By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — There’s an added layer of attention on potential bulletin-board material, as the Patriots and Jaguars prepare to meet on Sunday afternoon in Jacksonville.
That’s mostly due to Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who as part of his Summer of Smack Talk decided to say that Rob Gronkowski isn’t very good at football. It was a wild claim, one that was likely equal parts influenced by Ramsey’s actual beliefs and the knowledge that such a comment would garner a lot of attention.
Yet with an added spotlight on anything said this week from one side that might rile up the other, Bill Belichick remained on brand when he spoke to the media on Wednesday. The Patriots head coach opened his media session with extensive praise of every facet of the Jaguars’ game.
“OK, obviously we’re playing a really good team this week. This team has a lot of talent, they’re very well coached, they’re a tough, physical team. This will be a big challenge for us down there on the road,” Belichick said before making his way down the list of Jaguars strengths.
“They’re offensively a very explosive group,” Belichick said. “They’ve got ‘em at every position. The receivers, tight end, all the backs, quarterback, all those guys have made big plays for them and are very dangerous players if they get any space. Good offensive line – big, physical group. And defensively, I think all the numbers kind of speak for themselves. They pretty much led the league in every category last year. They’re all back, and they’re all good, and they’ve got a lot of depth. Had another [interception] return for a touchdown last week against the Giants. It’s a very disruptive group up front. We’ve got to do a good job taking care of the ball, and trying to create some positive plays.”
Of course, Belichick would never overlook special teams.
Belichick noted. “Strong in the kicking game. They cover well. They’re well-coached. [Jaydon] Mickens does a good job in the return game. They’re very aggressive there, too.”
“So, this team’s very good, very talented, we’re playing them in their home opener, there will be a lot of energy in the stadium,” Belichick said. “This will be a good test for us. So we’ll see where we’re at.”
While no rational person could interpret any of that praise as being an insult, let’s not forget that last January, Ramsey was somewhat offended that the Patriots only said nice things about Ramsey and his teammates.
“I’ve seen a couple things about it. I know for a minute they was trying to gas me up, they was trying to gas us up a little bit,” Ramsey said prior to the AFC Championship Game. “You can’t really gas somebody up who’s already gassed. I mean, that’s what I do.”
Well, eight months later, the gas is back. And while none of the above comments from Belichick might set off Ramsey’s radar, the coach’s commentary on Jags quarterback Blake Bortles might not pass Ramsey’s sniff test.
“He’s good, yeah. He runs well. He’s a big strong kid. He’s hard to bring down. He can extend plays,” Belichick said. “So, just similar to a quarterback that we’ve seen really the last three weeks – not counting the Giants game. But, you know, we’ve seen this three weeks in a row with players that have that type of skill. And yeah, he’s definitely in that category.”
Those comparable quarterbacks to whom Belichick is referring? Deshaun Watson, Cam Newton and Nick Foles.
Considering the best thing Ramsey could say about Bortles in his midsummer Burn Book was that “Blake do what he gotta do,” Ramsey may not be buying what Belichick is selling.
Nevertheless, Belichick was asked specifically about the potential for a war of words that might develop this week, and how he can prevent his time from biting.
“Look, we know when the game starts. And we’ll be ready to go. I’m sure they will be too. We’ll see what happens,” Belichick said. “Right now we’re focused on our preparation, I have a lot of respect for Coach [Doug] Marrone, their coaching staff, their team. And hopefully we’ll be ready to go.”
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