We are in the early days of NFL training camp. With no preseason and less practices than in a normal year, nobody (including the media) has a real idea of how depth charts are going to shake out. Tom Brady isn't going to be a surprise No. 2 behind Blaine Gabbert, but for positions around the league that aren't as clear-cut, we're stuck with using the little information that can be reported to play guessing games.
Boomer Esiason discussed one such situation up in New England, where the Patriots have Cam Newton, Brian Hoyer, and Jarrett Stidham presumably battling for the starting job. Even though one of those players was an MVP, led his team to a Super Bowl, and is considered probably the best running quarterback of all time, it's the Patriots, and nothing is set in stone until Bill Belichick is forced to submit his Week 1 depth chart.
For his part, Boomer remains convinced Stidham will be under center come September.
As a former quarterback, Boomer's argument here makes a lot of sense. Individual ability can cover up a lot of flaws, but if Newton doesn't know the offense like the back of his hand by the time the season starts, New England might be more inclined to go with the guy who does and use Newton in Taysom Hill-type packages. As he notes, Newton doesn't have a lot of time to get acclimated with the pandemic limiting all preseason activities and Josh McDaniels is not really known for having an easy offense to pick up quickly.
However, he's still wrong. Newton will be out there barring a serious dip in play because he's earned the first-team reps he's been getting. Stidham hasn't been playing well in camp from all reports emerging from media covering the training camp practices. He also got hurt. Here are the statistics from the last few weeks:
Stidham's completion percentage is higher, but even a casual football fan knows there's little Belichick despises more in the game of football than turnovers. Newton's 65 percent completion rate is actually slightly higher than his career average, which comes in at 59 percent. For Stidham to bridge the obvious talent gap between himself, a 2019 fourth-round pick, and Newton, a former No. 1 overall pick, he needed to blow Newton out of the water on the practice field. From what we can tell, he's remained even with his competition at best. Even with Stidham's injury, Newton has been given the vast majority of first-team reps for a season.
Now, these are training camp stats. We can't read into them too much. Nobody knows what it'll look like on the field. But familiarity with the playbook will only get one so far. I don't doubt Boomer's assertion that it's extremely difficult to learn the playbook, but the Patriots do exactly what they need to in order to maximize their chances of winning that day. Whatever that might be, they do it. There's no universe in which Stidham gives them a better chance to do that than Newton, even if he has a firmer grasp on the playbook.