Jets' young defenders hope to end oh-fers against Tom Brady

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Every veteran starter on the New York Jets defense has faced Tom Brady at least once in his career -- well, except outside linebacker Brandon Copeland, who hopes to get his first crack at Brady on Sunday.

"This is my first time playing the Patriots -- ever -- so I'm very excited," said Copeland, who has an elbow injury that could have an impact on his status. "It's crazy to think about, so I'm very excited to try to introduce myself the right way."


"I'll show you Sunday," Copeland said, smiling. "I'm not going to give them locker room material, that's for sure."

Brady doesn't need an inflammatory quote to get his 41-year-old heart racing, especially against the Jets -- the team he loves to torment. The future Hall of Fame quarterback is 25-7 against them, having dominated them across nearly two decades.

The Jets appeared to be closing the gap during the Rex Ryan era, circa 2009-2010, but they've fallen back in recent years under coach Todd Bowles. The current roster is filled with players who are winless against Brady.

Consider: The 11 starters on defense are a combined 2-29 against Brady. Defensive end Leonard Williams is 1-5, the lone victory coming in 2015. (Remember the Jets' overtime win in Week 16?) Nose tackle Steve McLendon is 1-6; his only victory came as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

With the offensive starters factored into the equation, the total aggregate record against Brady is 8-60.

Get the picture?

If there's any solace for the Jets, it's that their defense is filled with young players who haven't been beaten down by years of losing. We saw what that looks like, and it wasn't pretty. In 2008, in the final seconds of an early-season loss to the Patriots, longtime defensive end Shaun Ellis unleashed years of pent-up frustration and threw his helmet across the field. Afterward, quarterback Brett Favre said he was taken aback by the display of raw emotion. In some ways, it was Favre's welcome-to-the-Jets moment.

So, no, the current group hasn't accumulated as many scars as Ellis, but it still has to be maddening for core players such as Williams, linebackers Jordan Jenkins and Darron Lee (both 0-4) and safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye (both 0-2). They came from winning college programs. Adams, a self-proclaimed "winner," has lamented the losing on multiple occasions.

"It would be a nice accomplishment to get a win against Brady," Jenkins said. "I just want to get a win, period, but it would be pretty nice to get a win against him."

The Jets have dropped four straight to Brady, but they haven't played horribly against him. In last season's two losses, they held him to 51 percent passing (38-for-75) for a relatively modest 447 yards.

Brady enters Sunday's game in a bit of a lull, by his standards. He has only one touchdown pass in the last three games, his fewest in a three-game span since 2013. If the Jets hold him without a scoring pass, it'll be his worst four-game span since 2001 and his first time without a touchdown pass in back-to-back games since 2006.

If the Jets detect some slippage in his game, they're doing a good job of hiding their feelings.

"Man, I'm not taking him lightly," said linebacker Avery Williamson, who lost to Brady twice with the Tennessee Titans. "I don't care if he didn't throw any touchdowns for a month. Man, Brady, he can still make it happen."

Bowles said, "He's been great for a long time. [It] doesn't look like any difference."

So the Jets will go into this game looking for their Brady "firsts." No starting defensive back has a Brady interception. No pass-rusher has a Brady sack; not even Williams, who has faced him six times. Copeland hopes his elbow allows him to play because he'd like nothing more than to sack the legendary quarterback.

"Oh, 100 percent, that's the goal," he said. "I want to introduce myself to him."