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PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK

Trent Brown’s role in Patriots’ running game success has been hard to miss

Massive right tackle Trent Brown (left) tends to discourage defenders from messing with Patriots running back like J.J. Taylor.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Rhamondre Stevenson was the guy with the ball, and all the Jaguars wanted a piece of him. Trent Brown was the guy leading the way, however, and nobody wanted a piece of him.

New England’s gargantuan right tackle was rumbling around the edge, leading a convoy of blockers ahead of Stevenson on the opening drive of Sunday’s win, when a jamboree of Jaguars went into scatter mode.

The sight of the 6-foot-8-inch, 380-pound Brown out in space and coming at defenders can be terrifying for tiny (comparatively speaking) defensive backs trying to get to the ball. Jacksonville cornerback Chris Claybrooks, who is slightly undermatched at 5-9, 180 pounds, literally did a 180 when he saw Brown bearing down.

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As Patriots safety Devin McCourty succinctly put it, “It’s just a bad matchup.”

Previously, defenders would try to eliminate the big guys by cut-blocking them. Now, however, a new rule put in this year prevents that tactic outside the tackle box. Defenders have to take on the mobile monsters head-on.

“For years, the crack toss play was a big deal in the secondary because you usually get the tight end or the receivers that block down and you get that tackle pull,” said McCourty. “We used to know, if we see it and we can go attack that tackle and cut them before he turns the corner, we feel like we can turn the ball back in and create a stop.”

Claybrooks never got a sniff of Stevenson, who picked up 15 yards, as Brown gave him a subtle shove out of bounds.

“I watch those plays all the time where Trent’s pulling and you’re trying to avoid, but he gets a hand or two fingers on you and he pushes you 4 yards outside the play,” said McCourty.

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Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said the rule change “has been an interesting thing for us to see on a week-to-week basis in terms of how those defenders are playing those things.”

The change — and Brown’s athleticism and quickness — opens up a range of new plays McDaniels can incorporate into the offense.

“Trent can move pretty well, obviously, for his size, and when he gets out there, it’s not easy for somebody to get around him or to ‘play block,’ you know, because normally he outweighs them by about, I’d say, two times their size in most cases,” McDaniels said Tuesday.

“So, the other day we got him out there on a few things on the edge and then the backs love being able to try and set up the block and cut off of him, and he does a good job of trying to cover his guy up.”

McDaniels has called a couple of pitches the last month-plus, and the Patriots have rushed for more than 130 yards in five of their last seven games. Brown, who has settled back in at right tackle after shaking off a lingering calf injury suffered in the season opener, has been an integral part of the success.

“Trent does a really good job of that,” said Bill Belichick. “He runs well. Obviously, long, tall, and covers a lot of ground. A couple of strides and he eats a lot of ground. He did a nice job of getting out there on those tosses.

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“Certainly, it’s been good to have him back. It’s changed a lot of things, offensively, for the better. He’s been a really, really solid player for us in the running game and the passing game, keeping the width of the pocket and, overall, giving the quarterback more space to throw in there. It’s good to have him back, for sure.”

Locking them up

The Patriots used practice squad player protections on receiver Kristian Wilkerson, defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale, tight end Matt LaCosse, and safety Sean Davis. It’s the first time they have used the designations, introduced in 2020 as a roster-flexibility measure during the pandemic, and it means those four cannot be poached by other teams this week … The Patriots did not add any players to the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday … The blowout win over the Jaguars afforded the coaching staff the opportunity to rotate bodies along the offensive line, with Mike Onwenu spelling Ted Karras at left guard at times, and Karras later stepping in at center for David Andrews. Yasir Durant, who missed the last two games on the reserve/COVID-19 list, played some right guard in the final possessions. This helps build versatility, depth, and experience … The Patriots will practice in the bubble Wednesday, with the heat cranked up to help simulate the conditions in South Florida ahead of Sunday’s regular-season finale. Per COVID protocols, the session will be closed to reporters.


Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.