Patriots

Patriots

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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