5 Details of Drew Brees' Game He Can Still Work on
Drew Brees is currently one of the top three quarterbacks in the NFL—Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are the other two. Most experts say he is now a sure-fire Hall of Famer. And he has done enough to warrant strong consideration the top 25 of all-time greats at the quarterback position.
And he is coming off a season where he threw for more yards than a quarterback has in one season, 5,476, while posting his most efficient season with a Quarterback Rating of 110.6. His 46 touchdown passes were far and away better than any amount he'd posted before (next closest seasons were 2008 and 2009 when he had 34).
Yet, if there is anything we know about the character and work ethic of Drew Brees it's that he is a perfectionist. He is not satisfied with what he has done. And he is always looking for ways to improve.
So here are one man's opinions of the things he could do better in 2012 and beyond.
Cut Down the Interceptions
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Despite the incredible QB Rating and out of this world passing numbers of a season ago, Drew Brees was still bothered by the 14 interceptions he threw in the regular season.
It should be noted that many of the interceptions Drew threw last year truly were not his fault. They were often caused by a receiver dropping the ball and it landing in the arms of a defender, or on a few occasions, the receiver running the wrong route (everyone remembers the one against Houston in Week 3 when Jimmy Graham stayed up the seam instead of dragging across).
It should also be noted that Brees had stretches where he'd stay perfect in terms of keeping the ball away from the opponent. Then there'd be stretches where he almost wanted to keep other teams in the game.
In five games Brees had multiple picks against him, which account for 11 of his 14 interceptions on the season.
It is all a result of Brees' aggressive push-it-to-the-limit approach in the passing game. He does not want the defense to force him into something; rather he wants to push the action and force the defense to be better than him.
Still, he could scale back that approach slightly and keep the football in the Saints' possession more often.
Check Away from Inside Run Against Big Blitz
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Drew Brees is hands down one of the best in the game at the "check-with-me" at the line system. He regularly gets his team out of a bad play call and into a good one.
Yet too regularly, it seems, Brees misses a big blitz to one side or the other when checking off. Somehow or another, (and I'm not saying you or I would somehow see it) he misses that the defense is actually bringing more guys than the offensive line can handle to the side Brees is calling the run toward.
Sometimes this occurs when he lets the play go as called, while other times he actually checks into that particular run perhaps hoping to catch daylight if the running back can make one man miss.
Maybe you'd put this more on the Saints' offensive philosophy, but it seems checking to a screen or a rollout the other way would be a more effective way to move the ball on said down.
Gain an Even Quicker Release
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As Drew Brees continues to get older, some of the athleticism and quickness he has used over the years to step up in the pocket and or dance around to avoid the oncoming rush will fade away.
He is simply going to become more of a sitting duck back there.
And that means he must identify even quicker who he wants to throw the ball to, and then simply get rid of it.
Otherwise, he may begin to see the turf more often as he nears his 34th birthday, and then beyond.
Run the Ball Slightly More
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It may seem strange that after just saying Brees needs to work on quickening his release a touch because of athleticism concerns, to then say he needs to run the ball more often.
Hear me out.
In the past six years, and probably back in his time in San Diego as well, Brees will forego a first down he could pick up with his feet for a longer pass attempt, which at best has a 75 percent chance of working.
Of course the ball can be moved down the field more quickly through the air, and likely for good reason Brees trusts United more than Hertz or Amtrak.
Nonetheless, there are times Brees would be wise to pick up the first down with his legs, which would actually open things up in the passing game and give him more holes there.
And it would be another weapon to defeat the constant pressure teams are trying to apply him to get him off his game.
No Saints fan, nor am I proposing this, wants to see Brees doing a Cam Newton or Michael Vick impression. But a few more well-timed, effective and efficient runs cannot hurt Brees or the team's offensive productivity.
Force the Ball over the Middle Less
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To a great degree, Drew Brees has made a living and career out of threading the needle up the seam to some of the best big-man targets in the game of football—Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham (even Billy Miller before Graham).
And yet the sad reality, or at least possibility, is that one or both are going to have their career ended early because of such throws and catches. Brees doesn't want that; nobody wants that. But it's a strong possibility.
What can Brees do to avoid such things?
For one, he can check down to a more open target on the outside or on an open drag route, or even take off and run himself when the seam throw isn't clearly open.
Second, as great as the back shoulder throw is on that particular seam route, it's more dangerous than your standard throw.
Of course it depends on the exact dimensions of where the safety is residing in a particular coverage, but more often than not, the safer throw would actually be inside to allow the receiver to reach over the defender's head, not turn his entire body and open himself up for unnecessary punishment.
The Saints could even play with that, and Brees can kind of rotate that based on coverage and necessity of the play.
But there is little doubt, the next five years will not be as prosperous for Brees and the New Orleans Saints if either Marques Colston or Jimmy Graham suffer serious, career-threatening injuries.