JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- On Wednesday, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone addressed the media ahead of the team's first practice of Week 2. Jacksonville is preparing for it's AFC title rematch against the New England Patriots.
During the press conference, Marrone addressed several topics, including running back Leonard Fournette's injury status, the Patriots' offense and more.
Here are five takeaways from Marrone's Wednesday press conference:
1. Marrone would be comfortable playing Fournette even if the running back doesn't practice this week.
“He has done a good job. He’s worked really hard. I do feel comfortable with him [playing without practice], probably more of someone I have not been around – if it was a rookie maybe, depending on their situation or position, things of that nature. I might not be as comfortable and they would probably have to show me something.”
Kaye's Take: Marrone has faith in Fournette's ability to handle injuries and a lack of practice reps. The head coach has been around the running back for over a year and understands his mindset and work ethic. The Jaguars know Fournette is the key to their offense and his availability is important. His game status will probably come down to the wire but the Jaguars aren't concerned about him missing practice due to his hamstring injury, which has been classified as minor in nature.
2. Marrone doesn't believe in using injuries as "smokescreens."
“No, I’m not trying to do that. They’re going to prepare and I’m more focused on how we have to prepare than trying to throw up smokescreens or anything. I don’t … If guys are ready to play, they play. We get them out there. It’s more of a focus on us. I think when you start playing those games and things like that, you’re wasting energy, wasting time."
Kaye's Take: Marrone doesn't believe in playing mind games, unlike New England head coach Bill Belichick. Fournette's injury status is something that will be monitored closely by both teams and Marrone is simply keeping it real. He is more focused on his player's physical health as opposed to his opponent's mental health when it comes to game planning. If Fournette is healthy enough to play then he will play.
3. Marrone doesn't believe there's a cut-and-dry way to cover Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
"I don’t think it’s one of those things. I’ve seen him a lot obviously. I have had a lot of experience with this team, both when I was coaching at the Jets and then in Buffalo and last year. I don’t know if it’s a thing where you can take somebody out. I think it’s something that you try to limit and make sure they don’t hurt you. He’s a player that can obviously hurt you. He can make a lot of plays. I don’t think there’s a steadfast way to be able to shut him down. I think over the story of time you have seen a lot of different things and a lot of people try a lot of things. He’s still making great plays and doing well. It’ll be a challenge."
Kaye's Take: The Jaguars were able to shut Gronkowski down during the first half of the AFC title game before he left with a concussion in the second quarter. Jacksonville's defense played a lot of man coverage to manage Gronkowksi and it worked. Still, it was a small sample size and Gronkowski has been a closer for New England for several years. There isn't a team that hasn't struggled against a Gronkowski, so the Jaguars will have to plan accordingly. The Jaguars did a good job of rotating the 11th player on defense based on matchups against the Giants. Look for them to use a similar approach against Gronkowski.
4. The Jaguars plan to rest center Brandon Linder throughout the season until he recovered from his knee injury.
“It was the plan going in. [Linder missing practice] will be something that you will see every week, unless it becomes worse.”
Kaye's Take: The Jaguars are being cautious with one of their three offensive captains. Linder has been dealing with a knee injury since the second week of the preseason but had a strong game against the Giants in Week 1. The Jaguars want to limit the wear and tear on Linder's knee during the week so that he can be as healthy as possible when it matters the most. Teams throughout the league use "veteran days off" for injured or aging players, so this isn't an uncommon strategy.
5. Marrone is open to featuring running back Corey Grant more on offense in the future.
“I think if we knew that early in the week [we'd be without Fournette], during the course of the game I think that’s a little bit different scenario for us. At the end of the day, looking back we should have gotten him in there a little bit more. We talked about that as a staff. I don’t think it would have been much more.”
Kaye's Take: Despite losing Fournette in the second quarter, the Jaguars only allowed Grant to play six snaps on offense in Week 1 against the Giants. The Jaguars were lacking a home-run threat in the second half of the season opener and Grant could have been that guy. The Jaguars clearly realize they need to take advantage of Grant's speed moving forward. The perfect opportunity will be to unleash him against the Patriots, as he produced three receptions for 39 yards in the first half against New England in the AFC title game.
The Jaguars will host the New England Patriots at TIAA Bank Field at 4:25 p.m. on Sunday.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter: @Mike_E_Kaye.