video: What to Watch For: Jaguars vs Patriots Preseason Game 1
Thursday, August 10, 2017
Joe Calabro, GoLocalProv Sports Team
The New England Patriots open their 2017 preseason against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, August 10 at Gillette Stadium.
The two teams held joint practices all week leading up to Thursday's game.
"They obviously do some things differently than we do, so it's great for us to see different schemes, different players, different matchups. I thought it was very good for us," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick after practice.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski added,"obviously, it's always good to go versus each other as a team, but when you get a new opponent, when you get new looks, new defense, new players, it's always great. It's like more of a game feel and everything. It's very beneficial for myself and the whole team."
Kick off is set for 7:30 p.m.
What to Watch For
Thursday's game will allow for a first look at the ongoing position battles at running back and the battle for the third corner back spot in nickel packages.
The game will also allow for a glimpse at the developing chemistry between wide receiver Brandin Cooks and Tom Brady. Though it is unclear how much they will play.
The rookies, defensive line, and offensive line will also be in the spot light.
See What to Watch for in the Slideshow Below
With the signing of Stephon Gilmore and the return of Malcolm Butler, expectations are high for the Patriots secondary.
Throughout camp the secondary has been aggressive, playing a lot of bump and run coverage and frustrating the Patriots offense at times and confusing the Jaguars offense during joint practices.
"They do a lot of different things in coverage with their safeties, whether they’re sprinting their guys down or staying too high and doing different stuff. It’s been good going against different looks. It’s definitely different than what we see in Jacksonville," said Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles following Tuesday's practice.
There is still a position battle for the third corner back spot in nickle packages. Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones, Johnathan Jones and Justin Coleman are all in contention.
Defensive end Kony Ealy is off to a shaky start with the Patriots after coming over from Carolina in a trade.
To start, Ealy missed the first practice of the season and when asked about it the following day said "just something you have to ask coach Bill. Me and him have something going on or whatever. Other than that, I'm just excited to be back out there and ready to go."
In last Friday's (August 4) intrasquad scrimmage, Ealy got off to a good start, stopping Dion Lewis on a fourth and 1 and recording a pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo. In the second half of the scrimmage, he was dominated by rookie left tackle Tony Garcia.
Most recently, Ealy left practice on Tuesday, August 8 nursing an arm injury. He would return and participate in 11 on 11 drills with the second group.
Brady & Cooks
The chemistry between Tom Brady and new wide receiver Brandin Cooks has been building throughout training camp. Earlier this week, the two connected for three touchdowns during 11 on 11 drills.
The first score came on a 50-yard touchdown pass in which Cooks blew by Jaguars defender AJ Bouye and made the catch over the shoulder.
The second touchdown came when Brady found Cooks wide open in the back of the endzone from about 25 yards out. Brady actually overthrew him, but Cooks managed to make a leaping one handed catch.
The third touchdown of the day came on a fade down the sideline. The pass was right on point and Cooks made the catch despite good coverage from Jaguars defender Jalen Myrick.
While it is unknown how much Brady and Cooks will play on Thursday, look for their practice field chemistry to translate to the game.
Running Back Depth
The Patriots currently have a log jam at the running back position and it will interesting to watch where the snaps go on Thursday.
James White is already the proven commodity for the Patriots, while Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead both served in backup roles in Cincinnati and Buffalo respectively. Gillislee hasn't been practicing with the team, instead has been doing conditioning drills on the lower field.
He is listed third on the depth chart behind Brandon Bolden.
Dion Lewis will also have the chance to show how far he has come since his ACL injury over a year ago.
Can he return to his 2015 form? If not, his role could be reduced.
The Patriots 2017 top draft pick has seen a lot of work with the top group this week in practice.
Rivers has worked both as a stand up pass rusher and a coverage linebacker throughout camp, showing his ability to be versatile.
Rivers is currently listed second behind Trey Flowers on the Patriots depth chart, but if he can show the ability to be versatile, his play time could increase.