It’s been so long since the New England Patriots played the Jacksonville Jaguars that Jacksonville actually had a winning record and beat New England during the matchup. That’s right, the last time these two teams played, Jacksonville came away with a 31-20 victory over the eventual Super Bowl Champions.
Since that game these teams have experienced a differing level of success. Jacksonville has a 12-49 record since September of 2018 and has experienced multiple complete overhaulings of their franchise. New England has had to replace the majority of their organization —more on that soon—, but just can’t seem to stop experiencing success in the years since last matching up with Jacksonville. A 38-23 record and Super Bowl ring later, the Patriots are still what teams like the Jaguars aspire to be.
Now about those changes...
The following 15 players from the last meeting with Jacksonville return to the Patriots’ active roster:
OT Trent Brown, G Shaq Mason, C David Andrews, DT Lawrence Guy, LB Dont’a Hightower, LB Kyle Van Noy, S Devin McCourty, ST Matthew Slater, CB J.C. Jackson, ST Brandon King, LS Joe Cardona, DL Deatrich Wise Jr., LB Ja’Whaun Bentley, QB Brian Hoyer, IOL Ted Karras
Offense: Believe it or not, 60% of the Patriots offensive line is returning to their roster from their last matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The rest of the offense looks quite different.
Mac Jones has taken the reigns at quarterback for New England, the spot that Tom Brady held down for 19 of the last 20 meetings between these two teams. Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, James White, and Sony Michel have been replaced by the likes of Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, and Damien Harris over the course of the past three offseasons. The lone starting offensive lineman that wasn’t around for that October matchup is Isaiah Wynn, who spent the entirety of his rookie seasons on injured reserve. Rotational offensive lineman Michael Onwenu is another contributor that was not around for that last matchup. Finally, Corey Coleman was on the Patriots roster back then... weird.
Defense: It’s starting to become a theme in these articles that Lawrence Guy, Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Devin McCourty headline a short list of returning players to New England’s defense.
Following an uncharacteristically bad 2020 season from the Patriots defense, we’ve seen even more changes than the ones that had been made in the prior two offseasons. Since September of 2018, key contributors like Matthew Judon, Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Davon Godchaux, Ja’Whaun Bentley, and Christian Barmore have all carved out large roles for themselves, while the likes of J.C. Jackson and Deatrich Wiser Jr. have come into their own as key pieces to the defense.
Special Teams: Things look a tad different for New England’s special teams unit, as Joe Cardona is the only remaining member of the 2018 championship battery. Former punter Ryan Allen was beaten out by Jake Bailey for the Patriots’ punting duties prior to the 2019 season, while Nick Folk eventually stabilized the kicking position for New England following the departure of all-time points leader Stephen Gostkowski.
Coaching staff: The Patriots coaching staff has undergone some major changes since being pantsed by Jacksonville in 2018. Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Ivan Fears, and Steve Belichick all return, while Carmen Bricillo has taken over for legendary offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. Demarcus Covington has replaced Brendan Daly as defensive line coach. Mick Lombardi is now the full time wide receivers coach, taking over for Chad O’Shea, and current New York Giants head coach Joe Judge was replaced by Cameron Achord as special teams coach.
The following 11 players from the last meeting return to the Jaguars’ active roster:
DT Taven Bryan, DB Tre Herndon, WR Jaydon Mickens, OT Cam Robinson, DL Dawuan Smoot, TE James O’Shaughnessy, IOL Tyler Shatley, LB Myles Jack, LB Lerentee McCray, IOL Brandon Linder, IOL Andrew Norwell
Offense: Much like New England, the Jaguars will return 60% of their offensive line to this matchup. Cam Robinson, Andrew Norwell, and Brandon Linder will make up the left side of number one overall pick Trevor Lawrence’s protection. Joining them will be a collection of young talent that has been put together over the past few seasons. With injuries and COVID-19 making a daily impact, it’s tough to nail down exactly who Lawrence could be throwing to.
Defense: Myles Jack is still the emotional and physical leader of the Jacksonville defense everything around him has changed. Gone are the likes of Jalen Ramsey, Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye, Yannick Ngakoue, and Telvin Smith. The Jaguars deploy Josh Allen, Shaq Griffin, DaVon Hamilton, and former Patriot Malcom Brown in their places.
Special Teams: The Jaguars —like many other teams in the NFL— have experienced changes to their kicking battery over the last few seasons. Josh Lambo, Logan Cooke, and Carson Tinker will not be trotting out on special teams this week as they will be replaced by new kicker Matthew Wright, new long snapper Ross Matiscik, and likely practice squad punter Joseph Charlton.
Coaching staff: Where do I even begin?
The Jaguars fired former head coach Doug Marrone following the 2018 season and chose not to retain any of his staff. That lead to the hiring and eventual firing of the walking scandal known as Urban Meyer. Now Jacksonville is lead by Darrell Bevel and Meyer’s remaining staff. Notable names include, former University of Texas head coach Charlie Strong (Assistant Head Coach), Joe Cullen (Defensive Coordinator), Brian Schottenheimer (Passing Game Coordinator), and Nick Sorensen (Special Teams Coordinator).