Maurice Jones-Drew (Getty Images)
The Jaguars will play what amounts to a playoff game this Sunday afternoon against their longtime nemesis, the New England Patriots. Pats head coach Bill Belichick spoke about the Jaguars and what concerns him most on Sunday.
“I think the thing that stands out about this team is how big and physical they are really in every area,” the future Hall of Fame coach said. “They are physical on offense, physical on defense, physical in the kicking game. [They’re] strong, they’re tough. They can run the ball. They can stand up to the running game.”
Like most good coaches, Belichick was certainly talking up his opponent and avoiding any sort of bulletin board material.
“When you look at the players they have, right down the roster, for the most part, they’re bigger and probably faster than most of the other players in the league at their respected positions. They do a good job of mixing up their attack, both offensively and defensively. They do a good job of keeping you off balance, but at the same time do the things they do well and make you stop their best players, which they have quite a few of.”
Listening to Belichick may make one think that his Patriots are facing ’93 Cowboys instead of a team that’s gone just 12-18 since their last meeting in the divisional round of the 2007 playoffs.
“It’s a team that we played a couple years ago, but there’re an awful lot of new faces on that team now from last time we saw them at the end of the ’07 season,” Belichick said.
If any of Belichick’s comments were anything more than “coach-speak,” it was when he spoke about Jaguars star running back Maurice Jones-Drew who has 15 touchdowns this season on the ground.
“He’s definitely one of the top backs we’ve seen and we’ve seen a lot of good ones,” the Patriots coach said about the Jaguars franchise back. “I think he can do it all. He’s returned kicks. He’s good in pass protection. [He] catches the ball very well and has a good feel in the passing game, like the scramble pass he caught against Indianapolis last week on a broken play. And, of course, in the running game, he can run inside, he can run outside, he can run with power, he can run with speed, he can jump cut and has good vision. He can see those lanes inside. He’s got good balance. He’s hard to knock off his feet, breaks a lot of tackles and pushes the pile forward for extra yards when he’s carrying the ball. He’s a powerful guy as well as an elusive player, so he’s tough.”
Although Jones-Drew is on everyone’s radar, he’s had some mixed success against the Patriots. In the Jaguars playoff loss in 2007, the dynamic back was only able to muster 19 yards rushing on six carries. When the two teams faced in 2006, Jones-Drew started for the injured Fred Taylor and ran for 131 yards on 19 carries, including a 74-yard run in which he ran in the back of his offensive line, then proceeded to get up and take it the rest of the way to the house.
That play caused Belichick to emphasize a more fundamental approach to touching down runners.
“We’ve seen plenty of backs get tackled and land on a guy or butt roll onto another player, where they don’t actually hit the ground or they stumble in the backfield. Again, it’s a fundamental play, an alert thing. If the ball carrier’s down, you just go over and tag him. We should do that on every play, whether we touch him down or we don’t touch him down. That’s a point that we teach the first or second day in training camp and it happens out there in practice, too, where one of our guys is on the ground, and we just go over there and tag them. Hopefully, we learned from that play a couple years ago and it won’t happen again.”
So according to Bill Belichick, the Jaguars are going to be the most physical opponent the Patriots will face and they have big, powerful speed demons at every spot on the field. Despite those “facts,” the Jaguars are yet to defeat a Bill Belichick coached Patriots team and they are going to need that to change if they have any hope of earning their second playoff berth in three years.