During the early camps, Jarrett Stidham looked far from ready to replace Brian Hoyer as New England’s backup quarterback, much less be considered a possible successor to Tom Brady.

He was a mess. He had the rookie yips, holding the ball forever. In June, the bad far outweighed the good when it came to assessing the fourth-round pick out of Auburn. But with each practice, with each week that passed during training camp, he took the coaching and rapidly improved. His talent became more obvious, and much more notable than his rookie mistakes.

Whether in joint practices or in preseason games, the tests kept coming, and he passed all of them, most recently Thursday night against the Giants when he played the whole game.

On Saturday, Stidham’s progress and potential allowed the Patriots to release Hoyer, rather than keep three quarterbacks, and insert the rookie as Brady’s backup. New England cut its roster down the 53 players – with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas among the other players released.

Against the Giants, Stidham had a few hiccups (18 for 28 for 225 yards, an interception and a fumble), but he ultimately showed he was up to the task. He threw a pair of touchdown passes to Thomas, and also connected with Josh Gordon (two catches, 30 yards) and Julian Edelman (one catch, 20 yards).

Hoyer has been a terrific locker room guy, and incredibly helpful at getting the team ready every week as the scout team quarterback. But he doesn’t represent the future for the Patriots. Stidham has a chance to be that. The only question was whether Coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had enough faith Stidham could handle the backup role.


Stidham showed off his strong arm at every turn, and he’s been accurate whether he’s sitting in the pocket or throwing on the move.

He runs a little too much, taking off a bit too quickly when he feels pressure, but he’s turned those plays into big gains. Thursday night, he gained 50 yards on seven rushes.”

THOMAS WAS released minutes before the roster deadline, according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.

The 31-year-old wideout is returning from a torn Achilles suffered last December. He saw his first preseason action Thursday against the Giants. He is free to sign with any team and could re-sign with the Patriots.

The four-time Pro Bowler signed with New England in April. Thomas told reporters last week he “still can go,” and said his explosiveness comes and goes. He tore his Achilles at the end of a brief stint with the Texans last year.

Houston acquired him from Denver in a midseason trade.


CENTER DAVID Andrews was placed on injured reserve and won’t play this season. He is receiving treatment for a blood clot in his lungs.

Andrews has started 66 games in his career since arriving as an undrafted free agent in 2015.

GUNNER OLSZEWSKI, at 6-foot, 170 pounds out of Bemidji State, has transitioned from a Division II cornerback to an NFL wide receiver.

The story was cool, but expectations were minimal. Three months later, though, Olszewski has done the improbable, earning a spot on the Patriots’ 53-man roster.

Naturally, one of the great underdog stories in recent Patriots history was made even more dramatic by a last-minute reversal from his coach.

The Patriots hoped to sneak Olszewski onto the practice squad, but must have realized that they were taking a major risk in exposing him to waivers. Olszewski, who caught five passes for 69 yards in the preseason and flashed plenty of punt return ability, was a candidate to be claimed by another team if waived.

So, minutes before they needed to submit their 53-man roster, the Patriots created a spot for Olszewski by shipping cornerback Keion Crossen to Houston. The move blindsided Crossen, who earlier in the day believed he was a lock to make the roster.

A second-year pro out of Western Carolina, Crossen was one of the team’s most dynamic athletes.

DEREK RIVERS, an Augusta native, was placed on injured reserve, according to ESPN. The third-year outside linebacker, the Patriots’ top pick in the 2017 draft, missed all of his rookie season because of a torn ACL.

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