The Patriots take on the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. at Gillette Stadium and then get an early bye week before jetting off to important road games in Dallas and Indianapolis.
Jacksonville is somewhat of an unknown quantity in New England, the two teams don’t play much and the Jags, in a rebuilding mode don’t get a lot of national exposure. Many fans from outside the area would be hard-pressed to name more than a few of their players.
But Gus Bradley is making some good strides there and is putting together a good, young roster. They’ll be attempting to shock an AFC East foe for the second week in a row.
New England comes in as heavy favorites and should win this game, but games aren’t played on paper. They’ll need to get a good effort for the entire 60 minutes this week before heading off for an early vacation week.
Here are our three players to watch from a Patriots perspective this week.
Malcolm Butler: The second-year player from West Alabama has been playing well as the starting left corner thus far in 2015. He and Tarell Brown have given the Patriots solid play overall in the secondary. Butler will probably face-off against WR Allen Robinson a lot this weekend.
The Jaguars have a trio of young talented receivers in Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marquise Lee. And they’ll be looking to use play-action to take shots down the field. Robinson has had a bit of a coming out party against the Dolphins last week, catching 6 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns. The 6’3 WR from Penn State is rapidly becoming a favorite target for QB Blake Bortles. He made three big plays last week in the first half with catches of 36, 52 and later a 46-yard touchdown.
Butler will be the first line of defense for the Patriots defense; a strong game from him, contesting every throw and playing tight coverage will be a big step in making Bortles look elsewhere and therefore increasing the chances of making a mistake or holding the ball too long and getting pressure on him.
Butler had another, highlight reel interception last week against Buffalo; He showed great concentration in diving for a tipped ball and coming up with it. He’s now one of the most indispensable players on the Patriots defense.
Dont’a Hightower: The Patriots linebacker showed up on the injury report this week with a shoulder injury that immediately gave everyone pause. He had shoulder surgery in the off-season immediately after the Super Bowl and missed all of the spring workouts.
But this week, the Jaguars will be looking to limit Tom Brady’s chances of scoring and the best way to do that is to keep him on the sidelines. The Jaguars running back position is beset by injuries with Toby Gerhart and Dennard Robinson banged up but rookie RB T.J. Yeldon will be a big factor in this one.
Yeldon carried the ball 25 times last week as the Jaguars stayed balanced with 33 runs and 33 passes. They’ll be looking to do more of the same, with the Patriots giving up a whopping 5.7 yards per carry thus far in 2015; Yeldon will be their go-to guy.
This is where Hightower’s value comes in. The big linebacker is always quite adept at shooting the A-gap and putting pressure on the QB or blowing up plays in the backfield. And slowing Yeldon before the big back can get up a head of steam is of paramount importance this week.
Hightower can also factor in the pass rush as well. After giving up five sacks in the opener, the Jags offensive line allowed none against the Dolphins. Facing a big quarterback in Bortles that likes to extend plays with his feet, Hightower along with Jamie Collins shooting the A-gap may be a way to force the Jaguars into making mistakes.
Dion Lewis: The diminutive running back has been very impressive and has been the surprise story of the season so far in 2015. He followed up a good showing in the opener against the Steelers with an even better one in Buffalo last week. He had a combined 138 yards rushing and receiving against the Bills including a 6-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
One question this week will be whether or not the Patriots share the wealth and snaps between Lewis and LaGarrette Blount or does Bill Belichick ride the hot hand of Lewis and allow him to continue to get the lion’s share of the work in the backfield?
Lewis could be a big factor again this week; the Jaguars have been vulnerable to the tight ends catching the ball the past few years and may have to put a lot of resources to the task of slowing down Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler in the passing game.
That could once again open the door for Lewis to get some mismatches on linebackers in coverage, something that QB Tom Brady has been quick to identify and take advantage of, thus far in 2015.
Lewis has been compared to a combination of Kevin Faulk and Danny Woodhead this season which is pretty heady company. Entering this season, a big question was who would replace Shane Vereen’s production on third downs in 2015? So far, Lewis is not only doing that, but adding in some production on first and second downs as well.
Stay tuned to PatsFans.com as we’ll have the latest on breaking news for the Patriots as well as a complete breakdown of the game on Sunday.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2015 NFL Season Allen Hurns Allen Robinson Bill Belichick Blake Bortles Buffalo Bills Chandler Jones Danny Amendola Dion Lewis Dont'a Hightower Gillette Stadium Gus Bradley Jacksonville Jaguars Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount Malcolm Butler Marquise Lee New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Pittsburgh Steelers Rob Gronkowski Tom Brady