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Patriots-Jaguars preview: “Blake Bortles is single-handedly holding this Jaguars team back”

The Jaguars will go as far as their quarterback takes them- and our Jaguars writers don’t think Bortles can take them anywhere.

The New England Patriots are hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars for the first preseason game of 2017. We spoke with Ryan Day of BigCatCountry.com to get the inside scoop ahead of Thursday’s game.

1. The Jaguars haven’t been at full strength during practice, but to temper our expectations a little bit, who are the key figures that probably won’t play on Thursday night and how will that affect the quality of that positional group?

I actually don't think any position group will be that hampered on Thursday night. As of Tuesday (which was the last joint practice open to the media) Allen Hurns and Calais Campbell were the only starters to miss and I suspect they wouldn't be pushed into the game. I'm actually more sad about Campbell not being here as opposed to Hurns. I've seen what Hurns can do. He's a solid No. 2 receiver. He'll be fine when the games actually matter. Campbell has missed a ton of training camp and he's the biggest addition on that defensive line since they drafted Yannick Ngakoue last year. But the team is at full strength other than that.

2. The Patriots defensive linemen have been receiving strong reviews coming from the joint practices. How are the Jacksonville offensive linemen regarded by the fans?

Not good, Bob. The offensive line is the weakest position group on the roster besides quarterback and they only made one change from last year -- rookie Cam Robinson at left tackle. Left guard Patrick Omameh is okay, but he's a journeyman at heart who should be good depth but was thrown in as a starter when Luke Joeckel went down with injury. Brandon Linder is near Pro Bowl quality at center. A.J. Cann had a bit of a down year last year and he's at right guard. And Jermey Parnell is a not-bad-but-not-good-either kind of player. He won't lose you games, but he's not dominant at right tackle. And the backups aren't that much worse than the starters. It's a whole lot of meh, to be honest.

3. Who is a lesser-known Jaguars defender that you think Patriots fans should watch for during Thursday’s game?

Is Myles Jack a lesser-known defender? We'll be watching him play for the first time at middle linebacker so I'd suggest following along with us. Other than that, maybe Yannick Ngakoue at defensive end. He's the team's best edge rusher and was a third-round rookie last year. Abry Jones is a hell of a nose tackle. Jarrod Wilson is competing for the backup strong safety spot and he's been fun to watch.

4. The Patriots always take these joint practices as an opportunity to scout some teams for potential mid-season trade options. Are there any Jaguars you think might be on the trade block, or any in their final year of a rookie deal that have fallen out of favor after starting earlier in their career?

If y'all could take one of Blake Bortles or T.J. Yeldon we'd really appreciate it, okay? I don't really see any players that we have that could fit into the Patriots system. I'd love to see us deal Allen Hurns for some help along the defensive line, but I'm wary of making deals with Bill Belichick because that dude has some black magic voodoo or something going on. He always, always wins trades.

5. Other than at quarterback, are there any positional groups that you believe are holding the Jaguars back from competing in the playoffs?

No. Blake Bortles is single-handedly holding this Jaguars team back. It's not a top-tier team by any means, but if we had Alex Smith under center, can you really tell me you wouldn't have the Jaguars as a favorite to win the AFC South? Maybe the offensive line. Maybe. But a better quarterback makes better, quicker decisions. I honestly think every other position group is either good enough or better to compete for the AFC South crown. It's Bortles who holds us back.