Starters are hard to find in Week 4 of the preseason.
However, the Patriots receiving corps was rife with returning big names and provided a boost of excitement with kickoff to the regular season on the horizon.
Reigning Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Julian Edelman, recently reinstated Josh Gordon and free-agent signee Demaryius Thomas all made their preseason debuts on the final night of practice football Thursday in Foxborough. And all three had positive showings and provided promise for the Patriots looking ahead.
Thomas stole the show with a big night to the tune of two touchdowns and 87 yards on seven catches.
Gordon had an elongated evening in the hopes of building his stamina for the regular season and tallied two catches for 30 yards in his first live action since Week 15 of last year.
Edelman sprinted out of the tunnel before the game fired up, made a 20-yard grab, came down hard on his right hand (the one that houses his previously injured thumb) and had a short night. Edelman spoke with the Patriots medical staff, but it was only briefly, NFL Network's Michael Giardi reported.
Stidham, a rookie fourth-round pick, polished off an impressive preseason in the same contest in which the likely top three Patriots receivers returned to the field. In the first half, Stidham was 12-of-21 for 150 yards, a pair of scores to Thomas and an interception and earned 40 yards rushing on five carries.
Not only were all three receivers making their 2019 preseason debuts, they were also returning after overcoming respective obstacles.
On Aug. 16, Gordon was reinstated by the league following an indefinite suspension for violation of the league's substance abuse policy.