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Jaguars Blake Bortles next athletic QB test for Pats D

For the third straight week to open the 2015 season the New England defense faces an athletic challenge at the quarterback position.

Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia made it clear in Tuesday morning conference calls with the New England media that Jaguars second-year starting quarterback Blake Bortles is no Ben Roethlisberger.

That said, the young Jacksonville passer does pose a unique challenge for a New England defense that's dealt with athletic quarterbacks for three straight weeks to open the season.

Those battles with the big, play-extending Roethlisberger and dynamic young Bills playmaker Tyrod Taylor brought about mixed results over the first 120 minutes of 2015.

Both matchups ended in wins for the Patriots, even if they weren't totally wins for the defense against the two quarterbacks with unique skillsets.

Roethlisberger completed 26 of 38 passes on opening night for 351 yards with one touchdown and one interception for a 95.4 passer rating. He was sacked twice and did not run the ball at all in New England's 28-21 win.

Last Sunday, Taylor completed 23 of his 30 throws for 242 yards with three touchdowns and threw interceptions for a 93.3 passer rating. He was sacked eight times, but also ran five times for 43 yards and a touchdown, including a long run of 23 yards on his first attempt of the afternoon on Buffalo's opening scoring drive in the eventual 40-32 Patriots win.

Listing to Belichick and Patricia talk, the 2014 No. 3 overall pick out of Central Florida is in some ways a combination of the two quarterbacks the Patriots have faced the previous two weeks.

"I think Bortles looks pretty fast, kind of like Taylor," Belichick said of the 6-5, 245-pound Jaguars starter. "He's got a couple 30-yard gains and that type of thing. So he's pretty dangerous to just take off and run and can get a lot of yardage. He's athletic to buy time in the pocket. He's a good passer. But I'd say he's probably a little more threat to run with the ball than Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger is probably more apt to buy extra time to watch the play extend and then hit somebody down the field. That kind of thing."

Through the first two weeks -- a Jacksonville 20-9 loss at Carolina and a 23-20 win on Sunday in Miami – Bortles has completed 40 of his 73 attempts (54.8 percent) for 456 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions with five sacks for a 76.1 passer rating. He's also run six times for 58 yards with a 28-yard long.

That passer rating is a bit improved from his passer rating of 69.5 as a rookie. The youngster has done a better job of taking care of the football the more he's gain experience. He threw multiple interceptions in five of his first six games last fall as a rookie, but has reached double-digit picks in a game just once in the last 10 games.

I've been very impressed watching him. He's a very talented player. He's been a very productive player.

"Bortles has played well. I mean there's a lot of good film on Bortles, even in preseason," Belichick observed. "He's productive in every game. I thought he played very well against Miami. He got them 20 points there at the half and then when they had to have it at the end of the game, which was really impressive, when they had to have it then that's when they came through and had a great drive there and set up the winning field goal.

"He's done a good job. He gets the ball down the field outside. He gets it down the field inside. He does a good job using his backs. He's athletic. He can extend the play. They run a fair amount of check plays, run or pass, where you can see he has options. He makes good decisions. I've been very impressed watching him. He's a very talented player. He's been a very productive player."

Patricia knows that his unit's job of stopping the Jaguars begins with getting a handle on the talented young passer.

"Obviously it's going to start with the quarterback," Patricia said. "They have an explosive offense. They do a good job balancing the run and the pass game. Bortles does a great job putting the ball up there and letting his big receivers go make a play."

Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich has chased Roethlisberger and Taylor the last two weeks, preparation for another week of controlled rush against Bortles in an NFL where athletic quarterbacks are more and more the norm.

"Every year we're seeing guys who can move in the pocket, so you just have to be under control, do a great job of keeping your pass rush lane integrity and not getting kind of over the top and then where you can step up and dip in and dip out. So again, it's a collective effort as defensive linemen, and we've got to continue to do a good job," Ninkovich said as he began the week of preparations for Jacksonville.

Not only is Bortles a guy the Patriots have never seen before, but he leads a team New England doesn't face often and a new offense under first-year veteran coordinator Greg Olson.

"Bortles definitely has a real good command of the offense that Olson is running. I think the controlled passing game along with letting him use his big-arm ability to get the ball down the field has benefited Bortles quite a bit," Patricia said. "He's a big guy in the pocket but he's a very athletic guy. So he's a guy that can run. He's a guy that can scramble. He's a guy that can extend plays. You use it a lot, especially on third down, where he can slip out of the pass rush and either extend the play and get the ball down field or just take off and run. He obviously has the ability to do that, too."

But he's not Roethlisberger and he's not Taylor. Rather, the developing young Jaguars passer is a challenge all his own. And the first key in the Patriots defensive effort this week against Jacksonville.

"We just have to defend Bortles, we have to defend what he does well. Obviously he has a great skill set of his own," Patricia concluded.

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