Strief on Drew Brees’ arm strength: It’s not age; it’s evolution

Saints quarterback Drew Brees doesn’t take as many deep shots as he once did; there are many reasons for that, Zach Strief says, and they don’t have anything to do with arm strength

JRSportBrief
November 10, 2020 - 10:00 am
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With Drew Brees in the midst of his age-41 season, much has been made of his arm strength – or lack thereof.

True, Brees isn’t flinging the ball all over the yard as he once did, but he has still completed 74.0 percent of his passes for 2,120 yards, 17 touchdowns and three interceptions through eight games. More importantly, the Saints are 6-2 and atop the NFC South.

“Maybe the change [isn’t] age; it’s evolution,” former Saints offensive lineman and current Saints radio analyst Zach Strief told JR SportBrief. “The guys that are capable and able to play for a long time in this league – and this happens at every position. Your body changes and morphs, and your skillset changes. Your strengths and weaknesses alter over time. It’s been interesting to watch and to listen to people talk about Drew’s arm strength and this reduction in arm strength. And there’s no question Drew Brees doesn’t drive the football like he did 10 years ago. What has made Drew so successful to this point in his career is Drew is okay acknowledging that.

“It’s not like he’s going to do an interview every week and say, ‘My arm doesn’t work as well as it once did,’” Strief continued. “That’s not going to come out of his mouth. He’s a competitor. I think what you’ve seen is Drew acknowledge and accept, ‘Hey, I’m not going to try to fit the ball in tiny windows 25 yards down the field like I did in 2011 when we were scoring 38 points a game.’ I’m not going to even attempt that because I know that I’ve got a better defense, I’ve got better weapons around me than I’ve ever had at any point in my career in New Orleans, and I’m going to be a distributor. I’m going to get the ball in the right hands, and I’m going to give my guys an opportunity to make a play after the catch. I’m going to operate the offense efficiently.’”

Last year, Brees helped Michael Thomas set an NFL record with 149 catches. Thomas’ 11.6 yards per reception ranked 76th in the NFL, but that connection was unstoppable. Thomas has been hurt most of the year, so Alvin Kamara has stepped up in his absence. He has 60 catches through eight games, which is tied for third in the NFL. Kamara’s 9.4 yards per reception ranks 113th in the league, but, again, it’s been an effective connection.

Did we mention the Saints are atop the NFC South?

“So you’ve seen that part of [Drew’s] game really elevate,” Strief said. “I think he’s as good as anybody in football at delivering a football on time in the right location, allowing people to run with the football and really trusting his weapons. What we have seen kind of disappear from this offense is that explosive, risky aspect that we kind of lived and died with back in the day when we were giving up a whole bunch of points [on defense]. You needed to take more chances. So I really see it as an evolution. It’s no different than a wide receiver who gets older and becomes more of a possession guy. We’ve kind of watched that happen with [Larry] Fitzgerald out in Arizona. He doesn’t run like he once did, [but] it doesn’t mean he can’t be a valuable player. He’s been willing to adapt and adjust to his skillset, and I think we’ve seen that with Drew.”