Through all of the hubbub of the first three weeks of the New England Patriots’ season, quarterback Tom Brady’s play has actually become a bit of an afterthought.
So, let’s check in on Brady: still good.
Really good, actually. Brady’s on pace to have the second-best season of his NFL career. He’s completing 67.9 percent of his passes for 911 yards with seven touchdowns, no interceptions, 8.6 yards per attempt, 116.5 passer rating and 87.9 QBR.
Brady is on pace for 4,859 yards with 37 touchdowns. The best season of Brady’s career came in 2007 when he completed 68.9 percent of his passes for 4,806 yards with 50 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 8.3 yards per attempt, a 117.2 passer rating and 88.5 QBR.
Other than the touchdown passes, Brady’s not far off of that pace through three games.
Checking in on some of Brady’s advanced metrics, he’s been accurate on 77.6 percent of his passes, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s been tremendous on deep passes with an accuracy rate of 70 percent, completing 7-of-10 for 229 yards with three touchdowns on throws of 20 yards or more. He hasn’t been great under pressure, completing just 36 percent of his passes, but he’s getting rid of the ball the second quickest in the NFL at 2.32 seconds.
All of this is to say Brady has been his usual self, if not better. And he’s 42 years old. Brady is sailing through uncharted waters.
And he’s going to need to stay really good because the Patriots are probably going to have to pass the ball a ton this season. The Patriots’ run game has struggled through three weeks, and the news of Develin hitting injured reserve certainly won’t make matters better. Fullback Jakob Johnson filled Develin’s roster spot for Week 3, but he didn’t play until the Patriots were kneeling the ball at the end of the game.
The Patriots also don’t really have a starting-caliber tight end on their roster right now. Ryan Izzo is playing 57.8 percent of snaps, and Matt LaCosse has been on the field for 18.8 percent of snaps. Perhaps Ben Watson will be a full-time player when his suspension is lifted after Week 4, but even that seems unlikely. With Develin out, Johnson lacking experience and no serious weapon at tight end, the Patriots figure to use three or four wide receivers more than they have in recent seasons, and that probably means a lot of passing until they get their running game back in order.
Edelman’s injury further complicates matters for the time being. He injured his chest/ribs in Week 3 and likely will be questionable to play Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. The Patriots are still favored by seven points, as they should be, but that means the Patriots might be heading to Buffalo with Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett and Jakobi Meyers as their top three wide receivers. Their backups would be punt returner Gunner Olszewski and special teams ace Matthew Slater.
Things could be worse. Gordon and Dorsett have been great this season, and reserves are on the way with Cameron Meredith and N’Keal Harry eligible to come off of reserve lists in Weeks 7 and 9, respectively.
But having an undrafted rookie as your No. 3 wideout would be a significant test for Brady. The Patriots haven’t been able to trust Sony Michel to pick up meaningful yards on the ground with Develin, let alone without the fullback. Rex Burkhead and James White could emerge as the Patriots’ primary running backs with Develin currently out of the picture.
The Patriots were expected to go run-heavy in 2019 because that’s how they finished the 2018 season. Those plans seem to have gone to hell in a handbasket. So, now it’s on Brady’s right arm.
The pressure is on the QB for the time being. And if Brady’s early performance is indicative of how the rest of the season will go, the Patriots are in fine shape.
For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, go to ProFootballFocus.com.