Brandon Copeland’s last matchup against the New England Patriots landed on Oct. 21, 2019.
The 8:15 p.m. ET kickoff at MetLife Stadium gave way to a 33-0 loss for the New York Jets. But the veteran linebacker, who missed the season’s initial AFC East encounter while serving a suspension for violation of the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, was present.
Here’s a brief glance through that Monday’s notes on Copeland, who reached a one-year, $910,000 benefit contract with the Patriots in March.
In for 96 percent of the kicking game
Copeland saw 24 of 26 snaps on special teams when New York hosted New England this past fall. That rate in the kicking game stood atop his side of the divisional aisle. Jets safeties Rontez Miles and Matthias Farley were closest with 22 and 21 plays, respectively.
Copeland checked in for six kickoff and punt returns apiece against the Patriots. The former Penn Quaker, Baltimore Raven, Tennessee Titan and Detroit Lion stayed in for kickoff and punt coverage a collective seven times. In addition, New York’s block unit featured Copeland on kicker Mike Nugent’s handful of attempts.
“For me, I’ve been a guy who, my first year I was practice squad, second year got cut from practice squad after two years and sat out the rest of the season,” Copeland told reporters during his introductory video conference last month. “Basically told you’re not good enough – did workouts and didn’t get a shot. Came back through the combine in 2015 and that’s when I ran a 4.51 and have been playing active ever since. For me, I’ll never turn down the opportunity to be on the field. So for me, I’m looking forward to getting out there. I’ve had nothing but battles against the Patriots in the past on special teams.”
Combining for seven tackles
Copeland recorded a career-high 42 tackles over the course of his dozen appearances last campaign. He finished with seven in all against the Patriots, including one for loss and another on special teams.
The 2013 undrafted arrival sorted and assisted on five-yard and two-yard pickups by running back Sony Michel in the opening quarter. And as New England went tackle-eligible and deployed linebacker Elandon Roberts, Copeland would circle around the E-gap to wrap up Michel for no gain at the goal line. Copeland also had a hand in a rush by Patriots rookie Damien Harris that ended at the line of scrimmage. A play later as the clock ticked down, Harris took the toss and would be guided out of bounds by No. 51 of the Jets some four yards behind the line.
Elsewhere, Copeland halted tight end Eric Tomlinson after a catch in the flat that netted a yard. He’d track down punt returner Gunner Olszewski after two yards, as well.
Placing first and second in PFF’s gradebook
The 6-foot-3, 263-pound Copeland earned a Pro Football Focus grade of 77.5 on special teams to lead New York. And on defense versus New England, his 83.7 mark from PFF would sit behind only then-Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams.
Copeland split his time rotating between New York’s edges and throughout the off-ball linebacker level.
He played 38 percent of the defensive downs in the shutout.