Jordan Jenkins’ first reaction was to laugh.
The Jets have heard this one before, about how Tom Brady has a poor game or two and suddenly everyone wonders if this finally is the beginning of the end, at 41, for the five-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback of the Patriots.
They aren’t buying it.
“Man, people have to be crazy to ever count that man out. You don’t fall for that,” Jenkins, one off the Jets’ starting linebackers, said after practice on Friday. “I don’t care what it is, when it is, he’s gonna pull something out. I don’t care what year it is, if he has a uniform on, if he’s playing, I’m not counting him out.”
While Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold will miss his second straight game Sunday with a foot injury, Brady officially has been listed as questionable after sitting out the Pats’ practice on Friday with a sore knee and what the team described as an illness. He is, however, expected to play, according to multiple reports. Backup Brian Hoyer would start if Brady is unable to go.
For anyone who needs a reminder, New England is 25-7 against Gang Green in games Brady has started at quarterback since his NFL career began in 2000.
“He’s a specialist, that’s for sure. Not slipping at all,” cornerback Trumaine Johnson said about Brady. “He’s still one of the best there is, he’s gonna be a future Hall of Famer and we have our work cut for us as always.”
Brady, whose scheduled press conference on Friday was canceled due to his undisclosed illness, actually contributed to the “Is he slipping?” chatter earlier this month while discussing his substandard play in the Patriots’ 34-10 loss to Tennessee on Nov. 12 before a bye last week. He completed 21 of 41 passes for 254 yards and a 70.6 passer rating.
“I absolutely want to play better,” Brady said. “Certainly it was not a great performance. I’ve got to go out there and play my very best these next six weeks to give our team the best chance. But everything’s different from one year to the next. I’m sure some of my statistics have changed, but I feel good out there.”
The three-time NFL MVP — including last season — should feel even better after his longtime top target, tight end Rob Gronkowski, declared himself “good to go” on Friday after missing New England’s previous two games with back and ankle ailments. A healthy Gronk should boost a passing attack that ranks 11th in the league in yards per game (269).
Still, according to ESPN, Brady sports the worst passer rating in the NFL this season against the blitz — defined as five or more pass rushers — at 59.6.
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Overall, he ranks 17th in the NFL in passer rating this season at 94.7, which ordinarily is a good number, but leaves him behind the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Mitchell Trubisky and one notch below Eli Manning.
“He’s been great for a long time, doesn’t look like any different,” coach Todd Bowles said of Brady. “I’m not surprised. His work ethic is outstanding and the way he prepares, his determination and everything he’s been going through keep him playing this long. You’re not surprised at those type of players.
“There’s nothing new you can show him. We have to execute. We have to be clicking on all cylinders. And we have to communicate and execute and play our game.”
Brady hasn’t missed a game due to injury since 2008, when he tore two knee ligaments in Week 1 and missed the remainder of the season. That was the only year of his career in which he missed any time due to injury.