JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Perhaps no coach will ever be as proficient at pumping up the upcoming opponent than former Georgia Head Coach Vince Dooley.
"Western Kentucky has a very good long snapper," Dooley once said, looking at the strengths of the Hilltoppers, the next team on the ‘Dogs schedule.
And while no coach will ever top that assessment, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wasted no time pointing out how good the Jaguars are in his conference call Wednesday with the Jacksonville media.
Offensively, Belichick said the Jaguars can be as good as they want to be.
"They have a very good mix, balance offensively, like they did last week against Miami with the running game and the passing game, getting the ball down the field, moving the pocket, staying in the pocket, play action, drop back, deep balls, like I said, catch-and-run plays. So, there really is a lot we have to defend. They do a good job."
At their best, the Jaguars offense is all that. What was impressive is how the Patriots head coach was already clued into even the smallest nuance the Jaguars might bring to the table.
He immediately noted that Jared Odrick, somebody he'd seen in the division with the Dolphins in the past, is now playing on the outside as well as the interior of the defensive line.
"He's a great player, and we had a lot of problems with him in Miami. I was glad to see him leave the division," Belichick recalled. "We only have him once a year now instead of twice this year. He's very disruptive, and he's given us a lot of problems through the years."
While his ability to analyze the opponent is legendary, Belichick's recognition of where the Jaguars strengths are was apparent. He's clearly impressed with Telvin Smith.
"This guy can run sideline to sideline, makes plays all over the field. Nobody is going to really outrun him. He, along with [Paul] Posluszny in their nickel defense gives them a lot of speed. They play a lot of zone defense, obviously, but they can break on the ball and close down that space in a hurry, along with [Aaron] Colvin when he's in there as one of the inside players, so those guys all play good." Notice that Colvin left the game against the Dolphins and Belichick said, "When he's in there."
But when asked to assess the Jaguars improvement through the years, he summed it up like this:
"I'd say first of all just overall this team has really improved over the course of last year and then from ‘14 to ‘15, you can see it in preseason. Against Detroit, the first half of that game was a lot of the frontline players on both teams into the third quarter … I thought that they moved the ball very effectively. (Blake) Bortles creates a lot of problems for you. I thought last week against Miami was another good example of the overall effectiveness of the offense, decision-making, no sacks, no turnovers. He's able to make plays with his feet. He's able to make plays in critical situations – third down, two minute – and then he's able to make plays when he has a chance to get the ball down the field, which we saw a couple of those last week with [Allen] Robinson."
Pretty honest and pretty spot on.
And don't think anything this week will sneak up on the Patriots. Although the two teams haven't played since 2012, Belichick knows the young players on the Jaguars roster having looked at them as draft prospects in the last couple of years.
Those players, we did a lot of work on in the last couple years coming out and it's a very talented group. I think Lee has the ability, as does Robinson and [Allen] Hurns for that matter, have the ability to affect all three areas of the field. They can go deep, they're good intermediate players and they're dangerous on catch-and-run plays. They're hard to tackle, and Lee is particularly elusive. He's had some very explosive plays in college, and he's hard guy to tackle and get on the ground. [Bryan] Walters has played well for them."
So it was funny to hear another coach talk about how good the Jaguars can be, simply because we've seen them at their best, and at their worst in the course of just two weeks.
Maybe Gus Bradley should have his team read what Belichick thinks of them. Maybe it would build their confidence. Maybe Gus' "Race to Maturity" would get a boost. Maybe they'd believe it.