New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is going to be even better than his Super Bowl-caliber 2018. Entering his age-42 season, Brady has already outlasted just about every quarterback in NFL history, and he’s not done yet. The six-time Super Bowl champion says he wants to play at an elite level until 45. While his statistics took a slight dip in 2018, there’s every reason to believe that Tom Brady will bounce back and be even better in 2019.

Why Tom Brady Will Improve in 2019

Better Supporting Cast

Statistically speaking, 2018 was Brady’s worst season since 2013. Starting in all 16 games, Brady completed 65.8% of his passes for 4,355 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. The fact that this is considered a down year speaks to the high bar Brady set for himself.

The main reason for this statistical decline is the lack of offensive consistency. After losing Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola in the off-season, Brady also lost Julian Edelman for the first four games of the season. Rob Gronkowski battled injuries all year and never looked like himself while Josh Gordon had to learn the offense on the fly and stepped away from football to focus on his mental health.

Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, Chris Hogan, and James White were the only full-strength players available for the entirety of the season. Dorsett showed promise, but the other two saw more playing time than they probably should have. White was fantastic, but there’s only so much a running back can do to bolster a stat line.

That should change in 2019. Reigning Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman will be back on the field for Week One, and the rest of the depth chart is dramatically improved. New England selected a first-round wide receiver for the first time in the Belichick Era, and N’Keal Harry should play a sizable role in the offense.

New England also loaded up on bigger wide receivers like Demaryius Thomas, Dontrelle Inman, and Maurice Harris. Additionally, Dorsett should handle a larger role and undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers has some intriguing tools. Factor in a potential Josh Gordon return and you’ve got a pretty solid wide receiver depth chart. They’re not the 2007 Patriots by any means, but this is a step up from 2018’s squad.

Better Luck

Tom Brady was pretty unlucky in 2018. The all-time great threw 11 interceptions in 2018, his most since 2013. However, most of those interceptions were not his fault. As mentioned in an earlier article, Brady wasn’t responsible for most of his turnovers, as most were either tipped passes or drops from his receivers.

Football Outsiders agrees with this analysis. According to the advanced analytics site, Brady was one of the unluckiest quarterbacks in the league. By their measurements, Brady threw 1.8 more interceptions than expected, fifth-most in the league. When adjusting for what should have happened, Brady had a 2.1% adjusted interception rate, fourth-best in the league. Brady still makes precise, accurate throws, and his bad luck should regress to the mean.

On top of that, Brady spent half the year playing through an MCL injury. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Brady suffered his injury late in Week 10’s blowout loss to the Tennessee Titans. This is the NFL, so nobody’s guaranteed to stay healthy. However, the way in which Brady got hurt suggests it’s not a repeatable issue. Brady’s knee injury occurred when offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels called for a double pass to Brady. The 41-year old quarterback went down awkwardly and clearly aggravated his knee.

Brady entered the playoffs healthy and played like a top quarterback. While some point to his 2:3 TD:INT ratio as a sign of decline, the reason for that ugly ratio is that New England constantly ran the ball inside the five-yard line. While he struggled in Super Bowl LIII, the truth of the matter is Brady still managed to complete 68% of his passes while averaging 318 yards and 42 passing attempts per game. If that’s a decline, then 90% of NFL quarterbacks would love to be in Brady’s decline.

Tom Brady is Still Good

Last, but certainly not least, is Tom Brady is still good. Last year might have been his worst statistical season in half a decade, but he’s still playing at a ridiculously high level. 2018 was the year of the quarterback, as young hotshots like Patrick Mahomes took the football world by storm. Despite playing alongside arguably the best crop of quarterbacks in NFL history, Brady finished the year as the fourth-best quarterback in the league, per Pro Football Focus.

The film backs up this assessment. While he wasn’t quite at his 2015-2017 form, Brady still used his elite mind and arm to tear apart defenses. His deep passing took a step back (not a surprise, he was absurdly good in 2017), but aside from that, he was largely the same guy.

While some say aging quarterbacks fall off a cliff, there are usually warning signs. Peyton Manning had a clear lack of arm strength in his final few seasons while Brett Favre’s wild play invited an ugly ending. Brady still has his arm strength and plays a smarter brand of football than Favre did. Brady should remain among the league’s elite passers in 2019 and could easily win yet another MVP and Super Bowl.

View the original article on Last Word On Pro Football: Why Tom Brady Will Be Even Better in 2019