JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's notes and observations from Wednesday: Thoughts and notes on Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack, the New England Patriots' pass rush, Jaguars running back Corey Grant, more …
1.He may or may not have been down, but Jaguars middle linebacker Myles Jack has made no secret of his readiness for Sunday against the New England Patriots at TIAA Bank Field. "It's definitely the most important game of my life," he said. Jack is a storyline this week because of the "Myles-Jack-Wasn't-Down" phenomenon, a saying that references his would-be touchdown in last January's AFC Championship Game loss to the Patriots. Jack on the play recovered a fourth-quarter fumble and appeared headed for a touchdown before officials whistled the play dead – apparently incorrectly. "It's cool to have the support of the city and everybody behind it," Jack said of the saying that appears on T-Shirts, mugs and numerous other products around Jacksonville. "It's a very cool thing." Jack, though, said Sunday's game is big for simpler reasons. "The magnitude of the game … we want to go 2-0 on the season," he said. "We feel like we're going to be in the playoffs, so we want so to gain home-field advantage. We feel like if we can get a win on them, that would be huge … the most important week of my life, for sure."
2.A key Patriots Week 1 statistic was the pressure their pass rush placed on Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson – and Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said the area without question is among the defending AFC Champions' strengths. The Patriots sacked Watson three times in a 27-20 victory Sunday, registering 12 more quarterback hits. Notably, the Patriots pressured Watson with their base defense rather than emphasizing the blitz, with fourth-year defensive end Trey Flowers registering 1.5 sacks with four pressures and defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. also registering 1.5 sacks with two hurries. "I like their edge rushers," Marrone said. "I think those guys are very much underrated. They play lights out; they really do. They're very technically sound. They're very well-coached. They have good physical traits. I have a lot of respect for those guys."
3.A much-discussed topic among Jaguars observers this week: running back Corey Grant. The fourth-year veteran caught three passes for 59 yards in the first half of the Jaguars' loss to the Patriots in January's AFC Championship Game, then wasn't targeted while the offense managed two second-half field goals. Grant, the Jaguars' third-team running back, played six plays in a victory over the New York Giants Sunday and rushed one time for three yards. Grant's role typically is as a package-based player, and Marrone said his role could increase with starter Leonard Fournette day-to-day with a hamstring issue. "We had some packages for him" against the Giants, Marrone said, "but obviously now he'll be increased in that work. Like I have said before, we think [reserve running back] T.J. [Yeldon] can carry the load if he needed to. It wasn't anything that Corey did." Marrone was asked why Grant didn't play more against the Giants. "I think if we knew that [Fournette would be unavailable] early in the week … during the course of the game I think that's a little bit different scenario for us," Marrone said. "Looking back, we should have gotten him in there a little bit more. We talked about that as a staff. I don't think it would have been much more."
4.It makes perfect sense to Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady leans heavily on tight end Rob Gronkowski. "You look at a guy like Gronk … if I'm his quarterback, I'm throwing 87 (Gronkowski) the ball all day, too; I don't care who he's on," Gipson said. Gronkowski, widely considered the NFL's best tight end, long has been a focal point of the Patriots' offense – and that figures to continue to be the case with New England considered comparatively weak at receiver. "He's the best tight end in the league and will probably go down as the best tight end in history – and he's in his prime right now," Gipson said. "He's the best for a reason. You have to definitely do your best – no matter who's guarding him: whether it's [cornerback] Jalen [Ramsey], whether it's myself … whoever's guarding him for that opportunity, you know he's going to make his opportunities because he's going to get the ball. He's going to win some and we're going to win some. That's just part of good on good. It's going to be a fun matchup."