What does a lack of arm strength look like?
Does it look like that? A 3rd down corner delivered to perfection on the sideline.
Or maybe it looks like that one? A rocket crossing route to your best receiver.
Could you see it on that 10 yard on the money field side out route?
Drew Brees is 40 years old and has never had a cannon of an arm. It is, therefore no surprise that there has been a drop off in his arm strength over the past few seasons. The question is how much does it matter. When you can be Pro Football Focus’ #1 rated quarterback for all of 2018 without major arm strength, I don’t believe it really does matter much.
For most quarterbacks, a lack of deep ball ability might shackle their performance. All you have to do is turn on a Titans game and see how even a young quarterback without any arm strength struggles. Brees is different. If you gave any quarterback in the world, his set of physical tools, would they be benched within a quarter. Teams would stymie most quarterbacks in the short and intermediate game, without a deep passing threat. Brees doesn’t let you because his efforts in the short and especially the intermediate areas of the field are so pristine, that he is still as good as any quarterback in the game.
While the arm strength might be failing, the brain is as strong as ever. After a slow start to the Houston game, Brees was as lethal as he’s ever been. Leading the Saints back from the dead.
A Shaky Start
It felt as though early in the game, Brees missed some opportunities for big plays. Early on, the Saints crafted a beautiful way to fool the Texans into thinking Alvin Kamara was going to run a quick weakside option route before Kamara briefly stuttered and ran up the field. He’s open. The corner comes down hard to trap the out route he feels is coming and the safety plays over top of Michael Thomas. Brees just doesn’t pull the trigger.
The interception comes after Brees wants to throw the ball to his left but thinks twice and holds on to it during his throwing motion. This movement put his body out of form and he’s not able to slide away from JJ Watt’s pressure to find Jared Cook on the goal line. Instead, he scrambles and then tries to fit it into Latavius Murray. He misses the throw to his right as he’s moving to his right. Not an arm strength thing. He just needs to put the ball in front of his receiver.
The Saints had to settle for their first field goal of the game after Brees, who looked like he wanted to throw Taysom Hill open on the wheel route, held on to the ball. At first, Brees is looking at Michael Thomas as the isolated receiver in order to throw the quick in breaking route. He doesn’t like the safety’s ability to drive on the route. He then moves his eyes to the right to find both the cornerback and safety with eyes on Tre’Quan Smith’s curl route. Hill is going to come open on the wheel route behind those 2 defenders but Brees doesn’t feel like he can throw it over them and not have them turn and make a play. He probably could then throw to Smith on the curl but decides to scramble and throw the ball away. Net results is 3 points.
There were some very good throws in the first half but the Saints couldn’t string enough good plays together to get more than 3 points on the board. The second half has Brees bringing it all together and the Saints score 27.
This Taysom Hill touchdown catch happens when Hill slips inside after his rub on the Texans defender. It’s a switch 4 Verts concept where the Saints believe Hill’s rub will free up Michael Thomas down the sideline. However, the cornerback stays over the top of Thomas which frees up Hill in the seam.
Against Houston, we saw the Saints go into pistol. They haven’t not done that very often in recent years. Above they use it for a hard play action to set up Michael Thomas on the sail route. The flat defender falls for the fake pretty hard and Thomas is wide open as it takes a long time for the safety to drive the route from his quarters position. 25 yard throw, far hash, bulls eye.
The should-have-been-game-ender to Teddy Ginn Jr. was on 4 Verts from trips, where Thomas runs the crossing route to put the safety in a bind. The Saints knew they were getting man coverage so that would have been a good route for Brees to target. The safety knew that as well and he came flying down hill from his center field position to try to make a play. Can’t do that to Drew. This left Ginn’s seam wide open. Yes, it’s an under throw, but Ginn is that wide open. Because of Brees meticulous work in the intermediate game early on, the safety bit hard.
The first completion on the game winning drive was great timing and eye manipulation by Brees who finds Ginn on the deep curl route. Because Brees is looking at the middle of the field deep spot route, the rolled down safety stays flat footed just outside the hash. Now, he’s too late to make a play on the throw to Ginn.
The next play to Ted Ginn Jr. is great because the Texans double the talented wide receiver and he still gets open. Again, Brees throws the ball on time and away from the defenders. Ginn stops short on his route and bursts underneath his first defender.
Even with a noodle arm, Brees is able to surgically carve any defense that the Saints will play. We’re watching a guy do things that are only possible because of his incredible anticipation, pre snap, and post snap decision making, and lethal accuracy. We’re going to take his 2019 season one game at a time but he passed the Houston test with flying colors.