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Rookie QB a Work in Progress

May 24, 2019

FOXBORO — The story on Jarrett Stidham’s future as a Patriot and possible successor to Tom Brady is just beginning.

Organized Team Activities (OTA) don’t make or break a quarterback’s future. Just ask Jimmy Garoppolo.

When he started out his first year as Brady’s eventual heir, he never looked particularly comfortable in these sessions, or good in the early camps when the bright lights weren’t on.

Stidham?

He certainly had his moments, both good and bad, during Thursday’s OTA session. That shouldn’t come as a surprise for the fourth-round draft pick out of Auburn.

It’s very early in the process of learning the offense, and of the Patriots coaching staff determining whether it has a potential starter in their stable of quarterbacks, never mind the guy who ultimately replaces the in-house legend.

But let’s just say this about Stidham after one viewing. He did nothing that had you walking away and saying: “Next!”

It was a mixed bag for sure, but on the day, he was the second-best quarterback behind Brian Hoyer, even though that’s not saying much. He and Hoyer both had picks, but both made more notable plays than Danny Etling, the third quarterback in the mix.

In fact, there were a pair of throws by Stidham that just may have been a peek into the future.

It was hard not to sit up and take notice when he feathered a nice over-the-shoulder ball to rookie first-round pick N’Keal Harry for a touchdown with J.C. Jackson defending.

And if that wasn’t good enough, he also rifled an absolute bullet, hitting Harry in the end zone for a touchdown pass during 11-on-11s. Harry made a nice catch on the low missile, which was zipped perfectly into the only crevice the wideout could make a play while in traffic.

Either one of those beauties could be considered play of the day material from the rookie duo.

While Stidham might already have a connection with his former Auburn teammate Ryan Davis, Harry is going to be the guy hauling in passes from Patriot quarterbacks for many years to come.

Obviously, with Brady choosing to skip the voluntary workouts, the rookie quarterback is getting more reps and more opportunity to build a foundation with Harry and others.

“It’s been great to get with these guys. Obviously, there’s a lot of talent here,” Stidham said following the workout. “Throwing to them every single day has been a lot of fun.”

The rookie quarterback, however, does see the appeal of throwing to the 6-foot-4, 213-pound Harry, who made a great first impression.

“He’s obviously a great player, a great person. He’s just so big, it’s hard to overthrow him sometimes,” Stidham said of the former Arizona State wideout. “He can just go up and get it. He’s going to be a great player. He just has to continue to work hard.”

Stidham was picked off by rookie corner JoeJuan Williams when it appeared he might have gotten his signals crossed with receiver Damoun Harrison. That was his lone blemish, but he did have other issues that need to be worked out.

While his arm strength and mobility were on display, so too was his occasional hesitancy to deliver the football. There were times when the young quarterback clearly held onto the ball too long in the pocket. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was in his ear counselling him after different sessions, much like he did Garoppolo a few years back.

Stidham, who also threw passes to Nick Caserio during one session, as the Patriots director of player personnel was running routes, said it’s definitely been an adjustment going from a college playbook to the pros.

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