Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone is looking forward to shaking things up this week in New England.
Competing against the Patriots in two joint practices and the team's first preseason game, Marrone wants to see his players take on new opponents.
The head coach will see his squad's talent and toughness tested by the defending Super Bowl champions.
“I think it’s important during this time of year it helps, it breaks up the monotony of camp when you’re competing against the same players or people on your same team," Marrone said. "Now you’ve got to go out and compete against different players and different schemes. Sometimes those schemes can show different skillsets in players or what we ask them to do that we might have been not able to simulate as well in this practice."
Marrone has been working with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick to fine-tune the program for the joint practices, which will take place on Monday and Tuesday. The two coaches are very familiar with each other, as they battled in the AFC East while Marrone served as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2013-14.
Both are hoping to make their respective squads better with added competition before the two square off in the preseason opener.
"There are a lot back and forth once the schedule is done," Marrone said. "I think we’re both just trying to get a lot of work against each other. You get double the work. You can do some other things, meaning when you only have one team out there our coaches can do a good job working on the sideline coaching players on the past drill or the next drill. Things that people don’t really pay attention to, but you kind of miss."
Marrone plans to study roster battles a little bit closer during the joint practices. The work will allow for more analysis than the practices just outside of EverBank Field.
"It’s an opportunity to get a grade evaluation, it’s an opportunity to go against the best team to see where you are, and go out there and get better and be ready for our game on Thursday night," Marrone said. "I think there are a lot of pluses. I think you can save some players because you don’t have scout team players out there. There’s a lot of positives. I really don’t see any negatives in practicing against some other teams.”
Jones focused on business, not Brady
It is easy to get star-struck by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The 40-year-old began his historic career when a good chunk of the Jaguars roster was in elementary school.
For example, Brady won his first Super Bowl two weeks after first-round pick Leonard Fournette's seventh birthday. He has since collected four more rings.
However, Jaguars starting nose tackle Abry Jones said Sunday that he won't be fascinated on the field by the former two-time NFL Most Valuable Player.
For Jones, this is a business trip, not a potential autograph signing or an opportunity to take a selfie with a star.
“I don’t know if I’m going to get star-struck, I’m going to notice him, it’s hard not to notice him,” Jones said. “But other than that, I’m not going to be star-struck. We’re up there on business, as great of a football player as he is, it comes down to business."
Jones has played against Brady before. In 2015, Jones broke up a pass thrown by the Patriots quarterback in a blowout loss on the road. He is looking forward to the first preseason game and he hopes to handle his business on the field against the five-time Super Bowl winner.
"If [Brady] gets in the way of my business [in a game], he’s going to get hit," Jones said.
The Georgia alum will have to get through one of his former college teammates to get to Brady. In fact, his matchup with an old friend is what Jones is most looking forward to in New England.
“Mostly going against [Patriots guard] Dave Andrews,” Jones said, regarding the most appealing part of the joint practices. “We went to school together, so maybe it’ll feel like old times at [University of Georgia] camp. That should be a lot of fun.”
Andrews and Jones were teammates for two seasons with the Bulldogs.
Both entered the league as undrafted free agents. Jones was signed by the Jaguars in 2013, while Andrews was picked up by the Patriots in 2015.
Gaffney reflects on his time with the Patriots
Just one week into his Jaguars tenure, running back Tyler Gaffney will return to a very familiar practice field.
Gaffney spent three years in New England, but never appeared in a game. He was waived by the Patriots in March.
He will now look to earn a job in Jacksonville by standing out in New England. Obviously, with only a week's worth of study time, Gaffney will need to adjust quickly.
“I think if you’re coming from anywhere, it’s an adjustment,” Gaffney said. “It’s an entirely new coaching staff, you’re in an entirely different place, but at the end of the day, if you have plan and you execute it and work hard, that’s what it’s all about.”
Gaffney said the coaching staffs are different in New England and Jacksonville. He believes each staff has its own philosophy.
“Everybody does their way,” Gaffney said. “These are different coaches, they’re different coaches, but there’s no secret recipe. It’s hard work and I think we’re doing a good job of that every single day.”
Gaffney has spent most of his career watching Belichick and Brady work their magic and win two Super Bowls in three years. He said their success is due to the duo's way of thinking.
“'Do your job,' that’s what they preach around there,” Gaffney said. “I think those two guy optimize that. Bill and Tom have both had their success, it’s no mistake that that’s why.”
Gaffney isn't focused on his past with the Patriots and is hoping to find a future with the Jaguars or another NFL squad. The 26-year-old has the opportunity to impress his current team and other franchises over the next few weeks.
"I’m just trying to learn the plays, work hard,” Gaffney said. “It’s a grind. There’s a lot of great talent here and there’s going to be talent anywhere you go, so it’s just a matter of doing things right and letting the chips fall where they go.”
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.