Will Jarrett Stidham's "poise" in tough practice conditions have him ready to start real games?

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By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

In the newest episode of "Double Coverage" on YouTube, Patriots safety Devin McCourty gave a noteworthy answer to a question about quarterback Jarrett Stidham, whom he affectionately calls "Stiddy". McCourty's insight painted a picture of the harsh environment Stidham faced in practice as a rookie, and how well he handled such circumstances.

McCourty described challenging conditions for Stidham last season when simulating opposing offenses against the Patriots' starting defense. The 2019 group ranked first in scoring defense, yards allowed, and opponents' passer rating. Their smothering performances against skittish young quarterbacks like Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, and Daniel Jones showed how difficult they can be for signal-callers who have yet to prove they can consistently play at a high level.

Stidham hasn't even come close to that yet, either. But according to McCourty, Belichick made it just as hard against "Stid" as it looked so many times for other quarterbacks on Sunday. And Stidham impressed the defense with the way he responded.

Aug 17, 2019; Nashville, TN, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Jarrett Stidham (4) calls plays at the line during the second half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 17, 2019; Nashville, TN, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Jarrett Stidham (4) calls plays at the line during the second half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

"To me, the best thing for Stiddy was that he had to go against our defense every week. He didn't have it easy, said McCourty. “You go off the cards, but then Bill [Belichick] tells you ‘but be a smart football player, don’t do something that’s dumb’. So Stiddy had it tough, because he had Bill yelling at him about protections, about what to do and what our offense would do, but Bill would come back and say ‘Well they don’t do that, so do it this way’, and then he’d have all of us screaming, talking trash to him.

“I love his poise. I would be faking a blitz sometimes and we'd make eye contact and he'd just start smiling and laughing. To me, there were weeks where he was just on-point and those were some of our best weeks as a defense, mainly because Stiddy ate us up in practice leading up to the game, and I think put more pressure on us. So I really admire just how hard he works, and then I've gotten to know him off the field as well. He's a really good guy. Young guy, but very mature. He's married. I think the Stidhams are going to be in New England for a long time."

LIVE | Double Coverage Podcast #34 | S2 E19

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(Stidham comments begin at 40:50)

Clearly this is going to be spun in some seedy corners that McCourty is just fluffing up the guy that Pats fans are going to judge against Tom Brady. And Stidham will be compared to Brady all the time, simply because he has the unfortunate task of being the successor. Not much of the commentary will be fair.

McCourty, however, is certainly willing to stick his neck out there for "Stiddy" at this point. And there's no question that Stidham can throw the ball. His arm talent is legit, as he showed off in training camp and in a handful of nice moments in the preseason.

NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 17: Jarrett Stidham #4 of the New England Patriots points out the blocking assignment during a week two preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on August 17, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Patriots defeated the Titans 22-17. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 17: Jarrett Stidham #4 of the New England Patriots points out the blocking assignment during a week two preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on August 17, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Patriots defeated the Titans 22-17. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

What Stidham eventually needs to prove, in general terms, is that he can run a huddle NFL-style and play well under pressure. Franchise quarterback things. It sounds like they threw him into as harsh of conditions as possible in practice so when he takes the field to start in a real game, he's as prepared for that moment as possible. Not even the X's and O's so much as the trash talk, the screaming, the coaches in his ear.

The signing of Brian Hoyer should signal that Stidham, who won the backup job over him last year, will be the frontrunner to start. So it's time to get used to his teammates talking about the kid. The moment where practices becomes games could be fast approaching.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].