Patriots

Patriots will prepare for Jones-Drew's possible return

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Patriots will prepare for Jones-Drew's possible return

If Maurice Jones-Drew plays this Sunday it will be his first football action since October 21.

The Jaguars running back injured his foot in that game against the Raiders. Though it was feared he could miss the rest of the season, head coach Mike Mularkey never put Jones-Drew on IR, saying in November, "We still think he has a chance to come back for a few games."

There are two games left to tack onto Jacksonville's forgettable 2-12 season. The first of those is against New England.

Though this is the first week MJD hasn't been ruled out immediately, it's hard to imagine Mularkey will put him on the field and risk any kind of setback.

The Patriots will prepare for him, anyway.

"Obviously, he's a phenomenal back for them and he's really been a workhorse for that offense," said defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. "He's a player that is very explosive and dynamic. We're talking about a guy that's extremely hard to tackle; extremely hard to make sure he's down. I know there's a lot of times where it looks like you've got him wrapped up, you've got him contained, where he's down on the ground and he's really not -- he's still driving his legs and he's still breaking tackles and squeaks through and turns a nothing play into a big play.

"I think it's really important for us to have a high awareness for a player like that when he's in the game. Obviously, tackling is critical in the essence that sometimes, behind those offensive lineman, he gets a little bit lost in there and you have to try to find him when he's hitting those holes at 100 miles an hour and trying to get through really fast."

Jones-Drew's 414 rushing yards (86 attempts) still leads the Jaguars despite his eight-week absence. It won't surprise you, then, to know Jacksonville is ranked 30th in the NFL in ground yards per game (82.4) and is dead last in attempts per game (22.3).

For perspective, last season this team was No. 4 in the NFL in rushing attempts and No. 12 in yards per game.

But Patricia played nice.

"Really, in all respects they've done a great job with the backs they've been able to put in there, certainly with Rashad Jennings and Montell Owens, in just keeping it rolling as far as running the football and keeping the offense moving with the rushing game."

Inconsistent Bruins hope to settle in at home

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Inconsistent Bruins hope to settle in at home

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins' actual 2-3-0 won-loss record isn’t particularly terrible, especially when you consider they were without Patrice Bergeron and David Backes.

But they've been wildly inconsistent within those first five games, playing a couple of very good games against the Predators and Coyotes while suffering three ugly, non-competitive losses to Colorado and Vegas. The Bruins are 20th in goals scored (2.8 goals per game) and 22nd in goals allowed (3.6), and their special teams have been average at best in a soft part of the schedule that should have allowed them to get off to a good start.

The Bruins have looked sloppy much of the time with chaotic breakouts, far too many breakdowns in defensive coverage, and goaltending has been average at best.

As a result they're scuffling in the Atlantic Division as the Lightning and Maple Leafs have sprinted out to strong starts. Clearly it’s still early -- nearly the entire season is in front of them -- but there’s also no illusion about the need for a quick turnaround in what’s going to be a competitive division.

That's why the next four games, all at TD Garden, are so important.

“We’ve been inconsistent in our game. We’ve been good and we’ve been not good, so hopefully being home will allow us to get back into form,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “We knew going in with a youth movement that we’d had some ups and downs. We’ve had both. We’ve had some really strong games and we’ve had some other games where there’s a learning curve.

“As good as [our] prospects are, it falls on the core group to be solid and consistent every night. Then you lose a bit of your core group [to injuries] and you need your support players that aren’t your core group -- but aren’t kids, either -- to contribute. So we’re battling through all of that, and it’s up to us to put in a game plan that gets us through it. We haven’t achieved the level we’d like. We aren’t hiding behind that. We’d like to be better than we are right now, and we’re facing it head on every day.”

Clearly there are plenty of players in the “support player” category referenced by Cassidy who haven’t performed to date, and that also explains some of the Bruins consistency issues. Matt Beleskey, Ryan Spooner, Frank Vatrano and Riley Nash have a combined two assists and a combined minus-5 rating through those first five games, and are among the players that need to step up and perform if the Bruins are going to start achieving the consistency that Cassidy is actively seeking right now.