Mission for Jets: Pressure Brady, limit Pats' run game
Florham Park, N.J. — Leonard Williams and the rest of the New York Jets' defense have studied the film and know exactly what they need to do against Tom Brady.
Get pressure on the New England Patriots quarterback. Sack him. Force him into rushing throws.
"We have noticed that Tom Brady holds onto the ball a little bit longer than he usually does," the defensive end said Thursday.
"They've given up more sacks at the start of the season than they did all of last season, so for us, that's definitely giving us something to look forward to, getting after the quarterback."
Williams is right about the sacks total. Brady has gone down 16 times after being sacked just 15 times in 12 regular-season games last season.
"I think everybody in this league knows what they've got to do to beat Brady," defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson said. "You know, he's been beaten, so I'm sure pretty much everybody has watched the film of guys and what they do good against him."
The Patriots' star has also been a bit banged up, sitting out two practices with a sore left shoulder before returning Thursday on a limited basis.
"We know that he's the head of the offense," Williams said. "So, if we can get to him and affect him as much as possible, we can affect the game."
It certainly sounds simple enough. But Brady remains one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the NFL — despite those high sack numbers.
Through five games, Brady leads the NFL with 1,702 yards passing and ranks second with a 112.0 passer rating. He has thrown for 300 or more yards in four straight games and the Patriots' offense still ranks No. 1 in total yards and passing yards. New England will certainly pose perhaps the toughest test for New York's defense.
"So far this year, it's not even close," defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said. "There's so many problems (to defend).
And for all the talk about sacks, the Jets don't get them often. They have seven, which is the second-lowest total in the NFL — with only Tampa Bay having fewer, with four.
Williams and Wilkerson are still looking for their first sacks of the season. Wilkerson is dealing with a sprained shoulder and a toe ailment, and has just one quarterback pressure all season.
"At the end of the day, I'm pretty sure you can ask any defensive player, when they talk about sacks, they come in bunches," Wilkerson said. "We haven't been really getting too many, but it's a long season. We're not worried about that."
Williams, who had seven sacks last season, has a team-leading six quarterback hurries — but is still waiting for that first sack.
"It would feel great," Williams said of potentially breaking through on Sunday. "Also, helping out the team in this big game, it's a division game, so we need it, and we're back home again, so it would feel great to get my first sack of the season on Tom Brady."
Of the Jets' sacks, not one has come from a defensive lineman. Linebacker David Bass has two, followed by fellow linebacker Demario Davis (1.5). Safety Jamal Adams, linebacker Darron Lee and cornerback Buster Skrine each have one, with linebacker Josh Martin adding a half-sack.
"We know he gets the ball out fast," Lee said of Brady, "but if we can make him second-guess or something and get that pressure there, that would be a huge plus for us."
Stopping the Patriots' run game will also play a crucial part in any potential success on defense by the Jets. New York has struggled against the run this season, ranking 30th in the NFL in that category.
"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."
New York has allowed just four touchdowns in its past three games and appears to be playing better lately — and looser. Just in time for Brady and Co.
"The confidence is there. The swagger is there," Williams said. "I think that's what I like most, that swagger. When the defense is out there, we're jumping around with each other, we're having fun and we're playing fast. That's what you need as a defense."
Notes: RB Matt Forte (knee, toe) and DE Kony Ealy (shoulder) were limited at practice, while Wilkerson (shoulder, toe) and RB Bilal Powell (strained calf) remained sidelined. Forte said "I want to" play Sunday, but he could still be a game-time decision. Powell appears unlikely to play.
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