The New England Patriots rarely play the Jacksonville Jaguars, but that shouldn’t be too much of a hurdle to overcome. After all, they started preparing for Sunday’s matchup in April.
It’s standard practice for the Patriots to start scouting their early opponents and any new teams on their schedule almost immediately after the NFL draft, coach Bill Belichick said during a conference call on Tuesday. And the Jaguars fit into both of those categories.
“Yeah, absolutely, we spent a lot of time on Jacksonville,” Belichick told reporters. “I’ve seen probably well over half their season from last year, from 2014. Now they’re changing offensive coordinators, so that’s obviously effected it some, but we’ve put a lot of time in trying get to know the players on the team from last year, what changes they’ve made this year, how they’re using those players the same or differently.”
The last time the Patriots played the Jaguars was back in 2012, a game New England won 23-16. The Patriots lead the all-time series 9-1.
But there were some exciting and memorable matchups along the way. The Patriots beat the Jaguars back in the 2005 playoffs at a frigid Gillette Stadium, with wind chills in the negatives. They also met during New England’s pursuit of perfection during the 2007 playoffs.
But that is ancient history now. The Patriots have continued to play at a high level since those playoff games, while the Jaguars have consistently finished toward the bottom of the league.
In order for the Jaguars to take that next step, second-year quarterback Blake Bortles needs to improve. It’s a relatively small sample size, but Belichick is impressed with what he’s seen from Bortles, though, including in last week’s win over the Miami Dolphins.
“Bortles has played well,” Belichick said. “There is a lot of really good film on Bortles, even in preseason, going into the Detroit game. He is productive in every game.
“I though he played very well against Miami. He got them 20 points there at the half, but then when they had to have it at the end of the game, which was really impressive, when they really had to have it, that’s when they came through and had a great drive there and set up the winning field goal. … I’ve been very impressed watching him, and he’s a very talented player, and he’s been a very productive player.”
Bortles had one of the best games of his career in the Jaguars’ 23-20 win over the Dolphins on Sunday. He completed 18 of 33 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns. It was a big improvement from his two-interception performance in Week 1.
One of Bortles’ strengths is his deceptive speed as a 6-foot-5, 245-pound QB.
“I think Bortles looks pretty fast, kind of like (Tyrod) Taylor,” Belichick said. “He’s got a couple 30-yard gains and that kind of thing. He’s pretty dangerous to just take off and run and can get a lot of yardage. His athleticism can buy time in the pocket. He’s a good passer. But I’d say he’s probably a little bit more of a threat to run with the ball than (Ben) Roethlisberger.”
But the Patriots are well aware of that. They started preparing for this game in the spring.
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports Images