New England Patriots

Have the Patriots found Tom Brady’s successor?

Tom Brady won’t be the quarterback of the Patriots forever. The organization is hopeful that Jarrett Stidham can develop into a starter in time. 

Few quarterbacks have enjoyed a longer reign atop their team’s depth chart than Tom Brady. Even so, the 42-year-old signal caller can’t lead Bill Belichick’s offense forever. That’s part of the reason the Patriots invested a fourth round pick on Jarrett Stidham last April.

Currently, the former Auburn star occupies the fourth spot on the Patriots depth chart. That doesn’t mean he isn’t winning over some fans in Foxborough. And he’s already turning some teammates’ heads during training camp.

Wide receiver Philllip Dorsett compliments his rookie quarterback’s “live arm.” Running back James White is a fan of Stidham’s “command” of the offense. The fact that the young passer is reportedly completing 68 percent of his passes during practice shows that he’s catching on quicker than the average rookie quarterback. For the record, that mark is about 10 percent higher than Brady’s completion rate.

None of this means that Stidham will see any meaningful action this year. The rookie is still working to make sure he secures his place on the Patriots’ 53-man roster at the moment. To make that happen, he’ll need to beat Danny Etling out for the third string spot on the depth chart. Knocking off Brian Hoyer to become Brady’s backup might also be required if New England elects to start the regular season with just two quarterbacks on the active roster.

Expect the Patriots to do whatever is necessary to keep Stidham around. They didn’t invest a fourth round draft pick on him just to cut him before the start of the regular season. It will be a surprise if he doesn’t find some way to stick, if not on the active roster, then tucked away on the practice squad.

Assuming he does, Stidham should immediately start to factor into the team’s long-term thinking at the quarterback position. Hoyer is a quality veteran backup, but the franchise doesn’t want to lean on him as a starter for even a single season. Etling lacks the upside that Stidham showed on his college tape. That means that if the Patriots do have their quarterback of the future at the moment it’s going to be Stidham.

It’s easy to forget that Stidham was slated to be a first-round pick coming into his final season at Auburn. The fact that he dropped all the way into Round 4 was a product of a poor 2018 season with the Tigers. In particular, Stidham’s trademark accuracy seemed to desert him. The Patriots appear to have already helped him rectify the shaky technique that caused him to throw so many errant passes late in his college career.

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It’s much too early to anoint Stidham as the Patriot’s quarterback of the future, but the fact that it’s even a possibility speaks well for his draft value. There’s certainly a significant chance Belichick and company turn him into a quality starter after a couple of seasons in their system.

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