Is Tom Brady more vulnerable this season? The Jets seem to think so.
Through five games, the Patriots quarterback has already been sacked 16 times. Last year, Brady was sacked 15 times in 12 regular-season games.
The Jets defense is aware of that stat, and the unit sees an opportunity to disrupt the 40-year-old signal-caller when Gang Green faces the Patriots Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
“We have noticed Tom Brady holds on to the ball a little bit longer than he usually does,” said defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who is still searching for his first sack of 2017. “For us, that’s definitely giving us something to look forward to, getting after the quarterback. We know that he’s the head of the offense, so if we can get to him and affect him as much as possible, we can affect the game.”
No matter how you slice it, the numbers reveal a Patriots pass protection that has deteriorated significantly since last season’s Super Bowl run.
Brady has sustained 33 QB hits in five games, putting him on pace for well over 100 hits on the season if he plays all 16 games.
Last year, the New England offensive line allowed 73 QB hits all year, including the four games Brady missed due to suspension.
Patriots QB Tom Brady is having to pick himself off the turf more than usual this season.
(Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Even further: According to Pro Football Reference, Brady has been sacked on 7.6% of his dropbacks this season. In 2016, that figure was 3.4%. Brady has never been sacked on more than 6% of his dropbacks in any season, and he’s only been sacked on 4.9% of his dropbacks over his 18-year NFL career. By comparison, Jets starter Josh McCown has been sacked on 8.3% of his career dropbacks.
Brady is seeing more pressure and taking more licks. As a result, he’s dealing with a left shoulder sprain he reportedly aggravated in last week’s victory over the Bucs. Brady was hit six times and sacked three times in the game. He missed two straight practices before returning in a limited role Thursday.
And yet, despite the injury and the poor protection, Brady is still performing at an elite level. With 1,702 passing yards thus far this season, he’s on pace to surpass his career high of 5,235 in 2011.
“This guy’s like Father Time,” defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said. “It’s unbelievable.”
“Some guys have gotten lucky,” Bowles said of the high Patriots sack numbers. “He’s still back there and he’s throwing. He’s having one of the best years that he’s ever had. We say this every year and he keeps getting better.”
Even so, Williams remains confident the Jets’ front can get to Brady Sunday in East Rutherford. And it starts with stopping the run.
The Jets defense looks to hit Tom Brady the way they did with Jaguars QB Blake Bortles.
(Dennis Schneidler/USA Today Sports)
Through five games, the Jets are allowing 143 rushing yards per game (30th in the league) and 4.6 yards per attempt (25th in the league).
“We’re definitely not happy about it. Since I’ve been here, that’s something that we’ve prided ourselves on as a defense, is stopping the run,” Williams said. “But it’s something that we’re going to have to keep challenging ourselves.… Especially this week, if we stop the run, we’re going to be able to get after the quarterback a lot more.”
Williams and the rest of the defense understand the stakes if they allow New England to establish the run early.
The Patriots have displayed a relatively inconsistent ground attack so far this season. Their 3.9 yards per attempt rank 22nd in the league. But they feature a dangerous foursome of running backs in Dion Lewis, James White, Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead, who appears poised to return to game action Sunday after missing three straight with a rib injury.
“The more we let them run, the more Tom Brady is going to be able to stand back there when it’s time to pass,” Williams said. “We have to make them one dimensional and make them pass. If you let them run and pass, it will be a long day for the defense.”