We all know Tom Brady is arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history, but mobility was never his strong suit. His replacement with the New England Patriots, Jarrett Stidham, isn’t Lamar Jackson, but he does have the ability to make plays with his legs.
Because of the new skill available at the QB position, the Patriots would be wise to incorporate some play class that takes advantage of what Stidham can do that Brady couldn’t.
You can see some of Stidham’s athleticism in this clip that captures every completed pass and run he had during the 2019 preseason.
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Specifically, run-pass-option plays have been suggested as logical additions to the Patriots’ attack in 2020. CLNS’ Evan Lazar is a big proponent of this look, and he makes a strong point from every perspective.
While the Patriots had the best defense statistically in the NFL, it’s offense struggled. Lazar wrote about the Patriots’ reluctance to use RPOs, and how their run and passing attack might have suffered because of the lack of diversity.
Unlike other NFL teams already on the trend, the Patriots only ran an RPO on 1.7 percent of their offensive plays last season, 29th in the NFL, and they weren’t particularly good at them either. New England averaged 4.2 yards per rush (tied for 27th) and a 75.0 passer rating (28th) on run-pass options in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus.
Obviously, the Patriots had other issues on offense, such as receivers who struggled to create separation, a lack of healthy weapons at tight end, and a QB with declining arm strength. Still, it’s difficult to ignore the success top teams in the NFL have had implementing RPO schemes.
For comparison, the Kansas City Chiefs ran RPOs a league-high 18.7 percent of the time. In 2019, quarterbacks averaged 7.98 yards per pass attempt off of RPOs and play-action compared to 6.25 on standard drop-back attempts, per Pro Football Reference.
Brady isn’t Patrick Mahomes, and Stidham certainly isn’t the NFL’s most complete QB, but you can see some of the similarities in the latter two’s physical abilities. Stidham has solid speed, and while you can see glimmers of it in the video above, there is even more of Stidham on the move if you look back at his days with Auburn. Watch the varied RPO looks here in this game against the Georgia Bulldogs.
Lazar points out just how comfortable Stidham is with running RPOs.
Stidham’s Auburn offenses ran RPOs on 26.4 percent of his snaps in his two seasons as the starter, with the Pats QB averaging 7.0 yards per attempt, tied for 16th among 33 qualified quarterbacks.
All things considered, there are too many good reasons for the Patriots to add these wrinkles.