With NFL training camp well underway, the Patriots are only a couple of weeks away from their scheduled matchup against the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 13. Minus injuries and suspensions, this season marks the first time in 20 years the team is not led by quarterback Tom Brady. Instead, all eyes are on his successors Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer and Brian Lewerke.
The discussion surrounding the team’s quarterback situation is mostly focused around Newton and Stidham. Newton — a three-time Pro Bowler and 2015 MVP with nine seasons under his belt — is the more experienced choice, while Stidham has familiarity with the team’s playbook, and time spent playing in the shadow of Brady himself.
Head coach Bill Belichick has praised both of his QB’s, calling Stidham a “hard worker” and expressing how impressed he’s been with Newton so far during camp. He’s also acknowledged the competition unfolding between the quarterbacks.
“We have a long way to go,” Belichick added, “but we’re making steps and we have a very competitive competition at a very competitive position at the quarterback spot. So it’s going to be interesting to see how everybody does.”
While a starter for Week 1 has not yet been announced (although, wide receiver Julian Edelman might have revealed his choice in his most recent tweet), Belichick has hinted at the possibility of using a platoon system. The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin noted that having alternating quarterbacks has “proven to fail time and again” — noting that when Belichick tried that in 2001, splitting reps between Brady and Drew Bledsoe, the team lost in Week 1 to the Rams.
Note his choice of QB https://t.co/CaEiL0ziPZ
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) August 25, 2020
Last week, USA Today’s Henry McKenna analyzed Belichick’s comments on the quarterback competition and the team’s choices both on and off the field. All of the QBs have been splitting their reps during training camp, while Hoyer, he noted, was initially taking the first snaps in practice (followed by Stidham, Newton and Lewerke).
That order, however, has changed throughout camp. Recently, Newton has been leading drills in practice, then Stidham and Hoyer. According to the Providence Journal’s Mark Daniels, Newton appears more comfortable within the team’s system, “dominating the quarterback reps” on Tuesday. Stidham, who is reportedly dealing with a leg injury, had struggled over the past few practices, but showed improvement on Tuesday.
“It would be a surprise at this point if [Newton] wasn’t the Patriots starting quarterback,” Daniels wrote. “He started 3/4 in 7-on-7s and was audibly happy with catches from N’Keal Harry (over Jason McCourty) and Gunner Olszewski (over Jonathan Jones). In 11-on-11s, Newton went 14/20…[Stidham] started 1/2 in 7-on-7s and then a perfect 6/6 in full-team drills. Stidham threw the ball well.”
Notably, Newton had foot surgery in December, causing speculation that if he’s hurt as a starter, Stidham could swoop in to take his place. Regardless, there’s a competition unfolding within the Patriots’ quarterback room.
Here’s what NFL experts think of the QB competition:
Ben Volin, Boston Globe: “The Patriots say their quarterback job is wide open… It’s only a matter of time before the Patriots become Newton’s team. Most likely, in the next couple of weeks, before the season opener against Miami.
“When the three Patriots quarterbacks take the field, Newton is the biggest, baddest man out there, and everyone knows it…Belichick has to keep up the pretense of a competition, but everyone knows the deal. The Patriots aren’t bringing Newton here to back up Stidham, a fourth-round pick with four career passes, or Hoyer, a career journeyman who’s changed teams nine times in 12 years.”
Chris Cwilk, Yahoo Sports: “Stidham’s injury opens the door for Cam Newton to take over as the team’s starter. That always felt like the most probable outcome considering Newton’s status as a former MVP, but a rumor emerged that the team could utilize a two-quarterback platoon in 2020.
“That rumor felt speculative, as Newton, 31, has a lengthy history of being an excellent quarterback. He’s won an MVP, made the All-Pro team and is a three-time Pro Bowler. Stidham has thrown four regular season passes.”
Henry McKenna, USA Today: “Maybe we can assume — especially as we’ve seen Newton knocking off rust and gaining in command and comfort in New England’s system — that this quarterback competition is going to end with him winning the job. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a genuine competition taking place. That doesn’t mean that acknowledging Stidham’s relevance is wrong. His odds are getting worse. But he’s not out yet.”
Tim Weaver, Panthers Wire: “Bill Belichick is being typical and not making it official. It’s clear where this is headed, though. Newton will be his starter Week 1 against the Dolphins – as if there were ever any question. Those of us who paid attention in the first half of 2018 knew Newton is more than capable of playing at a high level when he’s healthy. Strangely, Belichick may have been the only GM who saw it, too, but him stealing Newton like this repeats a familiar pattern.
“What has separated New England from the competition over these last 20 years more than anything is that they don’t beat themselves. They don’t make unforced mistakes on the field, they don’t overpay at the wrong positions and they don’t pass on a no-brainer like signing Newton.”
Tyler Sullivan, CBS Sports: “The quarterback battle in New England has swung favorably in the direction of Cam Newton over the last week or so. Not only has the former MVP performed well in the Patriots system over the course of training camp, but his main source of competition, second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham, has been hampered by poor play, possibly due to a hip injury that has limited him. If the season were to begin today, it’d be a safe bet that Newton would be under center as QB1. With that said, head coach Bill Belichick isn’t ready to have a coronation for Newton just yet… Still, Newton has crossed off nearly every box you’d want to see from him since he arrived in Foxborough. Players and coaches around the team have also noted the specific energy he brings to the table and quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch even likened it to playing at recess… But, if we’re being honest, this is Newton’s job to lose at this point and he has a sizable lead.”
Mike Reiss, ESPN: “It feels like Jarrett Stidham‘s status in the New England Patriots‘ quarterback picture is slipping, as Cam Newton and Brian Hoyer took the bulk of the reps Sunday. Newton, in particular, is growing in his comfort level. Stidham hasn’t taken any full-time reps over the past two practices, so if he’s going to make a serious charge to become the No. 1 option, he has notable ground to make up.”
Devon Clements, Sports Illustrated: “Newton, because of his experience and skill set, is in the drivers seat to be the team’s Week 1 starter based on how the first couple weeks of training camp have played out for all three quarterbacks. The 2015 MVP has earned praise from Patriots players and coaches for his work ethic and ability to grasp the playbook so quickly, so at this point, the Week 1 starting job is his to lose.”