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Patriots rookies Stidham, Meyers stand out in debuts

Don't look now, but there's a pair of rookies turning heads in New England.

Jarrett Stidham, a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, introduced himself well to Patriots fans in the preseason opener Thursday night. The former Auburn Tiger, who turned 23 on Thursday, completed 14 of 24 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown in relief of backup Brian Hoyer.

"I had a great time," Stidham said, via ESPN. "This is my first NFL experience, getting to play. There are a lot of things to improve on, but overall it was a lot of fun. It was a great experience."

Stidham connected with undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers on just his second throw of the night for a 5-yard touchdown. Meyers has impressed this summer in the slot with Julian Edelman not practicing and earned the start in the Patriots' 31-3 win over Detroit.

The Patriots have had recent success with undrafted rookies, including Malcolm Butler (2014), David Andrews (2015) and J.C. Jackson (2018).

"I don't have time to really think about what I have to prove to people who don't -- I don't want to say don't matter -- but I have to keep proving to my coaches that I deserve to be here," Meyers said, via The Boston Globe. "I'm not on the team yet so I'm trying to make sure I can stay here and continue to be here, so that's who I'm trying to prove a point to."

Meyers finished the game with a team-leading six catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns on eight targets.

Stidham later completed a 13-yard pass with Dontrelle Inman that was initially ruled a touchdown but was later marked at the 1-yard line. Not included in the statline were two well-thrown deep balls that were dropped by Maurice Harris in tight coverage.

"I'm in a new offense, so just trying to learn everything as a whole and kind of how we operate -- sitting in the pocket and trying to make the throws when I can," Stidham said. "From Day 1 to now, I've grown so much. I've got to continue to grow."

While Stidham looked good, there's a long way to go before we anoint as the No. 2 behind Tom Brady. Hoyer -- who spent his first three seasons in New England before returning last year -- also looked crisp in the win. He finished 12 of 14 with 147 yards and two touchdowns for a near-perfect passer rating of 150.0. He played like a guy who didn't want to lose his job.

"I thought our overall passing game was pretty efficient," coach Bill Belichick said. "The quarterbacks got the ball out on time, the receivers caught the ball, we protected fairly well."

With both guys playing so well behind Brady, it'll be interesting to see if the Patriots carry three quarterbacks into the season. It was just Brady and Hoyer on the roster last season, but they carried three in 2017 with Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett.

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