In a deck of 53 Jacksonville Jaguars cards, it can be easy to lose Corey Grant in the shuffle.
He isn’t Leonard Fournette. Nor is he T.J. Yeldon. But the New England Patriots know who Grant is.
It’d be hard not to after last January’s AFC title game, when the running back caught as many passes in the first half – three – for more yards – 59 – than he had all season.
“Not lost in our shuffle,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said of Grant during his press conference Friday. “He’s good.”
Eight months ago, Grant was good enough to have former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia yelling, “This guy’s not in there to run the ball. It’s going to be some sort of bull----.” He was good enough to have Patriots safety Devin McCourty pinging his peers with, “No. 30 is in the game at back.”
The element of surprise might not be what it was then. The Jaguars might not get out to a 14-3 lead, either. And New England’s linebackers, with a healthy Dont’a Hightower accompanied by Kyle Van Noy and rookie fifth-round pick Ja’Whaun Bentley, might be the reason Jacksonville doesn’t.
But similar NFL Films soundbites still could be captured when the two sides meet again for a 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff at TIAA Bank Field on Sunday.
Grant has the potential to be a 5-foot-11, 203-pound joker.
“They use him a lot of different ways,” added Belichick. “Very productive player in the kicking game, and they use him on a lot of their gadget-type plays – reverses and fake punts and so forth. He’s been very productive on those. And then offensively, he’s fast. He’s gotten out in space against us several times. Had a long run in preseason, had at least three catches against us in the [conference] championship game. So, he’s tough, he runs hard. He’s got good skills with the ball as a receiver, as a returner.”
Grant has appeared in 37 career games, including postseason, since going undrafted out of Auburn in 2015. He’s returned the ball 40 times. He’s carried it 71 times. He’s caught it 12 times.
Yet significant damage doesn’t always require significant volume.
Three of Grant’s kickoff opportunities have gone for 40-plus yards. So have three of his rushes. And two of his receptions, meanwhile, have eclipsed 20 yards.
Though in the Jaguars’ opener last Sunday against the New York Giants, the ball resided in Grant’s hands only once. The 26-year-old was in for just six of Jacksonville’s 63 offensive snaps in the 20-15 win, despite the hamstring injury to Fournette, who is shaping up to be a game-time decision versus New England after not participating in practice this week.
Fournette and Yeldon finished Week 1 having combined for 92 yards on the ground, 32 yards through the air with one touchdown. Grant finished with three yards.
But don’t let the sample size – lack thereof – fool you.
At least not again.
“He’s a guy we need to make sure we do a good job on,” said Belichick.