Why Scott Zolak sees Jarrett Stidham, not Cam Newton, as Patriots' starter

Why Scott Zolak sees Jarrett Stidham, not Cam Newton, as Patriots' starter

The New England Patriots are saying all the right things. Stephon Gilmore recently said he's excited for Cam Newton to "compete for a starting job" at quarterback.

But we know this isn't a competition, right? There's no chance second-year QB Jarrett Stidham starts over a three-time Pro Bowler and former NFL MVP, right?

Scott Zolak believes otherwise. In fact, the former Patriots quarterback said Monday on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Zolak & Bertrand" he envisions Stidham, not Newton, as New England's Week 1 starter based on conversations he's had with Patriots players and those close to the team.

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"I believe Stidham will be starting QB from the people I talk to and people that I trust: the players, people tied to the team, team captains," Zolak said, as seen in the video above. "The way they speak of Jarrett Stidham and the work he has put in."

Zolak also related that Stidham has been working out regularly but simply has been less public about it than Newton, who has posted several videos of his workouts to Instagram since joining New England.

"A lot of people thought Stidham was on a two-week vacation on a wedding tour down in Texas," Zolak said. "He did go to a wedding and spent time with family -- and he worked out every day with pro-caliber receivers. That's what I was told."

Tom E. Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast: Did Pats just become Cam Newton's team? | Listen and subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Physical conditioning aside, Zolak believes Newton faces an immense uphill battle in learning the Patriots' offense during an unprecedented offseason in which players and coaches haven't been able to meet in person. In that sense, Zolak thinks Stidham has the upper hand after a year working under head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

"I just don’t know if Cam Newton is gonna do this in 35 days and be ready to go unless it's some completely different offense that's going to run at 40% efficiency," Zolak said.

Of course, the Patriots signed Newton for a reason, and our Tom E. Curran recently reported New England is confident the 31-year-old QB will master the playbook. Curran has also indicated Newton is committed to the Patriots and wouldn't bail on the team if he wasn't named the starter out of the gate.

At the very least, though, it sounds like the starting QB job won't be handed to Newton. He'll have to earn it.

Patriots Talk Podcast: Training camp position battles to watch

Patriots Talk Podcast: Training camp position battles to watch

Finally, the New England Patriots are back on the field at Gillette Stadium.

The new-look Pats had their first practice of 2020 on Wednesday, which means training camp position battles are officially underway. The obvious position battle in camp will be at the quarterback position between Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham, but there are many more intriguing battles to keep an eye on.

In a brand new Patriots Talk Podcast, Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry break down the positions where these battles will take place.

Patriots Talk Podcast - Training Camp Preview: Burning Questions. Bold Predictions | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

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Perry named the Patriots' three most notable position battles, starting with the QB position. While it's technically a battle between Newton and Stidham, some believe it's a foregone conclusion Newton will be the Week 1 starter.

"You have the quarterback spot with Cam vs. Stidham. Let's move past that, we've talked enough about that, we both think Cam is going to win the job. Not a real battle, per se," Perry said.

"Let's go back to the outside linebackers. This is a four-way cage match between Chase Winovich, Anfernee Jennings, Shilique Calhoun, and Brandon Copeland. My guy is going to be Anfernee Jennings, but I do think that's a battle. Whatever that opposite John Simon edge spot is called, somebody's got to fill it.

"Number three, let's talk special teams ... who is your returner? Is it Kyle Dugger, your first draft pick in this year's draft? Is it J.J. Taylor? Fun as hell to watch, would be fun as hell to watch in the kicking game. Or is it last year's guy, Gunner [Olszewski]? They don't want to give it to Julian Edelman, we know that, so one of those three guys I think will win it."

For Curran, it's a newly-added safety who will have his attention in camp.

"I'm going to head over to the secondary for the position battle that I'm interested to watch," Curran said. "I have a good feeling of who's going to shine there and it's my defensive dark horse for this camp and this season -- it's going to be Adrian Phillips at the safety spot holding off a young Kyle Dugger.

"I think Adrian Phillips is going to be an absolute eye-opener at the safety position ... Adrian Phillips is a talented player, he's closer to [Patrick] Chung than he is Devin McCourty. He's going to be a really good player for the Patriots this year. But I'm going to be real interested to see how Dugger competes ... he's an athletic unicorn."

Curran and Perry also discuss the burning questions surrounding the Patriots, why the Pats should explore using the triple option, bold predictions for the 2020 season, and much more.

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

Patriots' 2020 draft pick Dustin Woodard retires before rookie season

Patriots' 2020 draft pick Dustin Woodard retires before rookie season

One of the New England Patriots' 2020 draft picks has decided to retire before his rookie season began.

The team announced Thursday it has placed offensive lineman Dustin Woodard on the reserve/retired list.

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Woodard, who played college football at the University of Memphis, was selected by the Patriots in the seventh round (230th overall) of April's draft. The 22-year-old center/guard was one of three offensive linemen taken by the Patriots in the 2020 draft, along with guard Michael Onwenu (sixth round) and tackle Justin Herron (sixth round).

Why is Woodard retiring? ESPN's Mike Reiss reported additional details:

The Patriots signed center Tyler Gauthier on Wednesday in a move that adds some depth to the position following Woodard's retirement. Woodard had a chance to make the roster as the backup center behind starter David Andrews.