Patriots

Why I want a QB competition between Patriots' Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham

Why I want a QB competition between Patriots' Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham

The Patriots haven't named their starting quarterback for the 2020 season, but a lot of us sure have.

Can we slow our roll and have a little fun with the fact that for the first time in a long time, there's going to be a quarterback competition in Foxboro?

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It's easy to see "Cam Newton" and skip past the "signed for the minimum after going the offseason with no interest" fine print. We shouldn't. How often do you see a guy who signed for the minimum at the end of June handed the keys to the kingdom?  

I think this is going to be a competition, and just as important, I want it to be a competition. When you factor in that Drew Bledsoe's job was safe (or so we thought), there hasn't been a QB competition going into a season for the Patriots in approximately 600 million years. That's barely an exaggeration given how long the last guy was here.  

But now he's gone, and the Patriots have Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham, Cam Newton and some undrafted free agents. We all know Hoyer and the undrafted free agents are the longest of long shots, but Newton vs. Stidham?

Why shouldn't we take it seriously?

The Patriots clearly like Stidham enough to have skipped free agency and the draft when it came to bringing in an upgrade. Then Newton was available for free in late June, so they signed him because it was a no-brainer.

I think Newton wins the job if he's healthy, but am I just giving it him? Hell to the no, and I don't think the Patriots are, either. Tom E. Curran wrote this the other day:

"From indications I’ve gotten, this will be an open competition. The starter’s job isn’t promised to Newton. Importantly, the sense is that Newton understands that. And the belief is that if he’s not the starter coming out of camp, he wouldn’t pull the ripcord and demand his release so he could latch on elsewhere. Both sides want this to work. Both sides know that work is what it will require."

OK! Come on! There it is!

Newton, who signed for the minimum plus incentives, signed that deal without the assurance that the job was his. That means it's a legitimate competition, and one we should all want to see.

The NFLPA wants there to be no preseason games. I'd usually agree, but this season I want preseason games badly. I want to see what Stidham looks like after a year in the system. I want to see what Newton looks like after a lost season. I want to see them pushing each other.

And what if they both look good?

I want the debate of who you like: The guy with an MVP on his résumé who's going to cost big money if he goes off or the cost-controlled second-year kid they took in the fourth round? And would Belichick want to finally have a hyper-athletic quarterback, or would he prefer the kid who isn't the brand name so he can show the world he can turn another unknown into a star?

I want these questions. I want these discussions. We've been bereft of interesting sports storylines for too long now. Let's not throw a perfectly good one away.

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Measuring the toll that opt-outs took around the NFL

Patriots Talk Podcast: Measuring the toll that opt-outs took around the NFL

Thursday's deadline for players to opt out of the 2020 NFL season has come and gone.

A total of eight New England Patriots players, including linebacker Dont'a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung, and tackle Marcus Cannon, have chosen to sit out of the 2020 campaign due to concerns about the coronavirus.

With the Pats impacted by opt outs more than any other team, Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discuss on a brand new Patriots Talk Podcast the toll they will have on New England this season.

Patriots Talk Podcast: Measuring the toll that opt-outs took around the NFL | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

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"Dont'a Hightower may end up being the most high-profile guy that chooses to opt out. I would say Patrick Chung and Marcus Cannon are somewhere in that next tier," Perry said. "So when you have three starting-caliber players and four real contributors ... there's no other team in the league I think you can look at and say they've been just as hard by these opt-outs as the Patriots.

"And we talked about what they might do to fill in. I think right now is the most important time because if you're somebody like Josh Uche or Ja'Whaun Bentley or Yodny Cajuste, it doesn't matter that you're getting no time on the field right now. You have to squeeze every last drop out of every single meeting that you have the opportunity to attend, every rep you can do in the weight room ... you're going to be thrown right into the fire and you have to make sure that you're ready."

There is some optimism heading into the new season, believe it or not. Perry notes that the defense -- even after all of the opt outs -- might be better than expected for New England in 2020.

"I think if you look at the Patriots defense, I think that is the one thing that we all looked at even before they signed Cam Newton and said, 'If you were hoping they were gonna suck for Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields or somebody else near the top of the draft, the defense might do you in this year,' " said Perry. "Because they still should be good. Even if they're not the best defense in football, they still have arguably the best secondary in the league.

"And even without Dont'a Hightower, they have enough pieces and they've done well enough to scheme quarterback pressure that it should give you a representative effort each and every week which still some teams across the league you look at these rosters and wonder how they're gonna compete at all."

Curran and Perry also discuss power rankings in the AFC East after the opt outs, whether the Patriots offense will be fun to watch, takeaways from Tom Brady's introductory press conference with the Buccaneers, and why Brady may struggle in Tampa Bay.

Check out the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or on YouTube.

NFL Power Rankings: Where do Patriots stack up after opt-outs?

NFL Power Rankings: Where do Patriots stack up after opt-outs?

So what matters the most this year? Is it the guys you had in 2019 who are coming back? Is it the guys you added in the offseason? Is it the young guys you drafted? Is it the length of time the coaching staff’s been together? Or the offensive coordinator and coaching staff?

Is it how well the team blocks out the distraction (“distraction” feels like an inadequate word, I know) of COVID-19 and deals with the logistical walls it’s created? Or is it how well the team’s players deal with the daily mental stress that they can either get it and get really sick; get it and have nothing happen; get it, not know it and pass it on to someone who may then get really sick or get it, pass it to a teammate and then see the whole league come to a grinding halt?

Do you know? I don’t know. As a result, there’s little jumbling in the Power Rankings. But three factors affecting every team right now that never are: opt-outs, the lack of offseason work and the approach of core, veteran leadership in an unprecedented time. Let’s get it. (Predraft ranking in parentheses).