Jarrett Stidham was willing to admit that the football gods were smiling on him Saturday night in Nashville. The rookie quarterback had three passes nearly picked off in his second preseason game as a pro. Possession remained with the Patriots on all three.
"Yeah, I got pretty lucky there a couple times," Stidham acknowledged, "but I trust my guys to go make those plays and sure enough they did. Yeah you can't put the ball in too much danger so I gotta work on that. But overall I thought we did a good job."
Not a terrible assessment.
Stidham finished with a gaudy preseason stat line against the Titans: He completed 14-of-19 passes for 193 yards (a 10.2 yards-per-attempt number) and a touchdown. No picks for the second straight week meant Stidham also earned himself a robust quarterback rating of 123.4.
Through two preseason games, Stidham is now 28-for-43 (65.1 percent), for 372 yards (8.7 yards per attempt) and two touchdowns. He hasn't had a pass intercepted, and four of his incompletions have been the result of drops.
Five of Stidham's throws have been throwaways, and one was altered when he was hit as he threw, according to Pro Football Focus. If you factor in those attempts, Stidham's "aimed" passes would make him 32-for-37 and give him a 125.1 quarterback rating.
But the numbers don't tell the whole story on Stidham's second game as a pro.
His first snap resulted in a safety in the Patriots end zone, which probably can't be put on him. But the entire first half was essentially a wash for Stidham, who didn't come in until there were less than five minutes remaining in the second quarter.
To start the third quarter, Stidham looked good. He hit Jakobi Meyers ("He's a heckuva player," Stidham said later) for a 14-yard gain on third-and-seven. Then he hit Eric Saubert and Lance Kendricks on back-to-back snaps for a combined 38 yards. The passing offense stalled, though, in the red zone. That's where the first of his three near-picks came, when he went to Saubert by the pylon and watched the football glance off a defender's hands.
Two throws and almost seven minutes later, Stidham was nearly picked again. He was hit on a first-down attempt, and perhaps that shook him up, but his next play looked like an odd decision. He fired high to Nick Brossette in the left flat but telegraphed the throw to such a degree that it went through the hands of the defender rushing in to make a play.
Early in the fourth quarter, Stidham dodged another bullet. He was blasted by linebacker LaTroy Lewis and tried to send the football out of bounds as he worked to avoid the hit. He just narrowly got it there, as the defensive back closest in coverage caught the ball . . . but landed out of bounds.
There were also moments of hesitation from Stidham that we've seen off and on throughout camp. He was late to throw to Saubert at the goal-line on that near-pick interception. He also got a little jumpy it seemed at times, looking to scramble when he didn't necessarily need to, as he did on the throw after the near-pick intended Saubert. Stidham rolled right without much pressure and threw incomplete to Meyers, but there was a defensive holding call.
Highlighting those moments is not to say Stidham had a bad game. Many of the same things we said of Stidham last week in Detroit still applied after Patriots-Titans.
* Stidham is clearly very accurate down the field and on the move; his back-shoulder touchdown throw to Damoun Patterson to take a 22-17 lead was perfectly-placed and timed.
* Stidham still knows how to pick up yardage with his legs; he found 11 on a third-and-10, and churned out eight more on a third-and-six.
* Stidham is also still operating out of the huddle and under center much more fluidly than anticipated, given that he came from college offenses that were heavy on spread concepts.
Stidham had one drive that was particularly impressive, when he hit five different receivers to help the Patriots cover 99 yards before Patterson's score. And yet, despite the consistent accuracy, seeing Stidham balk at times with the timing of certain plays is a reminder that he's like so many young quarterbacks trying to figure things out.
It's early for an anointment. It's so early, and there's so much for Stidham to learn from a night like Saturday's, that kind of performance could be viewed as a well-balanced quarterbacking meal for a rookie in preseason: Confidence from the good stuff, lessons from the bad.
Stidham will be the first to tell you he's still learning.
"The more that I'm around these guys, the more that I'm in the meeting room with Josh [McDaniels] and Mick [Lombardi] and Tom [Brady] and Brian [Hoyer], just learning as much as I can. We have a bunch of really good players on this team so that makes my job a lot easier just getting the ball to those guys."
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