FOXBOROUGH — We’re just five practices into training camp, but it seems like the scouting reports on Patriots rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham were solid.
Stidham has a sensational, accurate arm and can make pinpoint throws on the move. On the other hand, going from running spread offenses at Baylor and Auburn to piloting the Patriots’ system is like trading in a four-door sedan for an F-16.
It has been an up-and-down few days for the fourth-round pick, with most of the downs characterized by Stidham holding onto the ball too long and processing too slowly what’s in front of him.
“When you go from high school to college or college to pro, there’s always going to be some new things,” Stidham said Sunday. “Like I’ve said, I’m just trying to learn as much as I can. This is my first go-around, so I’m just trying to learn and not make the same mistakes twice.”
A nice, diplomatic answer, that.
Brian Hoyer has been in Stidham’s shoes and was more straightforward.
“It’s a hard system, OK?” Hoyer said.
Overall, there has been a lot to like from Stidham. He got in the most work on Friday, when Tom Brady had the day off, and wound up having a pretty good practice.
Stidham did throw three interceptions, but finished 5 for 5 with three touchdowns in an 11-on-11 red zone drill. The three scores were to undrafted rookie receiver Jakobi Meyers, Phillip Dorsett, and James White, and Stidham fit all three into tight windows. He hit Meyers in the back corner of the end zone while rolling right, and threw the prettiest ball of the day off his back foot to White on a wheel route.
“He’s impressive,” Dorsett said. “This is a complex offense, this offense is hard to learn. But he’s up for the challenge and he has a really live arm.”
Stidham hasn’t gotten very many reps since the pads came on Saturday, mostly because Brady has been back and the first padded sessions have been focused on the run game, but he did have two more tight-window completions Saturday, one to Maurice Harris and the other to James Develin.
His ability to throw accurately on the move stands out clearly.
What he’ll work on now is the processing speed. He can do it right — on the touchdown to White Friday, Stidham felt pressure coming from a blitzing Ja’Whaun Bentley and made a good, quick decision — he just doesn’t do it every time. This is normal for a rookie quarterback, especially a Patriots rookie quarterback, as Hoyer reminded.
“I’ve played in a lot of offenses,” Hoyer said. “Some offenses, a rookie quarterback can go in and it’s very simple for them. They don’t have to worry about a lot, it’s just pick a guy out and throw it.”
Not so in New England.
Even Bill Belichick acknowledged as much in a Sirius XM radio interview Monday.
“It’s a big jump from where he’s been and the style that he’s played in,” Belichick said. “We’ll see how that all comes along, but he can certainly handle the position from a mental standpoint, the responsibilities of the play-calling, formationing and checks and that type of thing. He’s done a good job of that.”
With Brady, followed by Hoyer, getting the most QB reps in a normal practice, Stidham has been having lots of side sessions with assistant quarterbacks coach Mick Lombardi. Much of their individual work together, Stidham said, is spent talking through progressions. It sounded like they’re trying, in a sense, to bring the whiteboard work that happens in meeting rooms out onto the practice field.
These are crucial weeks for a rookie quarterback. Barring disaster, he’ll play a negligible amount of competitive football this year. He’ll still learn plenty from September through February, but once the games begin, individual development becomes secondary to team goals.
For a backup quarterback, that means scout team reps spent mimicking opposing players rather than working on your own skills. Some individual wants are shelved to prioritize winning that week’s game.
These few weeks in July and August are Stidham’s time to focus on himself. And while it might not look great every time, taking his lumps from a professional defense is a necessary part of the process.
“Everybody out here is really talented, but that’s really good,” he said.
We’ve seen enough from Stidham through five days to know that he fits that description, too. The rest is a matter of decision-making.
. . .
The Patriots on Tuesday announced they have signed rookie free agent offensive lineman Martez Ivey and released veteran offensive lineman Cole Croston.