First Down Throws

August 10th, 2020

First downs will tell the story.

One knock on the Bucs signing park-violating, home-invading, NFLPA-ignoring quarterback Tom Brady is, some suggest, Brady can no longer throw the deep ball effectively.

Of course, only time will tell if Father Time is catching up with the 43-year old Brady or not. But even a stat-honk of a gambler like Warren Sharp believes the Bucs wide receivers will help Brady out with the long ball.

While researching the Bucs for his Warren Sharp 2020 Football Preview, Sharp seems to think Brady will be throwing deep on first down, certainly more than he did in New England.

And why is that? Because the Bucs dominated throwing on first down last year.

One of the biggest changes from the Patriots offense to Arians’s system is the average target depth. The Bucs averaged 10.2 air yards per pass, first in the NFL. The Patriots were down at 7.7, 21st in 2019. In 2018, they averaged 7.4, which ranked 23rd. Brady will be looking deeper more often. This could be particularly true on first down, where the Bucs averaged 13 air yards per pass (first) and the Patriots were down at 26th with 7.1. Having receivers like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin will help, a talented duo Brady has not seen in quite some time — especially compared to last year’s receiving corps in New England.

So this tells Joe two things:

If the Bucs aren’t throwing deep much on first downs, Arians has recognized Brady’s wing isn’t what it used to be.

Remember what Arians said earlier this summer about making Brady learn Arians’ playbook rather than Arians teaching the rest of the offense the Belicheats’ playbook.

In part, Arians said, why mess with an offense that had so much success? So if the Bucs are not throwing deep on first downs this fall when they clearly had success there last year with mostly the same group of receivers, then Arians doesn’t want Brady throwing deep too much because he’s slipping throwing long.

After all, if Brady can still sling it, why get away from what was working so well? Arians is on record not wanting to do that.

36 Responses to “First Down Throws”

  1. Danny C Says:

    NE offense is not a down filed passing game, they throw a lot to backs and tight ends. That is why you see the disparity in “air yards” This year Brady will be top 5 in “air yards” because that is the offense we run. People are over analyzing things. (insert eye roll)

  2. Roy T. Buford Says:

    Disagree with the whole line of thinking with this one. I think Joe is reading too much. Interesting in theory. There are lot of reasons why the Bucs wouldn’t throw “deep on first down” this year, one of them being you don’t have to needless risk it to get the biscuit. Brady’s decisions and accuracy have proven superior on shorter passes for basically forever. They don’t necessarily have to have size and/or speed and a better chance of winning a jump ball to make up for wildly decisions and throwing inaccuracy they suffered under Winston, the turnover machine. Another reason is you may have better pass catching ability (specific to RB and to better QB decisions to go to the guy) than before. Because Brady is a proven winner, proven good decision maker, and much more accurate than Winston, just don’t need to heave it up and hope your good players come up with it. You have the GOAT throwing it.

  3. Me again Says:

    Throwing fewer picks will reduce the need for all the long balls!

  4. Sarasota Garey Says:

    Being that Tom Brady has 6 rings, I would let him do whatever he wants if it equates to winning.

  5. Rob in Land O Lakes Says:

    I agree with Roy. You don’t necessarily have to throw the ball 50 yards in the air on a rope when you can throw it 20 yards and hit a receiver dead in stride.

  6. 813bucboi Says:

    less passes on 1st down will be due to running better on 1st down….

    defenses wont be able to stack the box with the weapons we have combined with a QB thats capable of making an accurate pass…..

    GO BUCS!!!!!

  7. BUC CHEEKS Says:

    Since when did Whoppie Goldberg become the Patriots QB?

  8. Ndog Says:

    To throw deeper downfield you have to hold the ball longer, that is Brady’s biggest challenge, cause over the past 2-3 years he has not shown the willingness to do that. I am willing to bet they change the offense more than he changes, cause if he gets hit the amount Jameis did last season will be over by week 10 or sooner. Say what you want about age but if a beefed up 25 got beat to a pulp then a 43 year old might just get his career ended and there is no way Mr. Ego himself the QB bullsh*ter is going to get blamed for that unless he is even stupider than I thought.

  9. Cobraboy Says:

    Danny C brings upo a good point: the “average target depth” stat is terribly deceptive.

    To truly determine the meaningfulness of that stat, one needs to take away passes to backs which by definition are generally shorter passes, many coming behind the LoS.

    Fact is Brady threw a lot to backs and the Bucs very few passes to backs, both by design.

    That stat has *zero* to do with arm strength.

  10. Tye Says:

    I once heard an interview with Joe Montana and he admitted he struggled with throwing the deep ball but praised the coaches and play calling that made him successful… The deep throws are nice but overrated…. A team can still win as long as they continually move the chains… Average at least 4 yards per play and you will run out the clock and score on a large percent of your possessions…

  11. August 1976 Buc Says:

    When all is said and done, remember Brady is throwing the football, not Bruce or Byron. Yes Brady will throw deep more but The Old Tiger Brady is not changing his stripes. The offense will be 60-40. 60% Brady 40% Bruce. Also the last time I looked, it only takes 10 yards for a first down. Brady is a surgeon on the field. He is going to dink and dunk to the RBs and throw daggers down the field. The 2 tight end formations will be a staple of this offense. The Bucs size at WR and TE is a redzone nightmare for defenses when the QB is accurate. Brady is going to be slicing up defenses this year with precision like excellence, the same way he has done throughout his 9 trips to the Super Bowl. “9 times” with 6 wins. The only thing that will stop this offense is injuries or covid, nothing else. It is an awesome day in Tampa Bay!! Go Bucs!!

  12. TSmitty3000 Says:

    I hope they call shorter passes early on so Brady can get into a rhythm and keep the team ahead of the sticks. A deep pass on 1st down goes incomplete, now you’re against it with a questionable run game. Get Brady into a rhytm then take your shots downfield.

  13. geno711 Says:

    Enjoyed the article Joe.
    There is a lot to the average depth per target.

    Do others think as me that some of that is Brady recognition of the defense and just taking what the defense gives instead of forcing a ball into the tight area?

    Do others think as me that Tom Brady will not take a lot of sacks just because he is that football smarts?

    People misread no risk it no biscuit all the time. Arians wants potential for big plays all the time. I have never seen him get on one of his quarterbacks for taking the safety play if the risk it play is not open. Show me a quote where he ripped a quarterback for not throwing deep.

    Over-under for me this year for total turnovers 20. We had 41 last year – 35 by NFL statistics were attributable to our QB.

    Over-under for me this year for total sacks is 32. We had 47 last year.

    Happy we have this QB.

  14. geno711 Says:

    From an old Joe article:

    This reminds Joe of when former Bucs quarterback coach Mike Bajakian blamed the Bucs’ 2017 red zone woes after the season on an inability to execute the basics from the QB position.

    “I can show you seven plays off the top of my head where if we just played pitch-and-catch, we’re going to score a touchdown,” Bajakian said. “And instead, maybe we don’t convert on third down, or we take sack and now it’s 2nd-and-long, we end up kicking a field goal on both of those instead of scoring a touchdown. So, it doesn’t take a whole lot to improve.

    “It’s just a matter of execution, and as we pointed out to our players, you know you study those teams that are the top in the NFL. What you realize is they’re not re-inventing the wheel. I’m thinking I’m going to watch the Philadelphia Eagles and I’m going to get all these great ideas about what they’re doing in the red zone. You know what? Their plays are the same plays we’re running, except they’re playing pitch and catch, or maybe their quarterback is scrambling and making a play for a touchdown.”

  15. Ndog Says:

    Another factor one must consider is penalties and plays netting zero or less yards. When your team leads the league in penalities and cannot generate yards via the running game, it stands to reason you are going to have to throw more and farther on 1st down than teams that are not as often behind the sticks. Those nice 2-3 yard dump off to the backs are great on 1st and 10, however they are not so great on 1st and 20 so a real indicator will be if we can take less penalties and run the ball at all to not make us so predictable thus forcing a player into a tough situation. These were important before, cause it is always important for success, but now it is even more important with a QB that is adverse to holding the ball or getting touched.

  16. Sarasota Garey Says:

    Well the first drive of the game will be choreographed right? So the offense will be lots of plays that Brady wants to run mixed in with some Arians/Leftwich play suggestions.

  17. geno711 Says:

    Do others agree that we will probably have less penalties this year?

    Last year for the Bucs there were 6 delay of game penalties, 3 illegal formation penalties, 1 illegal shift penalty, 1 too many offensive men on the field penalty. That totals 11.

    Then 10 individual penalties on Dotson, and 6 individual penalties on Winston. That is 16 for guys no longer on the team.

    Interestingly, last year New England had 2 delay of game penalties and 1 illegal shift penalty. That is 3 instead of 11.

    Brady had 4 penalties. All 4 for intentional grounding. The confirmation that if it is not there, he gets rid of it. Sacks will be down with his style.

    Do others agree?

  18. Ndog Says:

    Don’t forget one if those penalties on Winston was on purpose cause our brilliant coach told them to take the penalty to move the ball back so our kicker would have a better chance of making it from the same spot he had already missed two that day.

  19. SteveK Says:


    Remember the Winston pick on the 1st drive against the Saints last year that was called back bc Jameis delayed of gamed himself? Lol one time his little mistake erased a big one.

    -the point you make about taking the penalty to have a better shot at the kick is stupid as hell and there is zero argument. I am with you there.

  20. Ndog Says:

    Another factor that SHOULD reduce penalties on both sides of the ball this year is that it is no longer the first year in the offense or defense. Now our QB is in the first year of the offense but we all know he doesn’t make mistakes so he should be penalty free, or at least that’s what we are told 10,000 times a day.

  21. Ndog Says:

    Remember the time Brady threw a pick to lose the AFC title game but was bailed by a penalty?

  22. bucsfan951 Says:

    remember when jw was 33/50 for 367 yards, 3 tds and 1 int? how about when he was 43/62, 466 yards with 2 tds and 1 int.

    oh thats right, that was TB in the playoffs

    NPUPPY, plz dont say stupid stuff like “remember when brady threw a pick to lose the afc title game but was bailed by a penalty?” The man has multiple SB rings.

    let me ask you this? what was JW’s first and last pass as a buc? pick 6’s???

    how about you say something like “remember when JW wasnt a back up qb like he is now?”

  23. Ndog Says:

    Remember when Brady was bailed out by the refs for fumbling the game away in THE AFC divisionsal game (aka the Tuck Rule)?

    Remember when D. Bledsoe came in to win the AFC title, while Brady led his team to 0 points in the AFC championship game?

    Remember when Brady came out and threw a pick on the first drive of the Super Bowl vs the Rams yet his defense shut down the highest scoring offense in the league all day so he could lead his team to a whopping 13 points for a Super Bowl win?

    The point is if you have some luck and a quality team around you there is not a need to play perfect at all times.

    Some players get that luxury (Brady for 20 years) and some don’t (we all know who got screwed here).

  24. Ndog Says:

    Remember in the 2006 AFC Divisionsal game where Brady threw a game ending pick to the Charges yet the idiot fumbled the ball back on the return?

    So how many complete choke jobs is that by Brady yet his TEAM bailed him out?

    Well I just gave you 5 and there are plenty of others, so if you mean to tell me thus guy is something special save it his TEAM was special and he was EXTREMELY lucky. THE FACTS tell the real story if anyone is willing to actually look at them.

  25. Bobby M. Says:

    I think at 43 yrs old, arm strength is an easy discussion but not a real concern.

  26. bucsfan951 Says:

    omg puppy youre too funny! youre seriously comparing tm to jw. a 19 yr career to a 5 yr career. a 6 time sb champ to a no time sb champ. a 4 time sb mvp to the leader of turnovers since entering the league.

    tom brady, a guy with 41 playoff games and 30 of them being wins! he has played in 41 games while jw has started only 70… thats over half!

    tom brady! over 11k yards, 73 tds, 32 ints, 1005 completions

    but plz, compare jw to tb again lol!

  27. August 1976 Buc Says:

    Tom Brady – GOAT, 9 Super Bowls 6 wins. Every QB has plenty of negatives that anyone can point out. But Brady is the GOAT. Period. 20 year career. That means many bad plays because of the shear volume of games played. But at the same time Tom Brady’s resume is unmatched in annals of the NFL. He has won more playoff games than most QBs have ever started in. Elway has a lot of playoff wins and it is like half of Bradys resume. There is no perfect QB, but Tom Brady, for the forseeable future is the Gold Standard. Maybe Pat Mahomes can even play in 6 SB, let alone win 6. So we can either enjoy the fact that GOAT is our QB or not. But I am thankful the GOAT is running around in our yard and playing QB for us. I have followed the Bucs since the 1st preseason game in 1976. So that means I have watched alot of terrible football. The vibe going on now at one Buccaneer Place has not been felt since 2000-2002. So it is finally fun again to be a fan. There are alot more important things in life than football, but it is fun when your team is a legitimate contender instead of yearly pretender. So like Brady or not, he is the undeniable GOAT in the history of the NFL, and he is our QB. It is an awesome day in Tampa Bay. Go Bucs!!

  28. Ndog Says:

    No one is comparing the two players, however I’m comparing the two situations, which most people completely ignore which is blatantly ridiculous.

  29. geno711 Says:

    I tend to think we will have less penalties this year with our current QB.

    Differences I expect this year:
    41 turnovers to 20 turnovers.
    47 sacks to 32 sacks
    135 penalties to 110 penalties.
    7 pick 6 TD’s to 1 pick 6 TD.
    1521 rushing yards to 1670 rushing yards.
    5127 passing yards to 4600 passing yards.

    49 OMG moments with our QB to 16 OMG moments with our QB.

    Just my random guessing. Enjoy or hate – your choice!

  30. Buc15 Says:

    NDOG….bruh… got to let it go. Time to move on & enjoy our stacked roster.

  31. Ndog Says:

    Why let go when the shirt sighted decision will very likely run this franchise into the ground of the next 10 years?

  32. Cobraboy Says:

    Ndog, 10 years? I’d add the “running into the ground” your boy Jameis Christ added to the pile.

    Is he still 3rd or 4th string in NO?

    Do you think Sean Payton will put up with his int’s, fumbles and dumba$$ plays?

    Or are you one of the tiny handfuls of casual fans who do?

    Did Jameis Christ ever pose for a Fat Head? You, of all people, would know…

  33. Bucsfan951 Says:

    “however I’m comparing the two situations, which most people completely ignore which is blatantly ridiculous.”

    Lol dude I seriously love you, PUPPY! You ARE comparing them both!

    Listen, if JW would have brought us 6 trophies, he can toss a an int or two to end our playoff run!

    Instead, he tosses an int to end our 7-9 season.

    All hail the saints 3rd string qb!!!

  34. Bucsfan951 Says:


    *3rd sting qb that admitted to using google to teach himself the game…

    I think you forgot to add that last part 😉

  35. Buc15 Says:

    NDOG – so you are against us trying to win back to back SuperBowls? Haven’t we true fans suffered enough? I’m all about the future but dammit we have paid our dues. Most of us wanted Winston to work out just as bad as you, but it just wasn’t so it’s time to move on. Hopefully we draft a qb next year to study under the GOAT.

  36. Paul Says:


    You call yourself a Bucs fan? Where are you from? Not Tampa obviously.