Patriots Roster Reset: Odds J'Mar Smith, Brian Lewerke make it in Patriots quarterback room?

Patriots Roster Reset: Odds J'Mar Smith, Brian Lewerke make it in Patriots quarterback room?

The Patriots are embarking on the Great Unknown in 2020. Kinda. 

They’ve had to roll without Tom Brady before, of course. There was 2008. But no one knew ahead of time Brady’s knee would be wrecked before Week 2.

There was 2016. But everyone knew Brady would be back after four weeks.

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This time around, Brady will not be suddenly ripped from Bill Belichick’s plans. This time around, Brady won’t be swooping in to save the day after a month away. This time around will be different.

Maybe it’ll be Jarrett Stidham’s show from start to finish. Maybe Brian Hoyer will see some early work.

However it plays out, the people occupying the Patriots quarterback room will have a gargantuan task at hand: make it their own. 


Here’s what we know about Stidham: His head coach was encouraged by his development throughout his rookie season; his head coach opted not to draft a quarterback or sign one (other than Hoyer) in free agency; Stidham’s teammates respect his approach, his demeanor, and the physical talent he showed last season; he had the best rookie preseason of any Patriots quarterback in the Bill Belichick era.

We also know he’ll be on the roster. How he’ll perform if and when he’s asked to be the player to replace Brady? That’s less certain.


Brian Hoyer looks like a lock. He probably should be a lock. Is he a lock?

I believe he will be on the Patriots roster in 2020. I believe his value as a veteran to help shepherd Stidham along will be significant. I believe New England’s lack of investment at the position on draft weekend all but assured Hoyer of a roster spot. But we know he’s on a low-money deal that includes no guarantees. We know his upside is what it is. We know Cam Newton remains a free agent. And we know the Patriots have long kept just two quarterbacks on the active roster in order to max out their depth at other spots.

If we had to put someone on the bubble — and we’re identifying bubble players at each position group in this series — Hoyer is basically the only choice...

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...Because as talented as J’Mar Smith appears to be, the undrafted rookie still has to land here. Smith, out of Louisiana Tech, is a fascinating study.

Drafted by the Padres as a catcher in 2015, with a quick release and a strong arm, Smith is built more like a catcher than a prototypical NFL passer. He’s 6-foot-1, 218 pounds and has a knack for extending plays. Not necessarily a scrambler or a designed-run quarterback, he’s someone who has plenty of experience throwing off-platform.

The results weren’t always great — those inconsistent results along with a two-game suspension last season likely led to him going undrafted — but his skill set might make him a good option to function as a scout team quarterback for the Patriots.

The Patriots took a second undrafted rookie quarterback in Michigan State’s Brian Lewkerke. He’s a better runner than Smith, but his arm isn’t as live when asked to go off script. These two will likely be competing for one practice-squad spot by the end of the summer, unless one or both shows out in preseason games. If they do, perhaps they push for a roster spot. Whether that’s in New England or elsewhere is to be determined. 


The newcomer to watch here is Smith. The reason? Same reason he looks like a good scout-team quarterback option for the Patriots this year: his off-platform work. In 2020, Belichick will have to come up with plans for creative, off-platform throwers including Sam Darnold, Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, possibly Tyrod Taylor and possibly Tua Tagovailoa.

Last season it was Stidham who took on that scout-team role, at times wowing his teammates with his arm talent. But if Stidham is getting starter snaps in practice, the Patriots might want someone with a little electricity in his arm to run the scout team when prepping for teams like Kansas City or Seattle. Hoyer could do it. Smith might be better.


New Patriots offensive assistant Jedd Fisch has not had his job title officially announced. But he’s a member of the Mike Shanahan tree, having coached in Denver as Shanahan’s receivers coach in the late 1990s. In 2013, he was named Jaguars offensive coordinator and used some distinctly Shanahanian concepts: two-back sets, wide zone runs, boot-action passes. Since then Fisch has worked under Jim Harbaugh at Michigan and Chip Kelly at UCLA.

For the last two seasons, he worked with the Rams under Sean McVay (another member of the Shanahan tree). All that is to say, Fisch has enough experience to be a real find for the Patriots. And if they lean on his background as a Shanahan guy, it could make a sizable impact on theIr quarterback room.

That style of offense is considered very quarterback friendly and has helped turn good passers (Jimmy Garoppolo under Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco, Matt Ryan under Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta, Kirk Cousins under Mike and Kyle Shanahan in Washington and Gary Kubiak in Minnesota, Jared Goff under McVay in Los Angeles) into prolific ones for stretches.

NFL Rumors: Patriots re-sign undrafted rookie WR Isaiah Zuber

NFL Rumors: Patriots re-sign undrafted rookie WR Isaiah Zuber

The New England Patriots brought one of their undrafted rookies back into the fold on Wednesday.

Isaiah Zuber, a wide receiver out of Mississippi State, reportedly has been re-signed after being cut by the team a week ago.

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Zuber played three seasons at Kansas State before transferring to Mississippi State for his senior season, in which he tallied 14 receptions for 211 yards and two touchdowns. The 23-year-old's best college season came during his junior year, when he had 52 catches for 619 yards and five touchdowns.

The Patriots have had eight players opt out of the 2020 NFL season so far -- including WR Marqise Lee -- thus opening up roster spots for the undrafted free agents who initially were cut. Fellow UDFA receiver Will Hastings also was re-signed by the team shortly after being released.

NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL training camps officially began Tuesday, but there were some notable absences.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season last Friday, citing health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, multiple players have followed suit, continuing a trend across all major North American professional sports of players declining to participate in their seasons as COVID-19 persists in the United States.

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The Patriots especially have felt the impact of this trend: Eight New England players -- including star linebacker Dont'a Hightower -- already have opted out, the most of any NFL team.

Below is a running list of the players who have opted out of the 2020 NFL season, according to reports or team/player confirmations. The list is sorted alphabetically after the Patriots, with the date of the players' opt-outs in parentheses.

New England Patriots

RB Brandon Bolden (July 28)
OT Marcus Cannon (July 28)
S Patrick Chung (July 28)
LB Dont'a Hightower (July 28)
WR Marqise Lee (August 1)
OG Najee Toran (July 27)
FB Danny Vitale (July 27)
TE Matt LaCosse (August 2)

Arizona Cardinals

OT Marcus Gilbert (August 4)

Baltimore Ravens

OT Andre Smith (July 28)
WR/KR De'Anthony Thomas (July 27)

Buffalo Bills

CB E.J. Gaines (August 2)
DT Star Lotulelei (July 28)

Carolina Panthers

LB Jordan Mack (July 28)
LB Christian Miller (August 3)

Chicago Bears

DT Eddie Goldman (July 28)
S Jordan Lucas (August 3)

Cincinnati Bengals

OT Isaiah Prince (July 31)
DT Josh Tupou (July 31)

Cleveland Browns

DT Andrew Billings (August 4)
OL Drake Dorbeck (July 29)
OL Drew Forbes (July 29)
OL Colby Gossett (August 4)

Dallas Cowboys

CB Maurice Canady (July 27)
WR Stephen Guidry (July 28)
FB Jamize Olawale (August 2)

Denver Broncos

OT JaWuan James (August 3)
DT Kyle Peko (July 28)

Detroit Lions

DT John Atkins (July 29)
WR Geronimo Allison (August 2)
C Russell Bodine (August 5)

Green Bay Packers

WR Devin Funchess (July 28)

Houston Texans

DT Eddie Vanderdoes (July 28)

Indianapolis Colts

DB Rolan Milligan (August 5) 
LB Skai Moore (August 4)
DB Marvell Tell (August 5)

Jacksonville Jaguars

EDGE Larentee McCray (August 1)
DL Al Woods (July 31)

Kansas City Chiefs

OG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (July 24)
RB Damien Williams (July 29)

Las Vegas Raiders

LB Ukeme Eligwe (August 4)
CB D.J. Killings (August 3)
DE Jeremiah Valoaga (August 3)

Los Angeles Rams

OT Chandler Brewer (July 31)

Miami Dolphins

WR Allen Hurns (August 4)
WR Albert Wilson (August 5)

Minnesota Vikings

NT Michael Pierce (July 28)

New Orleans Saints

TE Jason Vander Laan (July 28)
TE Cole Wick (July 28)

New York Giants

CB Sam Beal (August 5)
WR Da'Mari Scott (August 2)
LT Nate Solder (July 29)

New York Jets

OL Leo Koloamatangi (July 28)
LB C.J. Mosley (August 1)

Philadelphia Eagles

WR Marquise Goodwin (July 28)

San Francisco 49ers

WR Travis Benjamin (August 4)

Seattle Seahawks

OG Chance Warmack (July 27)

Tennessee Titans

OL Anthony McKinney (July 28)

Washington Football Team

DT Caleb Brantley (July 27)
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (August 3)

Free Agents

G Larry Warford (July 28)