Patriots

Patriots

Bill Belichick likes to whip out a load of stats and trends when an unfamiliar opponent is on the horizon.

Without exception, those numbers will be designed to send a shiver down the spine of his team.

This week, it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars coming to town and – as luck would have it – Belichick was provided with a lot of useful data on Sunday.

Against the Dolphins, the Jags’ second-year quarterback, Blake Bortles, threw for 273 yards – third-highest for his career, threw multiple touchdowns (2) without an interception for the first time in his 16-game career and had a 102.2 quarterback rating, the highest of his career.

In other words, Bortles’ arrow is pointing up.

Now, the stuff Belichick probably won’t mention. In 16 games, Bortles has completed more than 60 percent of his passes just five times. He’s in the midst of a nine-game streak of under-60 percent completions. He took 55 sacks in 2014 – the league high.

That a young quarterback has a low completion percentage and high sack total isn’t earthshaking news or hard evidence he’ll never amount to anything. But it does give a snapshot of where Bortles is coming from in 2014. He was still processing exactly what he was looking at so the inability to get it out quick wound up putting him under duress.

With a new offensive coordinator this season, Greg Olson – who was with the Raiders last season – the emphasis is on taking advantage of Bortles 6-5 size and athleticism. He is mobile and can run, but he does a better job – generally – of keeping his eyes downfield and looking to throw instead of getting squirrelly.

Olson was asked Wednesday what the Patriots did defensively to his rookie quarterback in Oakland, Derek Carr, when the teams met last season.

“They really didn’t (blitz much),” said Olson. “They might. We’re preparing for everything. That’s not their style of defense when you look at it. They’re not exotic, blitzing-style of defense. They’re very sound in what they do. They’re very well-coached. They play the defense very well and they’ve done it for a long time. Blake has done some things as a second-year player, I’m sure they’ll bring some things that he hasn’t seen. That’s what we’ll try and continually prime and prepare these guys for unscripted pressures that they might not have seen yet.”

Bortles recognizes he’s going against a very stiff test and an established group.

“They obviously have some good players, have been a really good team and organization for a long time, but they do a lot of different things,” said Bortles. “I think they try and take away what you do well and they do a good job of that so I think that poses a challenge. We’re going to have to play sound, execute our game plan and it’s going to be a good week of preparation.”

He said he won’t be cowed by going against a team with the tradition of the Patriots.

“We’re going to face this game the same way we did Carolina and Miami,” he insisted. “We get an opportunity to go play again, it just so happens to be playing the world champions at their place so it’s awesome. I think it’s a cool opportunity. Guys are going to be excited about it but we’re going to go through this week and prepare and plan and take it on just like every other week.”

That said, he did acknowledge that it’s a noteworthy game for him.

“I think any time you get an opportunity in 20 years to say we played the New England Patriots the year after they won the Super Bowl, that’s something you’ll remember for sure,” he admitted. “Like I said, it’s about us, how we go about our business and obviously we want to get to know their personnel and everything. It’s more about knowing our game plan and how we can execute it.”

One thing working in Bortles’ favor is a solid mental makeup, said Olson.

“I think he’s a very resilient player,” said the offensive coordinator. “I think he’s been that way since I met him. I know that Gus and the rest of the staff that has been with him has felt that way about him. He’s very steady and mentally tough and resilient. I think he showed that.

“It’s so difficult to make the transition from the college game to the professional level for any quarterback,” Olson added. It’s a learning process just coming in as a rookie and then certainly learn a new offense. For Blake, he’s now learned three offenses in three seasons. It’s a tribute to him really for what he’s done to prepare for this season and learning a new offense and to continually try to get better each and every day. Every year you’re in the league, you mature. I think he’s become a more mature player, but I think it’s his work ethic that has allowed him to get better.”

Bortles aced last Sunday’s test against Miami. The questions are probably going to get a little harder this week.