Thursday, December 20, 2012
Patriots primer, Jaguars edition
By Field Yates
What's on tap: The Patriots will hit the practice fields for their second day of preparation for the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12). They will travel to face the Jaguars this Sunday.
Practice notes: 18 players were limited during Wednesday's on-field session, and quarterback Tom Brady (throwing shoulder) and linebacker Mike Rivera (ankle) sat out entirely. Our best guess? A built-in day of rest for the 35-year-old Brady, who threw a career-high 65 passes in Week 14. Tight end Rob Gronkowski (forearm/hip) also participated on a limited basis, and he looks closer to returning to action. He's missed four straight games after breaking his forearm in Week 11. Besides Rivera, four Patriots linebackers -- including all three starters -- were limited.
There's a chance Maurice Jones-Drew could return to action vs. the Patriots, but the Jags' star RB didn't practice Wednesday.
Jones-Drew a possibility to return. Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew has missed eight straight games, but could be back this Sunday. Here's what he had to say about his status on Wednesday: "Personally, I think we have an opportunity, a chance to come back depending on how [Wednesday] goes running. I just don’t want to go out there and put anybody else in jeopardy if I can’t be full speed ... If I can’t go out there fully protect our quarterback, help our offensive line and block, I’m not going to go out there and put somebody’s else’s life in jeopardy. So [Wednesday] is going to be a big day and I’m excited for it, been waiting for it and hopefully things work out where I can get out there and play. We will just see after that. That’s really all I can tell you." He did not practice on Wednesday.
Mularkey not surprised by Welker's performance. Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey knows Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker, having coached him when the two were with the Dolphins organization together in 2006 (Mularkey was then the offensive coordinator). Welker has blossomed since joining the Patriots. "I’m not as surprised that he is. The one year I was a coordinator there in Miami we were lining up with Chris Chambers and Marty Booker outside and Wes was our slot and he was our leading receiver by a number of catches. At the end of the year when you were talking about ranking players and how they affected your offense, he was right up there at the top with Ronnie Brown at the time for me. So I knew his worth. He was just a very difficult guy to cover. His work ethic and his toughness, I mean that’s the thing I like about him. He’s as tough as nails. I had just come [in] and I had some experience for eight years with Hines Ward, [who was] a tough guy to cover and another tough guy that’s not afraid to throw his body around and Wes is a lot like that."
DE Babin one to watch. The Jaguars claimed defensive end Jason Babin -- who finished third in the NFL with 18 sacks in 2011 -- off of waivers last month, and he brings punch to a pass rush in need of it. Belichick said the Jaguars haven't changed schematically since adding Babin, but that's he a player to be aware of. "He’s a very fast edge player. I’d say they’re a bigger, more physical front. I’d say he’s given them good team speed, maybe a little more pure edge rush. He doesn’t play all the time, he’s in there and they rotate those ends through with [Austen] Lane and [[Jeremy] Mincey, they rotate their inside guys through. They play six, seven defensive linemen in there. It’s different combinations of guys and that’s part of the challenge for the offensive line – kind of knowing who you’re blocking because each guy is a little different, different techniques, different moves. But Babin is fast and they bring him. He can obviously get around the corner. We’ve seen plenty of that and he kind of adds another level of speed and edge rush to what they already have."