The Patriots quite simply displayed dominance for majority of this preseason. A lot of the younger players were crucial to the Patriots success. Even if it was the preseason, it is still reassuring to see our team carried by the youth. Here are the key young players(24 years old and younger) who can keep the Patriots dynasty going.
Jarrett Stidham (QB)
The heir-apparent of Brady? If what he showed us this preseason was any indication, Jarrett Stidham has as good of a chance as any to be our next franchise QB. This preseason he has impressed many with his ability to not make mistakes and get the ball to his receivers. In his four games played (one started), Stidham had four touchdowns, one interception, a completion percentage of about 68%, and a rating of 102.6. That rating is almost the same as Brady‘s MVP season from 2017. He also was pretty good at scrambling when pressured, which resulted in five yards per carry.
Yes, it is preseason so I will take his performance lightly. But you also have to look at the fact that he was very successful, and he has not given us a reason to doubt him yet. Obviously we probably won’t see him play in the regular season until Brady retires. But when Brady does retire, I see Stidham as the current #1 option to replace him.
Damien Harris (RB)
Damien Harris didn’t play that much in the preseason, but when he did he was very impressive. Harris averaged 5.5 yards per carry in his two preseason games, on 16 attempts. I see Harris as possibly the third option at the running back position, behind White and Michel. My best guess is that Harris will get limited reps next year, but still will finish the season with 200 yards and maybe even a touchdown. And if White leaves at the end of his contract, Harris may be able to step in and minimize the damage, just probably not on the receiving end. Harris is a hit or miss player, so we’ll see if Bill drafted right after watching Harris over the next few seasons.
Jakobi Meyers (WR)
The highlight of the Patriots preseason, Jakobi Meyers looks like another one of Belichick’s undrafted diamonds in the rough. Meyers rose quickly at NC State, and even broke Torry Holt’s single season reception record for the school. He passed through the draft untouched, and the Pats snagged him shortly after. While we heard he was playing great during practices, we didn’t see it for ourselves until the first preseason game.
He went 6 for 69 yards and two touchdowns in his first game, causing people who weren’t even Patriots fans to look into him. He followed that up with a 6 for 82 yards, a 7 for 74, and a 1 for 28. This adds up to 253 yards and two touchdowns in the four games this preseason. Due to the N’Keal Harry injury, Meyers could be as high as the third wide receiver on the depth chart to start the season. This means he should get significant playing time. I will assume he will have around 400 receiving yards this year as he takes Chris Hogan‘s role old role until Harry returns. As Edelman and Gordon get older and regress, the partnership of Harry and Meyers will more than replace them.
Isaiah Wynn (OT)
Everyone didn’t know what to expect from the first rounder who was out all of last year. But in the preseason games Isaiah Wynn played this year, he reminded us why he was a top draft pick. Wynn held strong against an amazing Panthers defense, and even earned praise from Pats legendary O-line coach Dante Scarnecchia, not to mention Tom Brady. Right now he appears to be the probable starter at that left tackle position, taking over for Trent Brown who left in free agency. Wynn has appeared very skilled in both training and preseason, which gives me confidence that he will be able to successfully protect Brady this season.
Gunner Olszewski (WR/Returner)
Fan favorite Gunner appears to be a younger version of Edelman. While he is very tough and a solid receiver on offense, his greatest strength is the return game. This preseason Gunner returned nine punts for 118 yards (13.1 yards per return), and four kicks for 95 yards (23.8 yards per return). His yards per return for punts would’ve ranked in the top five last year. As for kick returns, he would’ve been in the top ten among qualifying players. I see him as a return specialist for the first few years of his career. If he develops his receiving game, then maybe they will use him on the offense as well. It will be fun to watch another undrafted rookie play a meaningful part of the team next year.
Byron Cowart (DT/DE)
Another one of those hidden gems Belichick is known for spotting, Byron Cowart appears to be in the fight for some serious playing time next season. The defensive tackle position is very competitive, as all of the players are very close in skill level. This preseason he had 1.5 sacks, but even that doesn’t show how much he impacts the opponents offense. He constantly pressures the QB, forcing them to rush their throws or attempt to scramble. There are unfortunately too many unknowns to make a sure prediction on next season. If he starts he should rise to the occasion and become an integral part of the defensive line. But he could very well be stuck on the bench the whole season as well. Like with most things surrounding the Patriots future, only Bill knows what will happen.
Chase Winovich (DE)
My favorite player among the rookies, Chase Winovich looks to be one of the best acquisitions for the Patriots this offseason. At Michigan he showed that he can get into the backfield to get to both running backs and quarterbacks. In his last season he had 15.5 tackles for loss (4th in conference) and five sacks as well as an impressive 59 tackles. This preseason Chase showed the same skill set as he racked up 2.5 sacks and nine tackles in the three games he played in. Also add the fact that, like Cowart, Winovich greatly pressures the QB and forces bad targets and decisions. He probably will start opposite of Bennett this season, and will be a perfect compliment to him. Winovich looks good already, but the sky is the limit for his career.