FOXBORO -- Before you can get to the answer of how the Patriots might be able to better keep Tom Brady upright this season, you first have to understand why he's being knocked down in the first place.
It's not necessarily that he's holding onto the football longer, allowing deeper routes to develop, Brady explained on Wednesday. It's not that he's without Julian Edelman running shorter routes; Danny Amendola and James White have had productive seasons as Patriots quick-hitters, Jerod Mayo pointed out on the latest Quick Slants the Podcast.
It might be because the Patriots haven't controlled games and have been forced to throw. It might be simply bad execution between Brady, his offensive line or his receivers. Or all three.
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One reason Brady definitively scratched from the list this week: He's older, he's getting faster, and he's held onto the ball longer to extend plays, leading to more punishment.
That was one hypothesis posed to Brady jokingly during his weekly press conference at Gillette Stadium.
"That’s not it, nope," he said, smiling. "I wish I could do that. Yeah, I am what I am. Who said that? That’s a very famous quote. Popeye said that."
Brady has never claimed that he's continuing to get quicker as he ages. He did say last season, however, that he believes he's faster than he was coming out of college.
"I'm never going to run a 4.7 [second] 40," Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan show. "I mean, I'll never . . . I never have been able to do that. I never will be able to do that. But I've timed my 40 from what it was when I was coming out of college, and what it is now, and it's maybe two or three tenths faster than it was."
It's long been Brady's goal to do whatever he can to imitate some of the younger more mobile quarterbacks in the league like Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson. He openly lauds -- and is in awe of -- their ability to tap into their athleticism to help them make plays.
Brady's not going to reach their level when it comes to the use of their legs, and he knows that. But he has done enough work that his quickness is at a place that allows him to continue to be successful 18 years into the league.
"So much for me is just that initial step," Brady told WEEI last fall. "If you can have a little quickness in the pocket to evade an oncoming defensive lineman, you can extend the play. If it's a lethargic first step, then they always kind of get you.
"I’ve really tried to work on that first step. I don’t think my instincts in the pocket to move and scramble -- well, I would say to scramble -- those aren’t really inbred in me just based on my style of play. It never has been. I’ve just tried to stay in the pocket and buy time in the pocket to allow my receivers to get open."
That ability to buy himself time, though, hasn't reached the point where Brady is actually giving defenders more opportunities to hit him. And that's exactly what they've done through five games. He's on track to absorb a career-high in terms of sacks and quarterback hits.
There are a multitude of reasons for why that is, but even the 40-year-old with the maniacal regimen will acknowledge that it isn't because he has too much in the way of mobility.