Jarrett Stidham impresses in season opener versus Washington


Out of the top batch of 2019 NFL Draft quarterbacks, Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham took on the biggest challenge in week one. Stidham lined up to face a Washington team that ranked fifth nationally in scoring defense a year ago (16.1) and eighth in total defense (298.0). The Huskies returned two preseason All-Americans in the secondary, Byron Murphy and Taylor Rapp, from a pass defense that ranked 32nd nationally and came down with 15 total interceptions in 2017.

With Auburn not fully comfortable with its down linemen upfront, the offensive game plan relied firmly on Stidham.

The Auburn quarterback did not disappoint.

Second-year offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey implemented a heavy-pass offensive strategy that featured 15 first down throws from Stidham. That is an unorthodox offensive approach compared to seasons past in the Gus Malzahn era.

Stidham looked comfortable early, starting the game 7-for-7 and finishing the first drive of the game with a touchdown pass in the red zone.

Though Auburn carried over its red zone woes from 2017 into this season, Stidham still managed to do his part inside the 20 yard line. Even with two drops accounted for, one being a tough grab in the end zone, Stidham managed to hit 50 percent of his passes with one touchdown toss.

One of the drops occurred on third-and-five from the Washington 14 yard line. Stidham looks to have improved his escapability from a year ago and keeps his eyes downfield to deliver the pass in a near sealed-tight window to Darius Slayton.

As the game progressed, Stidham maintained his stride by recording the highest completion percentage in an Auburn season opener (.722).

JARRETT STIDHAM vs. Washington


Left Middle Right Total
11 of 15 (73%) 3 of 4 (75%) 12 of 17 (71%) 26 of 36 (72%)

Behind LOS

Left Middle Right Total
7 of 8 (87%) 0 of 0 (NA%) 6 of 8 (75%) 13 of 16 (81%)

1 to 15 yards

Left Middle Right Total
3 of 6 (50%) 3 of 4 (75%) 6 of 7 (86%) 12 of 17 (71%)

16-30 yards

Left Middle Right Total
1 of 1 (100%) 0 of 0 (NA%) 0 of 1 (0%) 1 of 2 (50%)

31-plus yards

   Left  Middle            Right          Total
0 of 0 (NA%) 0 of 0 (NA%) 0 of 1 (0%) 0 of 1 (0%)
1st Down 12 of 15 (80%) vs. Pressure 2 of 7 (29%) Drops: 2
2nd Down 6 of 9 (67%) on Play Action 12 of 15 (80%) Throw Aways: 3
3rd Down 8 of 12 (67%) 0, 1, 2-step drop 15 of 18 (83%) Rushes: 11 (23 yards)
4th Down 0 of 0 (NA%) 3-step drop 10 of 16 (62%) Fumbles/lost: 2/0
RedZone 3 of 6 (50%) 5-step drop 1 of 2 (50%) Sacks: 2
Final Stat Line: 26-of-36, 273 passing yards, 1 passing TD; 11 rushes, 23 yards

On paper, Stidham dominated the Washington defense, showing out on third down and executing well on play-action passes. Stidham’s biggest struggle from a year ago was how he dealt with pressure. The first round hopeful showed some progress in that regard but still had moments of hesitation and reluctance. Though hitting on just two passes when under duress, Stidham did manage to escape pressure without throwing the ball, using his feet to avoid potential sacks.

It’s odd to hear the phrasing Stidham “has to play better” in order for Auburn to run the table, but Auburn faces one of the toughest schedules in all of football with road games at Georgia and Alabama in two of the final three weeks of the season. So his play will have to escalate when teams of that caliber throw different angles at him and make him execute tougher decisions. But let’s step back and realize that this is the first game of the season against a defense that boasts plenty of next-level talent.

Stidham impressed Saturday and, inch by inch, he’s still showing the necessary improvements of being an NFL quarterback.

Christian Page is a scout and writer for Cover1.net. His scouting experience dates back to 2015. Christian has a background of radio along with collegiate athletic department experience and corporate marketing.