Patriots

Devin McCourty praises Patriots QB Jarrett Stidham's maturity, attitude

Devin McCourty praises Patriots QB Jarrett Stidham's maturity, attitude

Jarrett Stidham didn't see too much action during the 2019 regular season as a rookie, but it's clear he left a positive impression on his New England Patriots teammates during practice and other activities. 

Stidham is the favorite to win the starting job among the quarterbacks currently on the Patriots' roster, which includes veterans Cody Kessler and Brian Hoyer. A quarterback competition is an unfamiliar situation for the Patriots, but it's the reality following Tom Brady's decision to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency.

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McCourty, speaking on a conference call with reporters Wednesday, was careful not to hype up Stidham too much. The veteran safety understands the challenges Stidham will have this season, most notably replacing an all-time legend. There's no reason to add extra pressure. But McCourty did have plenty of praise for the second-year quarterback.

McCourty also praised Stidham's maturity earlier this week on his "Double Coverage" podcast.

“I think, to me, the best thing for Stiddy was he had to go against our defense every week. He didn’t have it easy,” Devin McCourty said. “I love his poise. I would be faking a blitz sometimes and we'd make eye contact and he'd just start smiling and laughing.

"To me, there were weeks he was just on point and those were some of our best weeks as a defense mainly because Stiddy ate us up in practice leading up to the game, and I think put more pressure on us. So, I really admire just how hard he works and I've gotten to know him off the field as well. He's a really good guy. Young guy but very mature.”

The Patriots selected Stidham in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Auburn. He didn't get many game reps in 2019, but he did impress throughout training camp and the preseason.

New England has limited cap space at the moment, so signing a veteran quarterback -- Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, or someone else -- doesn't really make sense. The best avenue to add a quarterback at this juncture is the 2020 NFL Draft, and several expert mock drafts have projected the Patriots to take a quarterback in the first round (23rd overall).

Stidham has plenty of potential, though, so the best course of action for the Patriots entering the 2020 season is to give him a chance and surround him with enough talent to be successful. It's time to find out if Stidham can be a quality starter at the NFL level.

Curran: Stidham and Hoyer not a dynamic duo, but it'll do

Patriots QB Cam Newton given this jersey number with his new team

Patriots QB Cam Newton given this jersey number with his new team

The New England Patriots made the signing of quarterback Cam Newton official on Wednesday, and while it might be weird for some NFL fans to see the former MVP in a red, white and blue jersey this coming season, there is one part of his gameday look that will remain the same.

Newton will again wear the No. 1 jersey, according to the team's official roster page. This is the same number he wore during the first nine seasons of his career with the Carolina Panthers. 

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You might be surprised to learn that Newton will be just the fourth player in Patriots history to wear the No. 1 jersey and the first to do it since 1987, per Pro Football Reference's data. The other three players to wear No. 1 for the Patriots are former kickers Tony Franklin, Eric Schubert and John Smith. And, of course, the Pat Patriot mascot also wears No. 1.

Whether Newton ends up being the Patriots' No. 1 quarterback for Week 1 of the 2020 regular season remains to be seen. He's the favorite to win the starting job following Tom Brady's departure in March, but 2019 fourth-round draft pick Jarrett Stidham and veteran Brian Hoyer also are on the depth chart and should provide competition for Newton. 

Next Pats Podcast: How can Pats maximize Harry's talent? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Next Pats Podcast: How can Patriots utilize N'Keal Harry more in 2020?

Next Pats Podcast: How can Patriots utilize N'Keal Harry more in 2020?

N'Keal Harry had his rookie season derailed by injuries, but that has done little to lessen expectations ahead of his second NFL campaign.

The New England Patriots wide receiver has obvious talent. The team selected him in the first round (32nd overall) of the 2018 draft after a successful college career at Arizona State, and when Harry did get onto the field with the Patriots, he showed flashes of his impressive skills.

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One of the challenges for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels this coming season is finding ways to get Harry more involved in the offense and maximizing his abilities. 

How can the Patriots accomplish that goal? Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo joined the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast to break down his expectations for Harry and ways the Patriots can use him.

"I think he'll get better as the years go on. I think what has to happen is people need to change their expectations sometimes for receivers, especially first-round wide receivers," Palazzolo told our Patriots insider Phil Perry. "We're talking about a position where there's three starters, and not every receiver is going to be Julio Jones, and not every starter is going to be as good as Julian Edelman -- a guy you can depend on to get open in crunch time and third down.

"When we evaluated Harry coming out (of college), his skill set reminded us a lot of Demaryius Thomas, who, when you look at his best work, he was catching the ball and running well after the catch, as well as making contested catches. Harry did struggle separating, which is kind of an important point for receivers. He struggled getting open. I think if the expectations are, right or wrong, here's a guy we can scheme some stuff up for -- that back-shoulder touchdown he had from Tom Brady, that's the type of stuff, the vertical route tree, contested catches, using his big body. That's the type of stuff you can expect from him, but you probably don't want to feed him 150 targets and say go be the No. 1 wide receiver. I think Harry is more of a complimentary piece."

Next Pats Podcast: How can Pats maximize Harry's talent? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

One way to put pressure on defenses and use Harry's strength and athleticism is giving him the ball on running plays. We've seen plenty of wideouts run gadget plays to take advantage of mismatches, and Harry could be used in a similar role for New England.

"If the Patriots do get creative with N'Keal Harry to get the ball in his hands, you could hand it off to him, you could put him out there, he'll have a cornerback matched up with him. And then the defense will have to figure out its run fits -- how do I get enough guys in the box to stop this guy?" Palazzolo said. "So whether it's the jet sweep game, whether it's just legitimately putting him in the backfield as a running back, I think there is a world where N'Keal Harry could be maximized and give you that advantage over defenses."

For the entire Harry conversation between Perry and Palazzolo, check out the Next Pats Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or watch on YouTube below: