Brady & Co. Still Pack a Powerful Punch, Even Without McDaniels
Not many teams have an offseason in which they add a hall of fame quarterback.
While Brady isn't exactly new to the team, he will now have to lead a new offensive system after former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels left New England for the head coaching job at Denver.
The hole left by McDaniels still hasn't been officially filled and expect it to be vacant throughout the season.
In 2005, after Charlie Weis took the head coaching job at Notre Dame, the Patriots played the entire season without an offensive coordinator.
In 2006, McDaniels was given the job along with his position as quarterback coach.
During that hiatus, Bill Belichick, Brady, and McDaniels worked together on the offense. Expect the same triumvirate offensive coordinator this year, but add current quarterback coach Bill O'Brien to fill McDaniels' shoes.
But as Brady returns for his ninth season as the starting quarterback for the Patriots, he doesn't need much help calling plays anyway. By now he knows the ins and outs of the offense; one that should be different from the one that took the field last year.
In Brady's absence, Matt Cassel managed to throw for 3,693 yards, but much of that came on short crossing routes. Fifty-five percent of Cassel's yards were racked up after the catch, meaning his receivers did the grunt of the work.
With Brady at the helm, the offense will extend the field much more. Brady can take advantage of Randy Moss' height and speed, while continuing to reek the benefits of the mismatches Wes Welker creates in the slot. Welker's numbers remained nearly identical from 2007 to 2008 as he finished with one less catch in '07 for 10 less yards.
Moss' production suffered the most without Brady.
In 2007, with Brady as his QB, Moss grabbed 29 more catches than he did in 2008—resulting in almost 500 more yards. He also averaged 30 yards more a game and about a yard more per catch.
The return of Brady means Moss can reestablish the Patriots as a deep threat.
This year's opponents will have to play a safety over the top to protect their corner like they did in 2007. This will open up the middle for newly acquired wideout Joey Galloway and Welker who will deal with single coverage since Moss will attract the safety.
The deep threat will undoubtedly open up holes in the running game as well; most teams try to establish the run to make it easier to pass by freezing the linebackers with play action.
The Patriots do the opposite.
They open up holes for run game by establishing the pass. Once the defense is on its heels, the Pats love to run draw plays with Kevin Faulk or Laurence Maroney.
But when the Patriots have been at their best like in 2001, 2003, and 2004—all years ending in a Super Bowl win, New England has been able to run the ball down opponents' throats in the Fourth Quarter.
Sammy Morris has shown signs of this in his two seasons with the Pats, but hasn't been able to stay healthy for 16 games.
This year should be different.
By signing Fred Taylor, Morris doesn't have to be the Pats' only battering ram. New England has four running backs that can play all four downs, which should alleviate the bumps and bruises of the often injured Morris and Maroney.
And when the Fourth Quarter rolls around, the Patriots' backs should have fresh legs and be able to drain the clock.
In those fourth quarters, the defenses won't be able to load the box with eight or nine defenders. When defenses stacked the box in 2007, Brady and Moss audibled to a wide receiver screen to take advantage of the single coverage.
This was absent from the Pat's playbook last season.
With the dynamic offense set in place similar to that of 2007, the Patriots are in a position to jump on teams early. With Brady calling out signals in '07, the Pats outscored their opponents 134-41 in the First Quarter and 199-96 in the second.
The early deficits caused their opponents to abandon their running games and focus on passing the ball to attempt to get back in games. When the defense knows passes are coming, defensive lineman can tee off at the quarterback and linebackers and defensive backs don't have to worry about committing to the run.
Under Belichick, the Patriots ideology has been fairly similar. Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis, Eric Mangini, and now McDaniels have all bolted from Foxboro, but Belichick hasn't skipped a beat continuing mastermind one of the league's elite teams.
Expect nothing less this year, especially with Brady back in the mix.
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