Patriots

PFF analysis finds Tom Brady still ranks among NFL's most accurate passers

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USA TODAY Sports

PFF analysis finds Tom Brady still ranks among NFL's most accurate passers

Tom Brady may say he's eyeing 2,000 yards rushing after cracking the 1,000-yard barrier last season, but it'd be a good idea if he kept his focus on throwing footballs accurately to much faster human beings. 

According to Pro Football Focus, which looked at quarterback accuracy based on the separation of their receivers in 2018, the 41-year-old quarterback was among the league's most pinpoint passers.

On throws to "open" targets -- two steps or more of separation, per PFF -- Brady was the third-most accurate quarterback in the league, with 78 percent of his throws deemed accurate. That trailed only Ben Roethlisberger (78.2 percent) and Philip Rivers (78.7 percent). It tied him with Drew Brees. 

PFF also noted that 17.6 percent of Brady's throws to open targets received an "accuracy plus" designation, accurate throws away from coverage, which led all quarterbacks. 

The takeaway: On throws that should be completed, throws to open receivers, Brady is still better than most. 

At the next level of target separation -- PFF calls if "step/closing" -- Brady is still one of the best in the league. He was accurate on 67.4 percent of throws into windows where receivers had "up to" two steps of separation, which placed him fourth among all quarterbacks. 

And for the second straight year, Brady led all quarterbacks in "accuracy plus" percentage throws in the "step/closing" category. Last year, 33.3 percent of his step/closing attempts were were tagged "accuracy plus."

The takeaway: On throws where receivers are "NFL open," where there a window is opening or about to close, Brady is still better than most.

In PFF's "tight throw" category -- which is defined by a defender being within an arm's length of the target or in a passing window to discourage a throw -- Brady didn't rank inside the top-5. He was instead in the middle of the pack at No. 14, per PFF. 

But there are a number of other metrics by which Brady can still claim to be among the most accurate throwers of footballs on the planet. Regardless of separation, no quarterback had a higher percentage of "accuracy plus" throws. He was second in true accuracy percentage, and he was first in "catchable" throw percentage.

Brady was also the second-most accurate passer, per PFF, on throws landing between 10 and 19 yards from the line of scrimmage (59.3 percent). 

The separation accuracy numbers are what really stand out, though, given the types of players the Patriots have imported for 2019. Where Brady ranked lowest (though still middle-of-the-road) was on "tight" throws. 

While the Patriots lost the best contested-catch threat Brady has ever had in Rob Gronkowski, they added plenty of "50-50" weapons. First-round pick N'Keal Harry's calling card is his ability to make plays in tight spots due to his frame, physicality and strong hands. Undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers is a big slot who had just as many contested catches last year as Harry did, according to PFF. 

The team added veteran 6-foot-3 wideouts Demaryius Thomas, Dontrelle Inman and Maurice Harris. They also got a few big-bodied pass-catchers at tight end in Austin Seferian-Jenkins (6-5, 262) and Ben Watson (6-3, 251).

Brady is still tremendously accurate when throwing to open receivers, even in his early-40s. And if he can get some help on the tighter-window throws that will always be most difficult, that should help keep him in the conversation as one of the game's elites.

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Former Bengal, Patriot Marquis Flowers opens up on the 'We're on to Cincinnati' game

Former Bengal, Patriot Marquis Flowers opens up on the 'We're on to Cincinnati' game

The New England Patriots weren't exactly in a great spot heading into Week 5 of the 2014 NFL season. The team was only 2-2 and was coming off a crushing 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football.

In that game, Tom Brady didn't look like his usual self. He had two picks, just 159 passing yards, and one touchdown pass that came when the team was already down 27-0. He was replaced late by Jimmy Garoppolo, who looked solid on the field. That led some to wonder if the Patriots dynasty was coming to an end.

Famously, after the game, Bill Belichick answered every question posed about the game with one simple response. "We're on to Cincinnati." The press conference went viral and put a spotlight on the Patriots' Sunday night clash with the Cincinnati Bengals.

That game ended up defining the season. The Patriots bounced back by smashing the Bengals by a final score of 43-17. Brady looked as strong as ever, and that was the first step for the Patriots to get back onto the Super Bowl path.

At least, that's how former Bengals linebacker Marquis Flowers remembers it. On Twitter, Flowers shared a brief memory of the game, including what his then-defensive coordinator said.

So, yeah. Clearly that type of hype up didn't work, especially since the Patriots were so desperate for a win at the time. And the "demise of the Patriots" storyline was clearly overblown considering that they've won three Super Bowls and appeared in a fourth since that game.

The D-coordinator's words and the headlines of the time make this an amusing anecdote that just makes the whole event that much better for the Patriots, in retrospect.

That said, It's easy to see why Flowers was able to laugh this off. Flowers was a part of the Patriots in 2017, so he has seen both sides of the "We're on to Cincinnati" game. Flowers likely enjoyed his time in New England, as he logged 30 tackles and 3.5 sacks in his best NFL season to date. He also got to play in the Super Bowl (although the Patriots fell in that game to the Philadelphia Eagles).

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Patriots 2019 training camp schedule: Here's when veterans will report

Patriots 2019 training camp schedule: Here's when veterans will report

The defending Super Bowl champions will be back at Gillette Stadium exactly one month from Monday.

The NFL announced training camp report dates for all 32 teams Monday, and the Patriots' rookies are due in Foxboro on July 21, while the veterans are set to arrive on July 24.

Training camp traditionally starts one day after veterans report, meaning New England should begin training camp Thursday, July 25.

The Patriots have been off since June 10, when head coach Bill Belichick cancelled the team's final two days of organized team activities and set up a lively paintball experience instead.

The team hasn't announced complete training camp dates and times yet, but the Patriots will head to Detroit in the first full week of August for joint practices with the Lions prior to their Aug. 8 preseason opener.

They'll also hold joint practices with the Tennessee Titans the following week.

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