Thursday, December 20, 2012
Three-point stance: Jacksonville Jaguars
By John Parolin, ESPN Stats & Information
The Patriots are 8-1 all-time against the Jaguars including the playoffs, with the only loss a 25-10 defeat at the hands of Mark Brunell in the 1998-99 AFC wild card playoffs.
This year's Jaguars team bears almost no resemblance to that team. Jacksonville is tied with the Chiefs for the worst record in the league (2-12).
Second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert struggled earlier in the season before being placed on injured reserve. The Jaguars' offense is Chad Henne's to run, a task made tougher considering the patchwork nature of Jacksonville's running game. Maurice Jones-Drew has 414 rushing yards this season, and is still the Jaguars' leading rusher despite missing the last eight games. Add in an underwhelming defense, and this week presents a good opportunity for the Patriots to get back on track after Sunday's tough loss.
Here are three areas to watch for on Sunday:
Rest for weary O-line? After back-to-back matchups with the Texans and 49ers, the Patriots' offensive line could use a breather. Tom Brady was frequently pressured but was sacked only four times in the last two weeks, and the Jaguars will not bring the same pass-rushing threat on Sunday. Jacksonville's defense has recorded a sack every 34.3 dropbacks, second-worst in the league (Raiders). The Jaguars' weak pass rush and weaker record led to Jason Babin's waiver acquisition before Week 13. Babin has only one sack in the three games since, getting to Mark Sanchez in Week 14 as part of a six-man pass rush. Defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, a former first-round draft pick with three sacks this season, is the only Jaguar with more than two sacks and can offer some interior threat. Jacksonville's defensive front is not on the level of San Francisco's or Houston's, and Brady should have time to throw.
How will Henne fare? Chad Henne is no stranger to Bill Belichick. As the starter in Miami, Henne was 1-4 against the Patriots from 2009-11 with varying degrees of success. Henne threw for a career-high 416 yards and two touchdowns in last year's season-opener, but posted only a 59.0 completion percentage and minus-1 TD-INT differential in four other matchups. Henne is not particularly efficient, with a 51.9 completion percentage that ranks last among 35 qualified quarterbacks this season. His completion percentage reflects a tendency toward deeper throws. Henne's average pass length is 9.0 yards downfield, the eighth-highest in the league, and since Week 12 (his first start this season) Henne has attempted 39 throws deeper than 15 yards downfield, fourth-most in the league. Henne's favorite deep target is not first-round pick Justin Blackmon, but rather second-year speedster Cecil Shorts III, who has nine receptions of at least 30 yards this season. Only Demaryius Thomas, A.J. Green and Calvin Johnson have more.
Jags not running well: The Jaguars are among the worst rushing teams in the league. A Jacksonville back has rushed for more than 80 yards in a game only twice this season. Jacksonville as a team has rushed for 100 yards or less in 11 of 14 games this season, most of any team in the league. Jones-Drew missed the last eight games, but even before his injury, ranked 18th in the league. He is questionable for Sunday, and Jacksonville's options are limited if Jones-Drew misses his ninth straight game with a foot injury. Rashad Jennings has yet to pass a concussion test as of Wednesday, and Montell Owens appears to be in line for the majority of the work. Owens, a former Maine Black Bear, had 25 rushes for 138 yards and a touchdown in the last two games.