Patriots looking to add to home winning streak against Ravens

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Oh, what could have been.

It was April 2018 and the New England Patriots were fresh off a second straight trip to the Super Bowl. With Tom Brady on the roster, they didn’t enter this offseason looking explicitly for a quarterback.

But they were aware that a successor would have to be lined up just months away from Brady to celebrate his 40th birthday.

This led them to bring in several players for visits leading up to the NFL Draft this spring, including a former early Heisman Trophy winner who was trying to quell growing rumors in the league that he might be better suited to play. to the receiver at the next level.

That didn’t stop Bill Belichick from wanting to meet Lamar Jackson.

“It was a great visit. Spent a lot of time with him. Really interesting guy,” Belichick recalled this week.

Jackson recalls a day filled with lighthearted moments.

“I saw Belichick smile,” Jackson said. “Usually, when I see him, he’s a puzzled face, an impassive guy. When I saw him smile, I thought, ‘Damn, you have a sense of humor.’ I told him that, and he was like, ‘Yeah.’

I’m like, ‘I didn’t expect you to smile.’ »

However, it wasn’t enough for the Patriots to use either of the two first-round picks against him that year. Instead, New England ended up picking offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn at No. 23 and running back Sony Michel at No. 31. Jackson fell all the way to the Baltimore Ravens at No. 32.

Four years later, Jackson will arrive in New England for Sunday’s game against the Patriots (1-1) in Game 3 of what has suddenly become a “proof” season for the former league MVP. This is a year in which he will either have the kind of year that will push the Ravens (1-1) to make him the highest paid quarterback in the league, or set the table for another. team eventually signs him in free agency.

After watching him become a dual running and passing threat that continues to frustrate defenses, Belichick believes questions about Jackson’s NFL cap have been resolved.

“Without a doubt,” Belichick said. “I think he more than responded. We will see what his contract is, that will answer it.

GREEN LIGHT

With change comes new opportunities. And Patriots quarterback Mac Jones is enjoying new freedom in New England’s revamped offense.

In last week’s win at Pittsburgh, the Patriots mixed up some pass option plays, which were a staple of the offense Jones ran at Alabama. He also said he had a lot more freedom to give his receivers more opportunities on deep “50-50” individual opportunities. Jones had success last week, connecting with Nelson Agholor on a 44-yard touchdown;

“I think it’s great,” Jones said. “I think we want to give all of our playmakers a chance. A lot of our plays have some reading on that. I love the freedom of being able to do that. I’ve done that a lot in the past.

“As long as I know the purpose, I have the green light to do what I’m supposed to do.”

VULNERABLE SECONDARY

The Ravens allowed Tua Tagovailoa to throw for 469 yards and six touchdowns against them last weekend, and Miami rallied from a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit to win 42-38.

Now Baltimore’s secondary, limited by injuries recently, faces Jones and New England.

“He handles the offense really well,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of the Patriots quarterback. “He’s very precise, gets the ball out in time, he can move into the pocket, he can scramble if he has to – I don’t think he wants to, but he’s ready to do it – and he does. a few yards doing it when he does. Lots of respect, and he’s leading that attack and doing a hell of a job.

BIG GAMES

The Ravens certainly showed their explosiveness last weekend even in the loss. They became the first team in the NFL with touchdowns of 75 or more yards via passing, running and a kick return in one game.

MAJOR POTENTIAL

Jackson had a great game both passing and running against the Dolphins. But with running back JK Dobbins still out with a knee injury from last year, Baltimore hasn’t been great on the court, other than Jackson’s elusiveness.

Dobbins trained. And if the running game improves, Baltimore could be very dangerous.

“The sky’s the limit,” Jackson said. “We just have to keep doing what we’re doing. Hopefully we’ll just have a balanced attack and not just heavy running and sometimes throwing or heavy throwing and sometimes running – just keep the balance. And I feel like the sky is the limit for us.

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AP Sports Writer Noah Trister in Baltimore contributed to this report.

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