After playing two of their biggest games of the season, the Patriots are going to have to reach deep to find a way to get up for one of the worst teams they will face on the season — the 2-12 Jaguars — on Sunday in Jacksonville.
The Jaguars, who have lost 10 of their last 11 games, including a 24-3 road defeat to the Dolphins on Sunday, are 31st in the league in points scored (15.6 points per game), 29th in points allowed (27.3).
A lot of the Jaguars problems have to do with injuries, where they could be without standout running Maurice Jones-Drew for the ninth straight game with a foot injury. Despite last playing on Oct. 21 against the Raiders, Jones-Drew still leads the team with 414 yards rushing.
The Jaguars, after nine moves Tuesday, have made 88 roster moves this season. Of the 52 players on the roster, 11 weren’t with the team on opening day and six were on the practice squad at some point.
That’s not to say the Jaguars don’t have some talented players. The Patriots, if anything, will be able to gear up for some individual battles against receivers Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon, tight end Marcedes Lewis, fullback Greg Jones, left tackle Eugene Monroe, right end Jason Babin, middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, safety Dwight Lowery, and punter Bryan Anger.
A look at the Jaguars:
Coordinator Bob Bratkowski, who runs coach Mike Mularkey’s scheme, is using his second starting quarterback on the season (Chad Henne after Blaine Gabbert was placed on injured reserve) and fourth starting running back (Montell Owens). The Jaguars are last in average time of possession, and convert 28.6 percent of their third downs. Shorts leads the team with 925 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, while Blackmon, the first-round pick, leads with 51 receptions, including 25 in the past five games. Jordan Shipley is the slot receiver, and Lewis is a good player at tight end. The offensive line has been a disaster (42 sacks allowed) outside of Monroe, who is a standout. Former second-round pick Eben Britton has been benched at left guard for rookie Austin Pasztor. Right tackle Cameron Bradfield and right guard Uche Nwaneri are banged up and struggling. Henne, after throwing for 354 yards against the Texans, has one touchdown and three interceptions in his past three games and has been sacked 15 times in the last four.
Mel Tucker runs a unit that will not be without four down linemen at any time. Babin, who was claimed off waivers from the Eagles, is the best pass rusher (one sack each of the past two games) and will line up wide of the left tackle. Left end Jeremy Mincey will kick inside to tackle on passing downs and use John Chick at the end opposite Babin. Austen Lane is also in the rotation at end. Posluszny, the former Bill, has missed one snap this season (207 tackles) next to outside linebacker Russell Allen and Julian Stanford, who will come off in subpackages. In the secondary, rookie Mike Harris has been starting in place of veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis, who will come in on nickel and play outside with Harris in the slot. The Jaguars will play some dime with three safeties and three cornerbacks.
The Jaguars really struggle on kick returns. Anger, the third-round pick, has been terrific with a 47.5 average (42.2 net) and 28 of his 81 punts inside the 20-yard line. Veteran kicker Josh Scobee has connected on 22 of 24 field goals. Returner Quan Cosby was released Tuesday, and that could leave reserve running back Richard Murphy returning kickoffs and Shipley returning punts.Greg A. Bedard can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregabedard.