How Jarrett Stidham and other rookies are performing in their first Patriots camp

Which Patriots rookies will see the field in 2019?

New England Patriots quarterback Jarrett Stidham passes the ball during an NFL football training camp practice, Thursday, July 25, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Jarrett Stidham passes the ball during training camp practice, Thursday. –(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Making the 53-man roster is difficult for any Patriots rookie, never mind cracking the top of the depth chart. How each player performs in training camp is often the first step toward a meaningful role under head coach Bill Belichick. Here’s how notable Patriots rookies have performed so far.

QB:

Jarrett Stidham, Auburn University, 4th round (133rd overall)

Jarrett Stidham has been one of training camp’s most impressive players thus far. A fourth-round pick out of Auburn, Stidham has made a name for himself early with strong play. 

On Tuesday, Stidham threw an impressive 8 for 8 to add on to his 68-percent completion percentage through 10 days of camp.

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His teammates have been heaping on the praise for the rookie QB, with running back James White saying, “He’s got good command. It’s tough being a quarterback on any team, especially on our offense.”

Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett backed up White’s praise of Stidham, saying, “He’s getting more comfortable. He has a live arm, can make any throw. I like Jarrett. It’s the National Football League, and he’s young. Coming in here is tough. A lot of stuff gets thrown at you really fast and changes on the move, so you have to be able to adjust. He’s doing all right.”

There’s plenty of practice and an entire preseason schedule still remaining before the start of the season, so Stidham still has a lot to prove. However, he will have to keep up the strong performances he’s had in camp with Brian Hoyer still taking more snaps in practice.

 

RB: 

Damien Harris, University of Alabama, 3rd round (87th overall) 

Harris put up monster numbers at Alabama, rushing for over 1,000 yards for three straight seasons, starting in 2016. As an NFL rookie though, Harris has a lot of competition for snaps. The Patriots’ three leaders in rushing attempts — Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead — are all returning for the 2019 season. Despite this, Harris has been competing for snaps in training camp, and he has gotten a look as a potential goal-line back. 

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When asked about his role, Harris responded told WEEI, “I think you’d have to ask Coach Belichick that, not me.”

Harris says his main focus it to soak up as much information as he possibly can and get better in the process.

“There’s always areas to improve. Every single day I just want to come out here and be the best player that I can be — learn as much as I can, be a sponge, learn from the older guys, the coaches. Any piece of knowledge I can get, that is what I am looking to do to help this team be successful.” 

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WR:

N’Keal Harry, Arizona State University, 1st round (32nd overall)

Harry was the Patriots’ first pick in the 2019 draft, and with that comes the expectation that he will be a difference maker right from the start. Luckily for Harry, he will have the opportunity to prove himself.

With Demaryius Thomas on the PUP list with a ruptured Achilles, and the rest of the Patriots wide receiver core outside of Julian Edelman being largely inexperienced, there’s a lot of uncertainty at the  position. Harry has had an inconsistent start to camp, occasionally showing flashes of brilliance, making spectacular catches, and burning opposing defenders. 

However, Harry has also been struggling with catching, dropping a fair amount of balls. He also suffered an injury in camp on Tuesday, which could set him back as he sat out practice Wednesday and is unlikely to play the preseason opener Thursday night against the Lions.

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Jakobi Meyers, North Carolina State, Undrafted

Meyers started his college career as a quarterback, before switching to wide receiver for his sophomore year. This decision has done him well, as he has impressed in camp so far. 

Teammate Tom Brady praised Meyers saying, “the football doesn’t care how old you are, whether you were drafted or not. The football doesn’t care how much experience you have. It just knows that when I let that ball go, it’s got to be in the hands of the guy who it’s intended for.”

Even Bill Belichick complimented Meyers’s play saying, “Well, he’s a smart kid, and he understands [the offense] and has versatility…Like any rookie, any young player, there’s a lot of things he needs to work on technique-wise — recognition, route adjustments — just a lot of fine points. He basically knows what to do, but there are a lot of subtleties and nuances that all receivers need to pick up — certainly in our offense — and he’s doing that.”

Meyers’s strong play has seen some speculate that he could make the 53-man roster.

Gunner Olszewski, Bemidji State, Undrafted

A standout defensive back at Division II Bemidji State, Olszewski reports to camp looking to make the change to wide receiver.

“It’s coming along,” Olszewski said. “It’s day-by-day. Get better tomorrow. Go in, watch the film right now to see what I messed up on today, fix that tomorrow. Tomorrow, mess up something else. I’ll fix that the next day.”

According to reports, Olszewski has been impressive enough to start camp for reporters to wonder if there’s a spot on the practice squad for him.

He’s also being given a shot as a potential special teams player, taking reps as a punt returner.

OL: 

Yodny Cajuste, West Virginia University, 3rd round (101st overall)

With last year’s first-round selection Isaiah Wynn’s health a point of concern — he has yet to compete in contact drills due to a torn Achilles before the start of last season — the Patriots may need a backup.

Cajuste could potentially be an option, but he is currently out with an injured quad and not taking part in practice. It remains unclear when Cajuste will return to action.

Hjalte Froholdt, University of Arkansas, 4th round (118th overall)

Froholdt allowed only three sacks at the University of Arkansas, playing over 2,500 snaps in four years for the Razorbacks. Playing guard for the Patriots in training camp, Froholdt is behind Shaq Mason on the depth chart. This leaves Froholdt fighting for snaps with fellow backup guard Ted Karras. As of now, Froholdt and Karras are both practicing with the 2nd team offense. 

DL: 

Chase Winovich, University of Michigan, 3rd round (77th overall) 

Winovich looks like he will be making the move from the defensive line to linebacker as he transitions to the NFL. 

Despite the new position, reports from camp are that Winovich has impressed in training camp. Dont’a Hightower talked about how Winovich’s high motor has stood out.

“He’s definitely got a high motor; that’s for sure. He’s one of the guys who works really hard,” Hightower observed. “He’s always asking questions and he obviously wants to do the right things all of the time. You really couldn’t ask much more from a guy that’s willing to do whatever and then with the way he does it.”

Byron Cowart, University of Maryland, 5th round (159th overall)

Cowart is one of many in a very long list of defensive linemen, including Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennell Jr., Danny Shelton, Adam Butler, and David Parry. Cowart is coming off an injury that held him out the first few days of camp, but reporters seem to think he may be turning a corner.

CB:

JoeJuan Williams, Vanderbilt University, 2nd round (45th overall)

The Patriots are deep at cornerback. Stephen Gilmore, Jonathan Jones, and Jason McCourty played all 16 games last season, while J.C Jackson played in 13 games but also was tied for the team leader in interceptions with three. Williams’s role on the Patriots has yet to be decided, but experts are projecting that his rookie season impact will be minimal.

Ken Webster, Ole Miss, 7th round (252nd overall) 

Webster, like JoeJuan Williams, is competing for limited spots on the roster at the cornerback position.  Webster is currently on the PUP list, forcing him to miss a substantial chunk of the preseason already. 

D’Angelo Ross, New Mexico, Undrafted

Starting his career at Fullerton Junior College, Ross transferred to New Mexico, where he turned heads during his two seasons. Like Jakobi Meyers, Ross has been an undrafted free agent that has impressed to the point in camp where he has started to practice with the first-team.

Jason McCourty talked about how Ross’ hot start to preseason hasn’t been a surprise to him.

“The reason I would say he hasn’t surprised me is in the classroom,” Jason McCourty said Friday. “He’s been on top of everything. A guy that — sitting next to him in meetings, he writes every single thing down that the coaches say. You can tell how much he’s putting into it. You can tell when you come in when he’s answering questions in the meeting room that he’s going home and he’s studying and stuff at night. That gives you a chance. So, when you hit the practice field, when you know what you’re doing and you’re confident, it allows you to play fast.”

Ross just wants to make the most of this opportunity saying, “whatever reps I get, I just have to make sure I make the best of them.”

P: 

Jake Bailey, Stanford, 5th round (165th overall) 

Bailey was drafted by the Patriots despite still having punter Ryan Allen on the roster. As of now, both Allen and Bailey are on the roster and are competing for the starting job. It looks like this is going to be an interesting battle to focus on during the preseason, as reporters are saying that there’s no separation between the two for the starting job.