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Coordinator Thursday: On Brady, Gronk and the Jaguars’ passing game

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash shouts to player during an NFL football practice Wednesday, June 13, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines Coordinator Thursday: Notes and observations with the Jaguars’ coordinators discussing New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski and the Jaguars’ passing game

1.Todd Wash put it Thursday simply when discussing Brady. “He’s a guy who obviously when you make a mistake he’s going to find it,” the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator said of the five-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Brady, in his 19th NFL season, is widely considered perhaps the best quarterback in NFL history. The Jaguars are 0-8 all-time against Brady and Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick – and the Jaguars are the only AFC franchise not to have beaten the Patriots during the duo’s time together in New England. Brady’s strengths as a quarterback are many, and he still has one of the strongest arms and quickest releases in the NFL. It was his ability to find defenses out of position – even slightly out of position – and take advantage of it that Wash emphasized Thursday. “We make mistakes each and every game, and it’s a situation where if you make a mistake in this one he’s going to find it,” Wash said. “He’s one of the few who won’t miss them. We have to make sure we’re on point doing exactly what we need to do and execute every play.” …

2.Just as Brady was a topic when Wash met with the media Thursday, so too was Gronkowski. Considered by some analysts the best tight end in NFL history, Gronkowski is a five-time All-Pro selection who has 77 career touchdown receptions. His combination of size and athleticism makes him an ideal target for Brady in critical situations. Wash called Gronkowski “hands down the best tight end in the league. We faced a real good one last week (New York Giants tight end Evan Engram), obviously, but there’s no question he (Gronkowski) is the Cadillac of tight ends in the league – and we’re going to have our hands full.” A challenge for the Jaguars is simulating Gronkowski in practice. “We try get a bigger body, obviously, out there running routes, but nobody can run as well as Gronk does at that size,” Wash said. “We have some talented guys on our roster that are trying to help us prepare for him, because it’s going to be a chore.” …

3.Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said Thursday he expects the Jaguars’ passing game – and offense overall – to improve moving forward. “As an offense, we need to play better,” Hackett said. The Jaguars scored on three of their first four possessions against the Giants Sunday but punted on all seven of their true second-half possessions (before a kneel-down). The Jaguars rushed for 137 yards but had 168 yards passing with the team’s four active receivers combining for 119 total yards. Second-year veteran Dede Westbrook led all Jaguars receivers with five receptions for 51 yards, with second-year veteran Keelan Cole catching three passes for 54 yards. Fifth-year veteran Donte Moncrief had one reception for 14 yards. “I think their chemistry [with starting quarterback Blake Bortles] is really good,” Hackett said. “I think it’s going to be something that needs to continually develop. They’re still young guys. Obviously Donte is still fairly new here [having signed as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason]. I think that’s the first game and we want everybody to improve across the board. … I think the guys know that. We made that clear. It’s about their execution. I think that will create separation and the more success you have, the better chemistry you have.” …

4.The injury report stayed relatively short for the Jaguars Thursday, with running back Leonard Fournette remaining the major story. Fournette, who left the second quarter of the Jaguars’ victory over the Giants Sunday with a hamstring injury, remained out of practice Thursday for a second consecutive day. He is expected to test the hamstring Friday afternoon. Fournette was the only Jaguars player to miss practice Thursday, with center Brandon Linder returning to practice after missing Wednesday with a knee injury; Linder may routinely miss Wednesday practice this season to rest the knee, Head Coach Doug Marrone said Wednesday. Linder was listed as practicing limited Thursday, with linebacker Telvin Smith (back), right tackle Jermey Parnell (knee) and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins all working limited for a second consecutive day. Wide receiver Jaydon Mickens (knee) and linebacker Leon Jacobs (ankle) were removed from the injury report after practicing full Wednesday. …

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