The NFL offseason has been far from normal due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but players are still finding ways to try to prepare for the upcoming season.
There's a lot of work to do in New England following longtime quarterback Tom Brady's departure in free agency. There will be a new Patriots starting QB entering a season for the first time in almost two decades, and 2019 fourth-round draft pick Jarrett Stidham is the most likely candidate to fill that role Week 1.
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Teams have been unable to host normal rookie camps and other on-field offseason activities because of the pandemic. This has forced players to hold their own private workouts, and Stidham has taken up that challenge.
ESPN's Mike Reiss reported a few details of those workouts Friday:
On a recent day in Massachusetts, Stidham and a group of six teammates gathered at a private football field for their work, which focused intently on following social distancing guidelines.
Reiss noted, citing sources, that Stidham "has been a catalyst for the throwing sessions." He also reported that Brian Hoyer, Julian Edelman, and Gunner Olszewski are among the Patriots players who've attended these throwing sessions.
Stidham started to build chemistry with his offensive teammates as a rookie last season, and he performed quite well in training camp and the preseason. But he didn't get many reps during the regular season as Brady's backup. In fact, Stidham attempted only four passes all season.
These workouts are an effective way for Stidham to build a strong rapport with his wide receivers.
It's a good sign that Hoyer is present at the throwing sessions, too. The veteran quarterback knows the offense well and can answer questions that Stidham and other younger teammates might have. There's also a chance he could start the season over Stidham if the Patriots prefer someone with a little more experience.
Another encouraging sign is the presence of Edelman. He was Brady's most trusted target in the passing game, and if the Patriots are going to be successful in 2020, he needs to be just as reliable for Stidham. Edelman had one of his best statistical seasons in 2019 despite reportedly battling through multiple injuries. If healthy next season, Edelman should be a near-lock for 90-plus receptions, a milestone he's hit four times.