Patriots

This lost offseason is bound to mess with Jarrett Stidham's development

This lost offseason is bound to mess with Jarrett Stidham's development

Last month, Giants backup quarterback Colt McCoy was talking about how he can help starter Daniel Jones prepare for Jones’ second season in the league.

Drafted by the Browns in the third round of the 2010 draft, McCoy played eight games as a rookie. Then the 2011 lockout came and all the offseason time prior to training camp was wiped out before a new CBA was put in place.

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"I remember that lockout season being a real challenge for me," McCoy said, adding that it was probably “the worst thing that happened” in terms of his development. 

McCoy started eight games for the Browns as a rookie and the first 13 games for the Browns in 2011 before a vicious hit by James Harrison of the Steelers ended his season. The Browns were 4-9 with McCoy. He threw 14 touchdowns and 11 picks and was replaced the next year by Brandon Weeden.

You’d think the hit from Harrison would rank above having the summer of 2011 off. But for any player hoping to make the leap that players make going from “know-nothing rookie” to second-year player the months from February through August are vital.

It’s something Bill Belichick’s talked about many times. His best example of a player making a quantum leap after his rookie season is probably the guy who left town two months ago and now plays in Tampa Bay.

This year’s crop of second-year players – including the promising but still very green Jarrett Stidham – is currently missing out on the chance to make those advances.

They aren’t locked out like McCoy was. They can still meet remotely with coaches and make every effort to improve. But without the chance to sit in the same meeting rooms, develop chemistry, throw together, lift together and do all the vital things necessary to lay a foundation for second-year success, it’s less than ideal.

Bills coach Sean McDermott recently told Buffalo media that this time of year is geared to passing game improvement.

“We usually spend about 70 percent of our spring trying to shape our passing game,” McDermott said, via the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. “There’s no pads on so not a lot of sense spending a whole lot of time on the run game in spring ball. In training camp it flips a little bit, starts to even out, maybe 60-40, 50-50, because you have pads on and you can work the 9-on-7 drills. That’s the biggest thing we’re missing, time on task in developing the passing game.”

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Stidham is the player with the most riding on his down-to-down mastery of the offense. But there are plenty of others – especially second-year wideouts N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers and rookie tight ends Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi – who will be dealing with either compressed offseasons or none at all.

It’s less than ideal.

Reason No. 237 that it’s a good thing Josh McDaniels didn’t leave for greener pastures in the offseason.

Meanwhile, if you’re wondering how the guys other than McCoy that lost one of their formative years after being drafted in 2010 or 2011, I have an answer for you.

The first five quarterbacks taken in 2010 were Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Jimmy Clausen, McCoy and Mike Kafka.

The 2011 crew? Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton. Colin Kaepernick was the sixth quarterback taken. The seventh was Ryan Mallett.

Just because there’s a pile of washouts there doesn’t mean Stidham and Jones are doomed. The 2013 class was E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith, Mike Glennon, Matt Barkley and Ryan Nassib with the first five picks.

Sometimes, no matter how much offseason time you have, it just doesn’t work out.  

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: