Jaguars - Patriots Game Plans

Jacksonville's pass defense is pretty good but they don't match up well with Tom Brady and the Patriots. New England has had trouble with teams that jam its receivers and mix up blitzes to put heat on Brady. On the other hand, Brady has dissected defenses that sit back and let him get comfortable in the pocket.

PATRIOTS:

Jacksonville doesn't blitz much and despite having a shutdown cornerback in Rashean Mathis, they play a lot of zone coverages. For a top-ranked defense, the Jaguars only have 31 sacks on the year, with almost all of them coming from their defensive line. Like the Vikings, Jacksonville has big defensive linemen that are hard to run against but its defense can be exploited when teams spread them out and throw the football.

Look for Brady to be in the shotgun a lot in this game and use short passes to move the ball, despite the Patriots lack of depth at receiver. If Jacksonville can't generate any pressure out of its front four, they'll be in trouble. Tight end Ben Watson didn't play last week against the Texans because of a knee injury. However, he had a big game versus the Jaguars last year in the playoffs and should do so again this Sunday if he's healthy.

Running backs that get most of their yards between the tackles don't have much success against the Jaguars defense, so expect Corey Dillon to find yards tough to come by in this game. Without much of a ground attack to fall back on, the Patriots will once again have to rely on Brady and hope their receivers can get open against a good Jacksonville defense. As long as the offensive line gives Brady time, New England will be able to move the ball through the air.

Player News:

--The Patriots lost another player on Tuesday, as punter Ken Walter was placed on injured reserve, ending his season. Walter was signed to replace Josh Miller last month, who was also lost for the season.
--The Patriots waived S Guss Scott and released practice squad DB Justin Phinisee. These transactions could mean that Rodney Harrison is close to returning this week.
--The Patriots announced the signing of defensive back James Patrick and punter Tom Malone to their practice squad on Wednesday. Patrick begins his second stint on the practice squad, while the 22-year-old Malone was originally signed as a rookie free agent by the 49ers.
--NT Vince Wilfork and TE Benjamin Watson were the lone players not present for the media-access portion of Wednesday's practice. Wilfork (ankle) and Watson (knee) missed last week's game and are both questionable for Sunday.
--WR Bam Childress wore a black jersey on Wednesday, meaning he was awarded the team's practice player of the week honors.
--RBs Laurence Maroney (back) and Kevin Faulk (knee) are both listed as questionable for Sunday's game. Maroney has missed the Patriots' last two games, while Faulk was injured late in last week's victory over the Texans.
--S Rodney Harrison has been upgraded to questionable (shoulder) this week. Harrison has been out for almost two months now and was doubtful last week. This is a good sign that the safety is could be back for one of the Patriots remaining two regular season games.

GAME PLAN: Much like Minnesota's defense, the Jaguars have a big, physical front that's hard to run on. Against the Vikings, Tom Brady and the offense countered that problem by using multiple receiver sets and throwing the football. That would be a good game plan this week as well. The Patriots shouldn't abandon the ground game all together but trying to run the ball 30-40 times on the Jaguars defense is like beating your head against a brick wall. The Patriots may be short on receivers but still look for them to spread the defense out and exploit Jacksonville's secondary. Quick, short passes will not only help offset the Jaguars pass rush, but it will also limit the effectiveness of their big defensive tackles inside.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Patriots LB Tedy Bruschi vs. Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew -- The Patriots' inside linebackers have had trouble in coverage this year and they won't get a break this week. Jones-Drew could be the quickest player they have faced all season. The Jaguars like to throw the ball to Jones-Drew coming out of the backfield and he's provided some big plays in the passing game. He'll be a very difficult matchup for the Patriots linebackers.
--Patriots G Logan Mankins vs. Jaguars DT John Henderson -- This game will be decided in the trenches on both sides of the ball. One of the best matchups will be between Mankins and Henderson. The Patriots offensive line has been inconsistent this year, although Mankins has been solid. Henderson has been a beast in the middle for the Jaguars defense. He's a big reason why Jacksonville has one of the NFL's best rush defenses. The Patriots need to control Henderson and Marcus Stroud, but it won't be easy.

INJURY IMPACT: The Patriots are beat up at the running back position. Patrick Pass was placed on injured reserve, Laurence Maroney has torn cartilage in his ribs and now Kevin Faulk is hurting. Faulk was seen limping around the Patriots locker room after their 40-7 win over Houston. The extent of his injury isn't known yet but his loss would be huge. Maroney has missed the last two games and his status isn't certain for this week's game either. If Maroney and Faulk are both out this Sunday, it would leave the Patriots with only Corey Dillon and Heath Evans at running back. Dillon carried the ball 20 times last week but only managed 61 yards against a weak Texans run defense. Maroney and Faulk are also key contributors in the passing game. New England needs one of them on the field against Jacksonville or its offense will be severely hindered, especially if tight end Ben Watson misses his second straight game as well.

JAGUARS:

The Jaguars signed running back DeAndra Cobb to the practice squad. He was originally selected by the Falcons in the sixth round of the 2005 draft from Michigan State.

Player News:

--RB Fred Taylor is Out with a sore hamstring and didn't practice Wednesday. He will not be able to play.
--RB LaBrandon Toefield, who has played in only three games this year, will be active for this one because Fred Taylor is ailing and could play a key role.
--RB Maurice Drew is probable with a knee injury and practiced Wednesday. But the Jaguars may want to spell him at times.
--DT Marcus Stroud is probable with an ankle injury. He didn't practice Wednesday, but he usually rests his tender ankle once or twice a week.
--DT Tony McDaniel is questionable with a hip injury and didn't practice Wednesday.

GAME PLAN: The key to this game will be the Jaguars' ability to run the ball against the Patriots' run defense -- which is ranked fourth in the league; especially since Fred Taylor is nursing a sore hamstring and may not play. If the Jaguars can't run, they'll have to put the ball in the hands of quarterback David Garrard, who had two interceptions and a fumble run back for touchdowns in Tennessee. The Patriots would like to try to force Garrard beat them with the pass.

KEY MATCHUPS: Jaguars LT Khalif Barnes vs. Patriots' DRE Richard Seymour -- Although Seymour made the Pro Bowl as a tackle, he lines up as an end in their 3-4 and his duel with Barnes figures to be a good one. Barnes is only in his second year but has developed into a tenacious blocker who'll give Seymour a battle.

--Jaguars RT Mo Williams vs. Patriots LE Ty Warren -- In the playoff game against the Patriots last year, Williams was playing with a neck injury and gave up 4.5 sacks to Willie McGinest. Williams is healthy and is playing much better this year and figures to neutralize Warren.

INJURY IMPACT: The Jaguars' major injury concerns are at the running back spot. Fred Taylor has a hamstring injury, is out and will not play. While Maurice Drew will start in his place, he's probable with a knee injury. LaBrandon Toefield will likely share duties with Drew and see a lot of action. The Jaguars will need to get the most out of this unjured unit as they face a Patriots defense ranked 4th in the league.


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