NFL ANALYST

Cassel: What Pats will expect from Stidham in first NFL start

NFL ANALYST

What are the keys for Jarrett Stidham being successful if he starts for the Patriots on Sunday? Number one, he’s got to take care of the ball.  

That’s the fundamental truth of playing the quarterback position: If you take care of the ball, you give your team a better chance to win. So, ball security is going to be emphasized throughout the week.

The second aspect is situational football.

He's definitely learned some things being around the Patriots and Josh McDaniels, and Josh is really good about being in your helmet to help you understand, “If it’s there, throw it, if not, throw it away.”

He'll need to make smart decisions and avoid situations like the sack Brian Hoyer took at the end of the first half against the Chiefs.

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The final key will be getting into a rhythm early. As I remember, there’s so much going on that week before your first start. There’s a lot of anticipation for yourself and a lot of nervous energy about how you're going to perform in your first start. So, Josh might set him up early with some screen passes or comfortable throws that he knows and is good at.

Josh will install the game plan, but there's very fluid conversation between the starting quarterback and Josh during the week. The quarterback can say, “Hey, I like this particular play in situational football," and you can even rank your favorite plays from 1 to 5 for each situational category. Josh always had that open communication with me.

 

That communication is up to the quarterback, though. Otherwise you just roll with whatever Josh calls.

I remember vividly getting to play in a game during my rookie year, and Josh asked me, “OK, which routes don’t you like?” We had a bunch set with three wide receivers to one side with all three running go routes, and I was like, “I don’t like this play at all.”

Well, we got into a certain position in the game -- and Josh called that play. Sure enough, the guy’s running wide open down the seam. I hit it and said to myself, “Oh my gosh, you were right. Why didn’t I like this play?”

So, there has to be an element of trust that Josh will put together a game plan to help Stidham be successful.

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It's tough to value either Stidham or Hoyer appropriately, because I’ve been in their position and know that once you get out of training camp and start to prepare for the season, the quality of reps with the offensive unit is minimum at best. If they miss more practice reps this week due to positive COVID-19 tests, that's an even more disadvantageous position.

There's a high standard of quarterback play in New England, and everyone holds each other accountable, from Josh to Bill Belichick.

But the expectations will be clear for Stidham: Take care of the ball, know what plays to get in and out of based on what schemes the defense is running, and be situationally aware.

From there, Belichick wants you to go out and play free and not make the big mistake – just keep the train moving in the right direction, play within the offensive structure and let everything else take care of itself.