With Patriots training camp set to open on July 26, CBSBostonSports.com will break down the outlook for every position on the roster. Today’s breakdown is on the quarterbacks.
Major Players: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
On The Bubble: N/A
While his 50-touchdown season of 2007 received far more publicity, Tom Brady’s 2011 campaign was arguably just as good. Brady threw for 429 yards more last year than he did in ’07, needing just 33 more passing attempts to do so. Had it not been for Drew Brees’ 5,476 yards, Brady’s 2011 season would have set the mark for the most ever in a season. As it was, it was still good enough for second all time, with Brady becoming just the fourth player ever to surpass the 5,000-yard mark. In the playoffs, Brady threw 8 TDs last year, compared to 6 in ’07, and he threw for 141 more yards last year with just two more attempts.
While the 39 TDs and 12 INTs in the regular season weren’t exactly at the level of 50 TDs and 8 INTs, it was a remarkable season from Brady at the age of 34. And at 35, he should be even better.
Consider Brady’s options last season. He had the always-reliable Wes Welker, and the dynamic tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. After that, it was slim pickings. There was Deion Branch, who still operates on an incomparable level with Brady but is getting older and slower. Then there was Chad Ochocinco, who was futile. Then there were running backs, and Julian Edelman and Tiquan Underwood.
It was a receiving corps with some top-end talent but very little depth. This year, Brady’s going to have a much more dangerous arsenal at his disposal.
Brandon Lloyd has thrived with Josh McDaniels twice in the past, and provided he can build a rapport with Brady, a 1,400-yard, double-digit touchdown season (like the one he had in 2010 with Kyle Orton) shouldn’t be out of the equation.
Brady will also be reunited with old pal Jabar Gaffney. The last time the two shared a roster, Gaffney was behind Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth and Welker on the depth chart, but Brady still found him for five touchdowns in ’07. Gaffney’s only gotten better since then, managing to rack up nearly 1,000 yards last season despite his quarterbacks being John Beck and Rex Grossman.
Those two additions alone should have Brady champing at the bit for the opening kickoff on Sept. 9. In ’07, with a Pro Bowl pair of receivers, Brady set the single-season touchdown record. Last year, with a Pro Bowl pair of tight ends and an all-world receiver, he reached new highs in passing yards. There’s plenty of reason for optimism regarding what he’ll be able to do this year.
There’s been plenty of talk over the past year or two about Brady’s window closing. It may be, but not this year.
(Oh, and Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett are on the team, too. But if you hear their names before the final 5 minutes of the fourth quarter, then you won’t want to be watching anymore.)