The Return of Tom Brady: Opposition Beware
The Brady-Manning debate was raging.
Tom Brady supporters said he had the rings and solid stats to back him up. Peyton Manning supporters countered he had a ring and sensational stats to back him up. People vouched, “Give Brady targets, and he’ll be a statistical freak!”
Guess what? They were right.
When Tom Terrific was given Randy Moss and Wes Welker as wide receivers, he threw a record 50 touchdown passes in one season, previously a record held by Manning (49).
For most, the debate was settled. Brady was clearly the better quarterback, as he had compiled more rings with weaker targets, and he had finally started to compete with Manning statistically.
Brady detractors scoffed he had done in one season what Manning had been doing his whole career. Unfortunately for Manning, the NFL is about winning. More players are remembered for winning than putting up great numbers.
No quarterback has won as much as Brady has this decade. Manning measures just 1/3 of Brady in the hardware department (Super Bowl rings, of course), and Brady has his statistical record of 50 TDs in one season.
Following the devastating Super Bowl loss that was filled with controversy, desire, drive, and a few tears from me, I expected Tom to put up spectacular numbers in the team’s 2008 campaign. Immortal Brady was “moralized,” and for that matter hospitalized, as he tore major ligaments in his knee during the season opener.
The season and offseason was filled with hope from Patriots fans that Tom Brady would return healthy. Uncertain throughout, us Pats fans can now stand on sturdy ground in terms of Tom Brady’s health. How? Because if Brady had not been ready to go at 100 percent, Matt Cassel would never have been traded.
Tom Brady is healthy. If not, the Pats’ upper management blew it and is clearly willing to gamble with player injuries. Just remember, when I say upper management, I’m talking about Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick, two of the best in the league.
In 2007, Brady threw an amazing 50 touchdown passes. Of those 50, 31 of them were to either Welker or Moss, and another seven to either Ben Watson or Kevin Faulk. Thus, the four targets accounted for 38/50, or 75 percent of Brady’s TDs. If no other player had caught a touchdown, Brady would still have managed a sensational 38 touchdown passes.
The other 12 TDs were to a combination of an inconsistent Donte Stallworth, a very fallible Jabar “Gaffe” Gaffney, Chad Jackson (who couldn’t run routes or consistently catch a ball), and blocking extraordinaire Kyle Brady.
Jackson was consistently a non-factor and doesn’t even deserve to be mentioned. Gaffney, despite his many dropped passes, was still a threat. He is no longer with the team, but his role in terms of a slot/wide receiver is assumed to be taken over by Greg Lewis, who is a better route runner and receiver, and is a touch quicker. Lewis has never been an extraordinary wide receiver, but he does not drop passes and will fight for extra yardage.
Stallworth was a formidable receiver, who made his money from his deep receiving abilities.
The Patriots acquired Joey Galloway this offseason, and he figures to be a Stallworth-type receiver. Galloway is older now, but he can still catch a deep ball and possesses great speed. Galloway had a statistical dip last season, but that’s because he only played in nine games. In 2007, he caught 57 passes for 1,014 yards and six touchdowns.
Essentially, my point is that Brady has better receivers than he did in 2007. Oh, did I mention a better running game too? Fred Taylor is obviously an older running back, but he will not be working alone. He will join forces with Sammy Morris, Laurence Maroney, and the ever-consistent Kevin (or as I like to call him “Quicks”) Faulk.
The three will create a consistent ground attack, which has big-run ability as well as a sledgehammer option.
Can you imagine that? Tom Brady throws a few quick passes to Welker to get New England a first down. They break to a four-receiver set with any RB in the backfield and hand it off to him. Line up in the same position the next play, run a play action, and just try to tell me that Moss, Welker, Lewis, Galloway, and even the running back will be covered?
This offense is a quarterback’s dream. Put it in Brady’s hand and this offense is a defense's nightmare.
It will take strong play from the offensive line, which I fully expect to happen. Last season, it took the group a few games to get used to Cassel, but they clearly settled down toward the end of the season, as Cassel had time to throw the ball accurately without getting sacked.
The “Bearded Brothers” will be back with Tom Brady and will be energized to help him through the season, considering the last time they went out on the field for a major period of time they gave up five sacks in the Super Bowl.
Obviously, the defensive unit is much improved and has been injected with youth and is coached by Belichick, so it has the potential to be among the top five to seven defensive units once again.
In all, opposing teams will be torched, and then extinguished by New England next season.
As Brady’s rejuvenated offense steps onto the field next season, and for the first time in a long time snaps the ball, I recommend watching… Amazing will happen.
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