The Jacksonville Jaguars and New England Patriots kicked off joint practices this morning in Foxborough, Massachusetts and the two teams will practice together tomorrow, hold a walk-through on Wednesday and square off in the preseason opener on Thursday night.
It’s not every day that another franchise gets to practice beside the defending Super Bowl champions and arguably the greatest coach and quarterback in league history. The Patriots have been a model of consistency in terms of NFL success, while the Jaguars have been amongst the league’s worst for several years running.
I feel there are several things that the Jaguars should be able to learn from an organization like the Patriots. What can the Jaguars take away from the experience by the time they leave Gillette Stadium? Here are just a few things that come to mind:
1. How to compete
This point is two-fold. First, the Jaguars, like every other team, have only been competing against themselves throughout camp thus far. Facing off against new players and formations will be truly helpful and may allow for players to show something more on the field.
Head coach Doug Marrone will truly get a sense of what his guys are made of against the league’s best team. Who is out there competing and who is shying away? Who is going to take a step forward in positional battles? Who is going to emerge on this team as a go-to playmaker? The Jaguars’ brass should be able to answer a lot of these questions by week’s end.
Marrone, talking about the joint practices, said the following quote to the media earlier:
“I think it’s important during this time of year it helps, it breaks up the monotony of camp when you’re competing against the same players or people on your same team," Marrone said. "Now you’ve got to go out and compete against different players and different schemes. Sometimes those schemes can show different skill sets in players or what we ask them to do that we might have been not able to simulate as well in this practice."
Second, the Jaguars will be able to see where they stand as a team. They have not been a contender in this league for such a long time. This is not some average NFL football team Jacksonville is up against this week — this is the reigning Super Bowl champions. This will be a true measuring stick for the Jaguars, who are looking to improve upon 2016’s 3-13 campaign. While Jacksonville’s roster may not match up favorably to New England’s, it is imperative that the players give their best effort and compete.
2. How to prepare
This may seem simple, but it should not be overlooked. Just observing how a team with as much success as the Patriots runs practices will be extremely beneficial to a club that has won only 17 games in the past five seasons. From preparation, to conditioning to drills, to checks at the line of scrimmage during team periods or what have you, the Jaguars should pay close attention. The Jaguars should compare and contrast practice styles. Jacksonville doesn’t need to completely mimic the Patriots’ camp program, but they need to be aware of what works and what doesn’t.
New England’s success doesn’t start on Sundays. Bill Belichick is one of the greatest football minds in the game. Tom Brady is possibly the best quarterback of all-time. But they didn’t just get there overnight. Belichick is an expert when it comes to preparation and game-planning. The Patriots are always prepared for their opponents, using innovative methods and simulating dynamic scenarios for each foe. Every team spends hours in the film room, in meetings and in practice, but perhaps the Jaguars can learn a thing or two from the meticulous attention to detail the Patriots employ — though I would not expect Belichick and company to just give away all of their secrets, either.
3. Are the receivers and defense as good as advertised?
Jacksonville’s wide receivers — particularly Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, and Dede Westbrook — have all had a very good camp so far. Now they’ll truly get a chance to show off against a secondary that has two very good cornerbacks in Stephon Gilmore and Malcom Butler.
The Patriots also have solid safeties in Patrick Chung and Pro Bowler Devin McCourty. Lee, Robinson and Westbrook will have their hands full against this strong secondary, but Lee and Robinson both made highlight plays today. Allen Hurns apparently left with an injury in today’s practice. If the Jaguars’ wide outs can hold their own against the Patriots throughout the week, I think we can all feel good about the position.
Bortles with a nice connection to Robinson.
Former resident of Jacksonville, DJ Killings vs. @Thee_AR15 pic.twitter.com/Egs41APq1N— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) August 7, 2017
Lee torches Butler below.
Lee has had a very good camp. RT @McKennAnalysis: Malcolm Butler got torched by Marquise Lee. #Patriots #Jaguars pic.twitter.com/DA9d4uPcLt— Michael DiRocco (@ESPNdirocco) August 7, 2017
The defense has some key injuries with Calais Campbell, Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Colvin, so it may not be a great look at that side of the ball, but going against Brady, Brandin Cooks and the rest of the Patriots’ potent offense this week will be a true testament to what the unit is capable of. Still, the Jaguars have Yannick Ngakoue, A.J. Bouye, Malik Jackson, Barry Church, Telvin Smith and other quality starters out there. Similar to the wide receivers, this will be a telling week for the defenders.
With Colvin and Ramsey out, Doran Grant continues to get opportunities, and picked off the five-time Super Bowl champion, Brady.
Doran Grant INT Brady— Ryan O'Halloran (@ryanohalloran) August 7, 2017
Marrone and Belichick know each other well, as Marrone was also an AFC East head coach with the Buffalo Bills. Marrone has earned Belichick’s respect. This should give both teams a bit of a preview into what to expect, but there are still many things the Jaguars can take a way from a Belichick-run practice.
Things I am personally interested in is Jacksonville’s offensive line with the Patriots’ defensive line, the Jaguars highly-touted defense against All-World quarterback, Brady, and of course how Bortles fares.
The Jaguars must not miss any learning opportunities this week.
It is important to remember that this is still just preseason camp. Plays are controlled, quarterbacks are not going down, there are some key injuries on both sides and the tempo is not quite the same as game speed. But this should still be a valuable experience for Jacksonville.