NEN Xtra – Who will be the next starting QB in New England?

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For two decades, the Patriots have entered training camp with their quarterback position locked and sealed. There’s never been a QB battle and there’s never been any question marks about what kind of production they would get out of that spot. There was no debate.

In 2020, it looks a little bit different in Foxboro. Not only because there won’t be any preseason games, but there isn’t anybody with a QB1 marked next to their name. And without a preseason game to gauge that, a lot of us won’t know until that person takes the first snap of the season in September.

This spring, the job was Jarrett Stidham’s—the second-year quarterback out of Auburn. That seemed even more true when Brian Hoyer signed on as a free agent and made his way into New England for the third time in his career. This was Stidham’s chance to go under Hoyer’s wing and learn from a mentor that knows the system. Right?

Fast forward to July 8—welcome in Cam Newton. It was always a possibility, but never sunk in as a reality. Newton became a free agent after spending nine seasons with the Carolina Panthers who selected him first overall in the 2011 draft. It’s also the team Newton took to the Super Bowl and snagged an MVP in 2015 with.

This makes it interesting. The former MVP who has gone 0-8 in his last eight starts and not playing in almost a year, or the young potential pocket passer?

The fun part is, the battle has already begun.

Both Newton and Stidham have been doing their own workouts with fellow teammates—on opposite coasts.

Newton has been seen at UCLA throwing to N’Keal Harry and Damiere Byrd—another free agent sign and former teammate in Carolina. On the east coast, Stidham has been working out with Brian Hoyer and throwing to Mohamed Sanu, Dalton Keene, Damien Harris and Gunner Olszewski.

The battle doesn’t stop at the starting position though—there’s now a battle for the other positions on the depth chart. Do you keep Hoyer for mentorship and take up that third-sting spot or do you go with one of the un-drafted rookies and look for potential?

Here’s a breakdown of the five quarterbacks on the roster:

CHARLOTTE, NC – OCTOBER 28: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers scores a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 28, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Cam Newton

Pros: He’s a former MVP. Whether or not the flashiness is still there, why not try it out? He has a lot to prove and has a chip on his shoulder. It’s hard to put down a Superman, even if the cape isn’t fully there anymore. He’s hungry to compete after an entire year off.

Cons: He hasn’t played since September of last year. The injuries he has had to overcome are almost impossible to look past. There were times in the last two years where his throws could not come close to the intended receiver. It’s taking a chance if you can trust he can get it done.

Jarrett Stidham

Pros: He already has one year in the system—that’s one more year than Newton has. He understands the Patriot way and he won’t back away from a challenge. His pocket presence resembles a young Tom Brady and his ability to get rid of the ball quick exudes the exact way in which this offense has ran for two decades.

Cons: He’s still very young. He was not am overly pursued quarterback out of the draft in 2019. He can be careless, but smart at the same time. With Newton only under a one-year contract, it would be risky to throw Stidham on the field in week one. If things go bad, he will take the fall and could risk his future.

FOXBOROUGH, MA – SEPTEMBER 22: Jarrett Stidham #4 of the New England Patriots throws during the fourth quarter of a game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

Brian Hoyer

Pros: Leadership and experience come with a perennial backup quarterback like he is. He knows the system and would be a formidable choice to keep on the roster solely because he can be extremely valuable on the sideline and in the locker room with his knowledge. He would also be able to give the Pats a chance to win if he were thrown into a game.

Cons: His presence takes up one of the three spots on the depth chart for quarterbacks. If he’s only there to be a mentor, that would work with Stidham as QB1. With Newton, there’s a less likely chance he has as much importance. Plus, with him as the third-stringer, that gives no chance for the undrafted rookies to be a part of it and grow as a potential asset.

Brian Lewerke

Pros: Rookies are nice to have on the roster. It’s a fresh face and a fresh set of legs. He will be willing to do whatever for the team. And who knows, maybe he’s a diamond in the rough and could use a couple years as a backup and develop in this offensive scheme. He has a nice touch on his throws and has the ability to run the ball as well. He was ranked as the third best undrafted quarterback in 2020 by NFL.com.

Cons: He went un-drafted. It’s tough to get noticed in the locker room and have guys look at you as a leader when not drafted. It’s a tall climb to the top for that to happen. On the field, there is some potential but his downfall at Michigan State was too many interceptions. Thirty-two interceptions over three starting seasons, including eleven interceptions to only eight touchdowns in his junior season.

EAST LANSING, MICHIGAN – NOVEMBER 09: Brian Lewerke #14 of the Michigan State Spartans throws a first half touchdown against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Spartan Stadium on November 09, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

J’Mar Smith

Pros: He’s extremely athletic. He has shades of a Lamar Jackson with the ability to throw and take off and run at any moment. Threw for over 9,500 yards and fifty-one touchdowns over the course of three seasons. He’s not afraid to let it fly and has a pretty accurate deep ball.

Cons: Same issues as Lewerke coming in as an un-drafted rookie. It would took a lot to climb several spots in the depth chart to even be on the roster. Also, those numbers can’t read the same as some other quarterbacks coming out of college. He played at Louisiana Tech which clearly doesn’t face the same defenses that even Lewerke did playing in the Big Ten.

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