Despite complications from players going on and off the Reserve/COVID-19 list this week, the Patriots wrapped up their preparations on Friday, ready to face whichever team Jacksonville shows up with, with whichever players on the Patriots are available to play.
"We've prepared for a lot of the players that are on their reserve list, knowing that that's a possibility," said Bill Belichick on Friday. "Some will come off. Some won't. We can't control that. We're ready to go on their full roster, whether it's players kind of back off that reserve or whether it's practice squad players they've signed, some players this week as well that are new to the roster. We have to be prepared for the whole group and that could change for them, just like that could change for us very quickly between now and game time."
One player that the Patriots and fans should be most excited to see is rookie quarterback and first overall pick Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence has ridden plenty of ups and downs this season, posting nine touchdowns and 14 interceptions while throwing for 3,325 yards.
Despite the Jags' 2-13 record, Belichick was impressed by the progress that the rookie has made.
"I think he's gotten more comfortable as the season's gone on and gotten comfortable with the offense," said Belichick. "I'd say the offense has gotten comfortable with the things that he does best. Definitely, a good level of execution there. They did a good job last week against the Jets, mixing in different varieties of passes: quick throws, moving pocket throws, deep balls, third down conversions, red area plays. He's pretty good at all of them and continues to get better. I think he's had a good year and I think he'll be a solid NFL player, maybe great. I don't know, but he's certainly made a lot of progress this year."
This week, the Patriots will look to drop Jacksonville for their 14th loss of the season, a win that can get New England back on track, over their two-game losing streak and potentially seal a playoff berth. Hopefully getting some of their players back that have missed practice this week will provide a boost prior to kickoff.
"We have some guys that are kind of right on the edge there," said Belichick of those Patriots on the COVID list. "We'll see how it goes. It's a combination of different things here, based on the time frame, the symptoms, when we're able to clear them. I don't want to say it's hour by hour, but it's somewhere between hour by hour and day by day just seeing how this all comes together."
It was a third-straight gloomy December practice for the Patriots for their final day of on-field prep for the Jags on New Year's Eve. While the team got a boost with the return of Shaq Mason, who missed Thursday's practice with an illness, they were down two more starters with Dont'a Hightower and Adrian Phillips missing from the stretching portion of practice that reporters had access too.
The Reserve/COVID-19 list remains at six with Matthew Judon, Ja'Whaun Bentley, Brandon King, Yodny Cajuste, Brian Hoyer and Josh Uche.
Quotes of Note
Jamie Collins on the defense's mindset:
"Anytime we come up on the short end of the stick we can always play better... We just need to focus on ourselves individually as a team and just try to find our swag. Try to get back to what we were doing before these last two games. We definitely got a shot, we're just trying to put all that together, trying to get back on track."
Kyle Dugger on the team's preparation this week:
"It's kind of been a week that things have moved around as the pieces on their side have moved around. We've kind of adjusted things every day. We kind of do that every week as far as the week goes, but things change, people change and so we just have to adjust and continue to move forward and put the best game plan.
Trent Brown on the team's struggles:
"It starts with execution. I don't think it's a lack of preparation, at times it may be more a lack of attention to detail and just seeing it through knowing that you've done it right all week, we just have to bring that to Sunday. I think that's what it is. Josh and Bill talk about competitive stamina all the time and I think that we've kind of lacked that a little bit the last two weeks and I think that includes the attention to detail. We just got to get back to the basics and doing what we do.