FOXBORO — If we were to make a t-shirt that summed up the performance of Jarrett Stidham on the second day of Patriots training camp it would simply say, “Just looking.”
The big-armed fourth-round pick was on a morning-long browse-a-thon. Almost every dropback he took led to an endless, eenie-meenie-minie-moe as he tried to compute what in God’s name was ensuing in front of him.
Rare were the plays on which Stidham took a snap, dropped, deciphered and released in fewer than three seconds. Blowing through deadlines and scurrying around against a pass rush that couldn’t touch him, it looked chaotic.
Which is somewhat to be expected. The billing on Stidham from draft expert Daniel Jeremiah was that Stidham “throws the best ball of any quarterback in this draft” but that when it came time to make decisions under duress while facing a defense he was more spotty. Another draft expert, Dane Brugler described Stidham to me as having “inconsistent reactions to pressure.”
In truth, Friday wasn’t negative as much as it was necessary. And if you unspool the reason for Tom Brady’s spectator status a little further, some of it probably had to do with the fact reps are going to be at a premium beginning Saturday.
Might as well give Stidham all the reps he can take before the real prep begins and he’s relegated to mental reps. He has to go through the growing pains and the throwing pains at some point.
And by the end of practice, Stidham was performing better. In the last offensive period of the day, Stidham hit all five throws, three going for “touchdowns” in the non-contact, 11-on-11 period. Stidham was working with the starters at that point and all three of the throws came after he’d fled the pocket, but credit where it’s due, he made the throws.
Stidham looked particularly addled during the red zone situational drills. On those plays where decisiveness is almost as important as accuracy, Stidham got picked by Duke Dawson and Devin McCourty and had a number of reps where he threw the ball away or into a crowd.
That Stidham was splitting reps with an 11-year veteran, Brian Hoyer, only underscored his rawness.
Stidham wasn’t made available to the media after practice, but Hoyer was helpful in lending context to what a quarterback is seeing.
“For me, this is three years in a row in the same offense,” Hoyer explained. “The middle of my career, it was basically a new offense every year so I feel like I’ve put a lot of work into it. Obviously, I’m out here trying to improve. We’re always trying to try new things, new players but when you have the time (to run the same offense it’s an advantage).”
As for what Stidham’s seeing?
“I’ve been in that position especially in this system,” he said. “We ask a lot of the quarterback and there’s a lot on your plate so you just try to take as much as you can, digest it and keep on moving forward.
“There’s a lot going on. The multiples keep adding up each day too. Our defense isn’t just a simple defense either so they’re doing a lot of things, we’re doing a lot of things. There’s a lot going on out there and you gotta process it relatively quickly.”
Stidham was not. Again, not a shock. Bill Belichick has labored to explain that the difference between the college passing game is akin to Legos vs. skyscrapers. And both Baylor, where Stidham began his college career, and Auburn run simple spread offenses which don’t require a lot of complicated reads.
Stidham is going from a drone to an F-15.
“Look, I’ve played in a lot of offenses,” said Hoyer. “Some offenses a rookie quarterback can go in and it’s very simple for them. They don’t have to worry about a lot, it’s just pick a guy out and throw it.
“We’re asking our quarterbacks to do a lot and to me that’s why it’s such a great system… you’ve got to have pride to be a quarterback in this offense, put the time in and I think (Stidham) is trying to do that,” he added. “It’s only the second day of training camp. There’s a lot of stuff going on. Eventually, it settles down and you just try to soak it all in and keep going one day at a time.”
So how long before it’s coming easily?
“That was like Year 3 I think,” laughed Hoyer. “It’s a day-by-day thing and you just try to focus on what you can control, focus on what’s going in that day and just keep stacking them on top of each other.
“The one thing is, (the team) moves on,” he added. “The plays we did today, we probably won’t do half of them tomorrow. So you just gotta put them in that memory bank and someday we’ll come back to them and we need to pick up where we left off.”
So it’s going to be a while before Stidham gets to stringing together plays without short-circuiting. One thing he’s got going for him? Time.
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