Patriots will prepare for Jones-Drew's possible return


Patriots will prepare for Jones-Drew's possible return

If Maurice Jones-Drew plays this Sunday it will be his first football action since October 21.

The Jaguars running back injured his foot in that game against the Raiders. Though it was feared he could miss the rest of the season, head coach Mike Mularkey never put Jones-Drew on IR, saying in November, "We still think he has a chance to come back for a few games."

There are two games left to tack onto Jacksonville's forgettable 2-12 season. The first of those is against New England.

Though this is the first week MJD hasn't been ruled out immediately, it's hard to imagine Mularkey will put him on the field and risk any kind of setback.

The Patriots will prepare for him, anyway.

"Obviously, he's a phenomenal back for them and he's really been a workhorse for that offense," said defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. "He's a player that is very explosive and dynamic. We're talking about a guy that's extremely hard to tackle; extremely hard to make sure he's down. I know there's a lot of times where it looks like you've got him wrapped up, you've got him contained, where he's down on the ground and he's really not -- he's still driving his legs and he's still breaking tackles and squeaks through and turns a nothing play into a big play.

"I think it's really important for us to have a high awareness for a player like that when he's in the game. Obviously, tackling is critical in the essence that sometimes, behind those offensive lineman, he gets a little bit lost in there and you have to try to find him when he's hitting those holes at 100 miles an hour and trying to get through really fast."

Jones-Drew's 414 rushing yards (86 attempts) still leads the Jaguars despite his eight-week absence. It won't surprise you, then, to know Jacksonville is ranked 30th in the NFL in ground yards per game (82.4) and is dead last in attempts per game (22.3).

For perspective, last season this team was No. 4 in the NFL in rushing attempts and No. 12 in yards per game.

But Patricia played nice.

"Really, in all respects they've done a great job with the backs they've been able to put in there, certainly with Rashad Jennings and Montell Owens, in just keeping it rolling as far as running the football and keeping the offense moving with the rushing game."

Moreland not worried about filling Ortiz's shoes because 'there's no replacing him'

Moreland not worried about filling Ortiz's shoes because 'there's no replacing him'

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Mitch Moreland knows he's likely the only new player in Boston's lineup since David Ortiz retired at the end of last season.

He's just not listening to those who say he needs to replace Big Papi's lofty production.

"I try not to hear it because there's no replacing that guy," said the 31-year-old first baseman, who signed a one-year, $5.5-million deal with the Red Sox during the offseason.

"I think it's going to be more of a team effort," he said. "Obviously we picked up two big arms as well, and it's a very balanced club."

After playing his first six-plus seasons in the majors with the Texas Rangers, Moreland is with a new organization for the first time in his career. So far, he said, the move has been smooth.

"They welcomed me from Day One," he said. "Handshakes and hugs right off the bat. It's going to be a lot of fun. You can see why they had so much success last year."

Coming off a subpar 2016 with a .233 batting average, 22 homers and 60 RBI, Moreland tested free agency. He wanted to go to a team that had a good chance at competing for a championship -- like he felt with the Rangers.

"Something that was at the top of my list as a player," he said. "If I was going to be on a team, I wanted a team that had a chance to win. It makes it that much more fun to come to the park every day when something's on the line and you're fighting for a chance to play in the playoffs, fighting to win the division and fighting to win a World Series."

A first-time Gold Glove winner last season, Moreland knows the defending A.L. East champion Red Sox wanted his defensive skills at first to allow Hanley Ramirez to shift to Ortiz's vacated DH spot.

"It gives you a little more confidence," Moreland said. "I take pride in that. That's going to be my main goal, to go out and show what they saw."

A left-handed batter like Ortiz, Moreland knows some people will expect him to fill the void offensively because of which side of the plate he bats from.

"I think it'll be a group effort picking up what will be missing," he said. "There's no replacing that guy."

Manager John Farrell also said the club needs to move on from Ortiz so Moreland and everyone else can relax and focus on their own game.

"David's effect on the lineup was felt by a number of people. We know opponents would game plan for David," Farrell said. "I think it's important for our guys - as we put David out of our mind, in a good way - that it's still a focus on what their strengths are in the strike zone."

The transition may be easy for Moreland so far, but one thing has certainly changed: spending spring training in Florida instead of Arizona.

"Fishing's a lot different than Arizona, so that's nice," he said.

NOTES: "We're getting a firsthand look to why he's been so successful and an elite pitcher," Farrell said after left-hander Chris Sale pitched batting practice. The Red Sox acquired Sale from the Chicago White Sox in an offseason trade for four prospects. They also acquired right-handed, hard-throwing setup man Tyler Thornburg from Milwaukee . . . Farrell said righty Steven Wright, who missed the final two months of the season with a shoulder injury, "was unrestricted in his throwing." . . . The Red Sox will have a shorter workout Tuesday with the players association set to talk to the team and the organization's annual charity golf tournament in the afternoon.

Report from the Fort: Trenni and Lou discuss pitching

Report from the Fort: Trenni and Lou discuss pitching

Trenni Kusnierek and Lou Merloni comment on Tyler Thornburg's, Steven Wright's and Drew Pomeranz's work at Red Sox training camp on Monday.