Brady on throwing mechanics and accuracy woes

Brady on throwing mechanics and accuracy woes
October 23, 2013, 5:00 pm
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FOXBORO -- Clearly, this has not been a banner season for Tom Brady in terms of passing accuracy.
A total of 28 quarterbacks have a higher completion percentage than Brady’s 55.4. A dip was to be expected given the newly imported targets and the nature of the Patriots offense.
But one aspect of Brady’s game that has diminished this season is hard to explain: His touch.
There is no doubting Brady’s current arm strength. He said in the offseason his arm’s never felt stronger and from training camp through seven games, he’s shown he has more than enough velocity.
But the anticipation needed to throw balls with finesse, letting them drop in to a receiver rather than sticking it on him is predicated on confidence. And Brady doesn’t seem confident with touch throws right now.
I asked Brady on Wednesday about his penchant for driving the ball at receivers this season.
“There’s definitely times where I need to put a little more arc on the ball,” Brady acknowledged. “That definitely helps. Sometimes it's decision making and sometimes it's execution of the throw. Sometimes you try to drive it and you don’t drive it. Other times you drive it and you shouldn’t have driven it. But what’s the coverage and how do you envision the ball getting to the receiver?”
Obviously, on slants and in-cuts, the ball has to be lasered because they are fast-developing plays intended to hit when separation is present. You can’t float a ball to a receiver who’s open for just a split-second. And throws to the sideline can’t be balloons either because you run the risk of having the defensive back undercut the receiver.
But there have been times when Brady’s ripped the ball at targets when he could have made throws that were easier to handle. Crossing patterns in particular. The speed with which he’s thrown the ball has left little chance for receiver adjustments when the ball is in the air. In fact, there have been times when Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson have barely gotten their heads around to see a pass, never mind made the catch.
Now, the fact Brady has eight touchdowns and only five interceptions shouldn’t be scoffed at. Five picks in seven games throwing to guys who are barely on the same page as Brady? That number could be a helluva lot worse.  
But some of the decision-making Brady’s made both in how he’s thrown the ball (the third-down fade to Rob Gronkowski that could have been higher against the Jets) and who he’s thrown to (low-percentage, third-down throws 30 yards downfield or to the sidelines in tight coverage) have been curious.
“When you don’t hit ‘em, you always evaluate them,” said Brady. “There are some you wish you had done better and there are some that are pretty good but you’re always trying to work to improve those things.”
Protecting the ball is Brady’s first priority. And in order to do that, he has to keep the safeties out of the equation on downfield throws. Velocity does that.
“If there’s a safety that may not be involved with a particular receiver but safeties have a lot of bearing on how the quarterback throws the ball because the longer the ball’s in the air the more the safety has a chance to impact the play,” Brady explained. “Sometimes you don’t want the safety to be involved so you put a little more on it. When they’re not involved you can put a little more air on it. Ultimately, whatever it takes to complete the ball, that’s what you’re trying to do.”
One spot to make easy completions is the middle of the field in front of the safeties or behind linebackers. But, though the Patriots try those spots, they aren’t getting great returns.
According to NFL GSIS, the league’s statistical compilation site, the Patriots have thrown to the short middle 63 times. That’s fourth most in the league. They’re completing 63.49 of those throws, 25th best. No team has thrown to the deep middle more than the Patriots (22 attempts). They are 25th in completions to the deep middle (36.36)
“Certainly, there are throws I’d like to do a lot of things different on whether I throw inside or outside or low or high,” Brady admitted. “We haven’t evaluated (where the ball has gone) as much at this point. I think we’re just kind of going through the season and putting together the game plan for each particular week with what we think is gonna work. Wherever the ball goes it goes. Whether you throw inside or outside, they’re all straight throws, whether it’s the right or left it’s all a straight throw from the quarterback’s standpoint. I don’t think about throwing right or left or short or long. If the mechanics are good and the decision-making is good, it will be a good throw. If those are off, it probably won’t be.”
A little more trajectory, a little more touch on some throws could make a world of difference. A little more air. A little less err.