for him to release the ball. If Stidham is getting rid of the ball quickly, that is a sign he has a better grasp of the offense than he’s shown in practice. Then if he’s still completing passes with a great deal of accuracy, that is another good sign. It’s one thing to complete a pass in practice, but another thing to do it in a game against a completely different team.
This begins Thursday night.
While Brady won’t be a major part of the preseason, Stidham will be — and that’s something that makes it worth watching the preseason games.
And after the events of this week, who knows, it could be the beginning of Brady’s eventual successor.