With now former quarterback Tom Brady (that’s going to take a while to get used to) preparing for the 2020 season with his new team down in Tampa Bay, the attention obviously turns to second-year QB Jarett Stidham, who appears poised to start the season under center for New England.
Let’s face it, very few of us really know what that’s going to actually look like. The majority of Stidham’s play in 2019 came in the preseason, which normally tells us very little. However, going over the numbers and watching some of the film from those contests, there was something that sort of stood out, especially after looking over the numbers recently.
We all know how cerebral Brady in the offense and it often times came at the expense of younger receivers if they couldn’t keep up. While the future Hall of Fame QB always demanded perfection, perfection wasn’t always possible and if there was one knock on Brady, his tendency to give up on a player may be the difference in what we saw last season compared to what we might see this year.
One thing that stands out when looking back at a few of the meaningless games played last summer was the difference in chemistry between the younger guys in terms of how they looked with Stidham compared to Brady. Yes, Brady saw limited playing time, but when you focus instead on how they looked out on the field catching passes from Stidham, particularly Jakobi Meyers, it’s hard not to wonder if suddenly we may see a better player this season compared to how he fared during the regular season.
Meyers was a player who caught everyone’s attention during training camp, making quite a few big plays as the team started preparing for the upcoming season. He was one of the most talked about, with his name coming up frequently in terms of media mentions when it came to local training camp reports and he appeared poised for a big year. But he and Brady just really never got in sync. Meyers finished the season tied with Mohammed Sanu with 26 receptions, with 359-yards while actually averaging 13 yards per reception.
Despite his success in camp, it never translated into the regular season as he failed to become a favorite of Brady. It showed down the stretch, with Meyers’ playing time dropping off as he saw just 3 targets over the final three games of the season (he caught all three). He was active for the team’s playoff loss to the Titans but didn’t see the field.
While the argument can certainly be made that Meyers may have not quite been where he needed to be with Brady, one thing that’s a little interesting looking back at last preseason was the stark contrast with his production with Stidham throwing him the football.
Meyers and Brady never really got things going last season.
Granted, it’s hard to compare games in August against a regular season. But knowing what we know about Brady when it comes to the younger players, along with the fact Stidham appears poised to start in 2020, the only option for anyone looking forward to this season is to go back and try and figure out what we could be in for this year.
But there was one contest last preseason that peaked my interest, with the game standing out being the third preseason game against the Panthers last August. It was the first time we saw Brady in game action and I recall the anticipation of seeing him work with the team’s new group of receivers, most notably Meyers because he had been playing well coming into that game.
However, it didn’t go well. Brady was 0-for-3 targeting the rookie during their time on the field together. The worst moment came on a play where Meyers gave up on a deep ball down the field on 3rd down on the team’s first drive and Brady was clearly expecting something else as Meyers eventually looked back and the ball sailed past. Brady was visibly frustrated as he came off the field and things didn’t get much better.
On the next drive, Meyers had another bad moment, having been called for offensive holding on a 30-yard run by Sony Michel, which negated the play. That was followed up by a chop block penalty by Shaq Mason, which put them in 1st-and-28, ending that drive before it ever got started.
Brady went to Meyers again on a 2nd-and-10 on the next drive but couldn’t connect and that would be the last time he looked his way before Brady’s night ended.
It was tough to watch, as Meyers looked fairly unsure of himself while not appearing like the explosive player we had seen during training camp and the previous two games. It was crazy because coming into that contest, Meyers had been on a tear.
He had caught 12-of-14 heading into that “dress rehearsal game”, with a team-best 151yds receiving and two touchdowns. Nine of his twelve receptions were also first downs and he was averaging 12.6 yards per reception. Most of that success came with Stidham, as the rookie quarterback was 8-of-9 targeting him for 114yds and a touchdown.
Yet with Brady at the helm, he appeared completely out of sorts and uncomfortable. It was bizarre, especially given how strong he looked prior to that game. The two had some bright moments in camp, but that was the first time we had seen them in an actual game together.
However, after Brady left the game, it all changed. He and Stidham got to work and the rookie quarterback finished the half 6-of-9 throwing the football, with Meyers catching 3-of-5 during that stretch with 2 first downs. In the second half, Stidham was 9-of-10 throwing the football and a perfect 4-of-4 to Meyers. Meyers went on to finish the night with 7 receptions for 74-yards.
Meyers had some big moments with Stidham during their brief time on the field together last preseason.
The takeaway from that outing was the fact that the chemistry is clearly there between Meyers and Stidham and it was sort of a red flag that ultimately played out badly in terms of his eventual lack of connection with Brady.
Overall, Meyers finished the preseason as Stidham’s favorite receiver, hauling in 16-of-20 targets for 216-yards with Stidham targeting him while averaging 13.5 yards per reception along with 12 first downs and a touchdown. Those 16 receptions were well ahead of the next closest player in former receiver Demaryius Thomas, who Stidham also had success with after completing 7-of-8 for 87-yards and two touchdowns. Meyers finished with 20 receptions overall, having also caught 4 passes from Brian Hoyer, including a touchdown.
One other interesting note was the fact that in the first half of those games, where the two tended to face better competition, Stidham was 8-of-11 on third down and Meyers was his leading receiver. The rookie caught 3-of-4 targets, including a touchdown.
If Brady was still here, it would be hard to feel optimistic about Meyers’ potential – or even his future – in this offense. But it’s hard not to wonder now that Brady is gone, whether or not the less demanding Stidham will allow the two to just go out there and play football.
But last preseason, we definitely saw something potentially special between them. Hopefully they can pick up where they left off and if they do, it might be a fun storyline to follow in the coming months as all of us continue trying to adjust to life without Brady.
Posted Under: 2020 Patriots Offseason
Tags: 2019 Patriots Preseason Jakobi Meyers Jarrett Stidham New England Patriots Tom Brady