The New England Patriots currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the next weeks, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Today, the series continues with the greatest quarterback of all time.
Name: Tom Brady
Jersey number: 12
Opening day age: 41
Size: 6’4, 225 lbs.
2017 review: Even though the Patriots ultimately came up short in Super Bowl 52, Tom Brady had another tremendous individual year in 2017 – leaving little doubt about his status as the best passer in the NFL today. Starting all 16 of New England's regular season games as well as three playoff contest and rarely ever leaving the field, the future Hall of Famer earned his third league MVP award for his outstanding season.
Brady, the oldest offensive player in the NFL, attempted a league-high 581 passes during the regular season and completed 385 of them (66.3%) for 4,577 yards, 32 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. His numbers rank the 40-year old in the top five of every major statistical passing category both in terms of volume and efficiency.
The greatest quarterback of all time was able to accomplish all that despite an ever-changing offense around him: Not only was Brady forced to play without his favorite target from the 2016 season (Julian Edelman), he also had to see other starters deal with short-term (Chris Hogan) or long-term injuries (Marcus Cannon). Furthermore, the offensive line and offseason acquisition Brandin Cooks started the year inconsistently.
On top of all the personnel questions, the Patriots also opted to slightly alter their offensive scheme with the arrival of Cooks and attacked the deeper parts of the field more regularly. Despite all the change, Brady was still able to lead one of the NFL's most efficient offenses – one that ranked first in yards per game (394.2) and second in points scored (28.6) during the regular season. As usual, the unit's quarterback was in total command all season long.
This did not change during the playoffs as Brady continued to bring his A-game against the top teams in the league. The first-team All-Pro selection attempted 139 passes, completing 89 of them (64.0%) for a combined 1,132 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions. Brady was able to easily lead his team past the Tennessee Titans before one of his famous come-from-behind wins in the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
However, the Patriots failed to defend their title and ultimately lost against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl 52. The title game nevertheless saw Brady perform at a record-breaking level: He went 28 of 48 (58.3%) for three touchdowns, no picks, and a Super Bowl record 505 yards. If the Patriots had won, New England's quarterback would have been the clear-cut favorite to win MVP honors for a fifth time.
Alas, the team did not and the 2017 season – as successful a year as it was for Brady – ended in disappointment.
2018 preview: While a lot has been made over the last few months about Brady's decision to skip voluntary offseason workouts, him staying away from organized team activities and the like will likely not make or break his and the Patriots' upcoming campaign. Would it have been good to see Brady join his teammates over the past few months? Sure, but ultimately it is not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.
When the workouts and games count, the most decorated player in league history will be back and there is little doubt he will be his usual productive self. Mandatory minicamp, which took place last week with Brady in attendance, already gave a glimpse of his 2018 version and it looked no different than last year's. After all, his rigorous diet and preparation have helped him stay on top of his game even after all those years of playing in the NFL.
Consequently, it does not seem unrealistic to once again see him among the league’s best quarterbacks – despite turning 41 in early August and having to play without a) his top two wide receiver targets from last season, b) New England's top running back option from last season, and c) his starting left tackle of the past six years. Unlike any other quarterback in league history, Brady has shown an ability to adapt to change. 2018 will likely not be any different.