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."
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.