All signs point to Jarrett Stidham being under center in Foxboro when the Patriots open their 2020 season.
Not so fast, says Rob Ninkovich.
Stidham was vaulted up New England’s quarterback depth chart after Tom Brady left the team in free agency. The Patriots proceeded to not select a quarterback in the 2020 draft and seemingly weren’t interested in any of the noteworthy veteran signal-callers available this offseason, such as Cam Newton, Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston.
Still, Ninkovich believes Stidham will be on the sideline when the Patriots host the Miami Dolphins in Week 1. Given the altered preseason and potentially shortened (or nonexistent) training camp, the former pass rusher believes Bill Belichick and Co. will go with their safest option at quarterback to begin the campaign.
“I think Brian Hoyer will be the starter Week 1 and I say that because the quarterback position is one of the most important for reps under center, seeing defensive looks, looking at coverage, understanding the offense,” Ninkovich said Friday on ESPN’s “Get Up.” “…Look, they’re not practicing right now. There’s no minicamp, there’s no offseason, there’s no training camp. We don’t know when that’s going to happen.
“So if you have a veteran quarterback who has been in the system, understands what to expect what an NFL season is like, you’re gonna want to go with a guy who has the veteran leadership (and) also what it takes to be in that building. Look, when you’re a second-year player, you really don’t realize what a season’s like as a starter. You don’t understand what it’s going to take, and not having an offseason does not help. So, Brian Hoyer will be the starter Week 1.”
While your initial reaction might be to scoff at Ninkovich’s projection given the Stidham hype this spring, it’s tough to put anything past Belichick. The Patriots have a fairly established track record of assigning roles to the most deserving player, so if Hoyer impresses more so then Stidham this summer, New England might not hesitate to roll with the 34-year-old. The Pats surely must want to see what they have in Stidham, but likely not at the expense of the team.
We’ll have to wait and see.