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Jaguars still trying to measure up

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars gained 396 yards of total offense in last Sunday’s win over the Miami Dolphins. For some that might be considered a slow day.

It would be for New England quarterback Tom Brady who accounted for 466 passing yards a week ago against Buffalo. The Jaguars get to see Brady up close and personal Sunday when they play at New England.

But for a Jaguars offense, it was their highest game production dating to the 2013 season. Their best effort a year ago was 377 yards in a loss to the same Dolphins.

Jacksonville’s offense got so bad the second half of the season that the Jaguars failed to get to the 300-yard mark in their final six games.

Credit Jags quarterback Blake Bortles for much of the reason that the team approached the 400-yard plateau. He passed for 273 yards, his highest total ever in a game at EverBank Field and the third highest total in his 16 NFL games thus far.

Only a 330-yard effort at Tennessee and a 290-yard performance against Dallas in London were better.

The question is, can Bortles be a consistent 250-300 yard passer or was this just a fluke effort. With an improved offensive line in front of him and a much-better set of receivers helping down field, it would appear to be the former.

Keep in mind that Bortles is still without tight end Julius Thomas, who returns in two or three weeks and is talented enough to raise the passing game to another level.

For now, however, Bortles must be content to throw to the ever-improving Allen Robinson as his go-to receiver.

Robinson made several acrobatic-type catches last week en route to a 155-yard receiving day, the first of likely many 100-yard a game in receptions that he’ll have.

It’s that type of effort that Jacksonville will need to produce this week in order to have any chance of pulling the monumental upset over the Patriots.

Unless New England overlooks the Jaguars or doesn’t have a full 100 percent focus on the game, the Patriots should win comfortably.

What it shouldn’t be is a 41-10 or 44-17 type score, results that the Jaguars had in two of their first four games a year ago.

Jacksonville lost its opening four games by an average of 23.5 points, then lost nine more times that season, only one of which was by more than 14 points (a 20-point loss at Indianapolis).

It was an indication that the Jaguars were making strides to respectability in league circles. Close losses were almost welcomed a year ago, after there were five losses by 20 points or more in 2013 to go along with five other double-digit setbacks that season.

That’s why the Jaguars took the 20-9 opening-day loss to Carolina so hard. They truly felt they had moved up the ladder of respect and could play on an even basis with the likes of teams such as Carolina and Miami.

The win over the Dolphins showed that line of thinking was accurate.

But New England offers a whole new test for the Jaguars. Jacksonville has not faced a defending Super Bowl champion in the last eight years.

Even after single-digit wins coming out of the blocks, the Patriots look like they’ve righted the ship, certainly so on offense where they’ve scored 68 points in two weeks.

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley knows the challenge that awaits his team this week.

“It’s an unbelievable challenge, and our players I think are looking forward to it,” Bradley said. “We know the challenges that we’re facing and we know when you have great challenges like this, you have an opportunity for great growth as a team. I think that’s the challenge for us as a team is to go in there and do what we do and do it to the best of our ability, and know that this challenge is exactly what we need.

“It’s an opponent and a coaching staff that we hold in high regard, yet this game, like I said, in our guys’ minds and our coaches’ minds it’s about what we do and our approach and how we go up there and take this challenge on. And our players are excited about it.”

–The Jaguars’ draft class of 2013 claimed took another hit when it was announced that running back Denard Robinson would miss several weeks because of an MCL sprain. The first three players drafted by the Jaguars in 2013 all missed last Sunday’s game with the Miami Dolphins due to injuries. They included offensive tackle Luke Joeckel (ankle), strong safety Johnathan Cyprien (calf) and cornerback Dwayne Gratz (ankle). Those three players went 1-2-3 respectively while the fourth pick, wide receiver Ace Sanders, was cut during the offseason.

–Rashad Greene’s promising rookie season as come to a temporary halt when the Jaguars placed the wide receiver from Florida State on the designated-to-return spot after Greene underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair ligament damage in his thumb. Each NFL team is allowed to use the designation once during the regular season. A player must sit out six weeks and will have a three-week practice window. Greene can return to practice Nov. 3 and can play, if healthy, on Nov. 19 against Tennessee. To take Greene’s spot on the roster until he returns, the Jaguars re-signed Bryan Walters, who had been cut last Saturday to make room for cornerback Peyton Thompson.

NOTES: Among those limited in practice Wednesday were running back Toby Gerhart, defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, tight end Julius Thomas and guard Brandon Linder (shoulder). Among those who did not practice were strong safety Johnathan Cyprien, cornerback Dwayne Gratz, defensive end Andre Branch and running back Denard Robinson.


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