JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five Wednesday takeaways as the Jaguars prepare to play the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., Sunday …
1.Mentally tough.We begin Wednesday takeaways on the opponent, and to listen to Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, there is more than one reason the Patriots are among the NFL's best offenses. "Hall of Fame tight end (Rob Gronkowski), Hall of Fame quarterback (Tom Brady) … it's going to be a challenge because they're good at so many different things,'' Posluszny said. "They're fundamentally sound, very disciplined and do all of the little things right. They're so good at the basics." Posluszny said while the Patriots now utilize more short passing to allow receivers to run after the catch than they did in the mid-to-late 2000s, they're equally – if not more – efficient. "We have to be great tacklers in space," Posluszny said. The Patriots because of their fast-tempo ability offense and ability to create favorable matchups create a unique challenge for defenses. "When they see something they can exploit, they go right after you," Posluszny said. "That's obviously something we have to be very aware of. We have to be fundamentally sound and be exactly where we need to be so we can play good, solid defense and not give up those explosive plays you see them get."
Check out images from Wednesday's practice as the Jaguars returned to the practice field as they prepare to face the New England Patriots.
2.Staying focused.When teams play legendary quarterbacks, young quarterbacks get asked about playing the legend. So it was that Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles was asked Wednesday if there was a tendency to measure himself against Brady Sunday. "I don't think you can," Bortles said. "Those guys (quarterbacks such as Brady and Aaron Rodgers) are some of the greatest that have ever played the game. I'm not playing against Tom Brady. I'm playing against the New England defense and that's all I'm worried about. That's all we're worried about as an offense, is how do we execute and put up points on their defense."
3.Depth perception.The status of guard Brandon Linder was uncertain as of the end of Jaguars practice Wednesday; the second-year veteran left practice with a left shoulder injury. If significant, the injury will again test the Jaguars' depth. In this case, it's at a position where the Jaguars feel very good about that depth – the interior of the offensive line. Tyler Shatley likely will be the first option in the event of an injury to either Jaguars starting guard – Linder or Zane Beadles – and Luke Bowanko played well enough competing with Stefen Wisniewksi at center during training camp that the Jaguars feel they have multiple capable interior linemen. The Jaguars played without left tackle Luke Joeckel against Miami last week; reserve Sam Young played in his place and the line did not allow a sack.
4.Multiple options.With rookie Rashad Greene out at least eight weeks after surgery Tuesday to repair a thumb ligament, Jaguars offensive coordinator Greg Olson said the team has multiple options to play slot receiver. Olson on Wednesday said while all four active receivers – Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee and Bryan Walters – have worked in the slot, Hurns and Walters likely will get most of the work there initially. "We've played them all inside at different points," Olson said. "Right now, we'll probably look at Hurns and Walters as the primary guys."
5.Keep an eye on … Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns.It's always worth watching this duo, but the pair could have added importance this week. The Patriots under Head Coach Bill Belichick are well-known for stopping an offense's best option and forcing quarterbacks to secondary reads. If the Jaguars' best option is Robinson (six receptions, 155 yards, two touchdowns last week), that could mean single coverage for Hurns and Lee. Hurns has nine receptions for 128 yards in two games. And although Lee caught just two passes for 27 yards in his 2015 NFL debut last week, he also had a first-down-converting reception called back by penalty – as well as a 12-yard run on a reverse. Lee said he responded well physically after the Miami game, his first after returning from the hamstring issue that had kept him out since early training camp. He also said he felt he played faster than he had in 13 games as a rookie last season. "It was slower for me, actually – second year," he said. "To go through it my first year and see the type of defenses you play in the NFL. I wouldn't say, 'I got it,' but having a good understanding compared to what I did last year? That is the truth."