Patriots keep Jones-Drew on radar

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- On a conference call with the New England media on Wednesday, Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey said his team is preparing to face Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who recently returned to practice after suffering a broken forearm in Week 11.

Likewise, the Patriots are preparing for a possible return by a key Jaguars offensive player, as running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who has missed the past eight games due to a foot injury, is questionable for this Sunday's matchup, according to Mularkey.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick addressed the possibility of facing Jones-Drew.

"We definitely have to be prepared for him to play. I think we all know what type of back he is," he said, before quipping. "I’d say it would probably be good if he waited one more week, I’m sure he could use another few days of rest before he comes back."

Should Jones-Drew return, the Jaguars will have one of the most talented running backs in the game in their backfield.

"[He has] great speed, balance, strength, he’s got a low center of gravity, kind of built like Ray Rice with great lower body strength, hard to knock off his feet, real good balance, good vision, can accelerate through the hole, excellent hands, good coming out of the backfield," Belichick said of Jones-Drew.

Since Jones-Drew was sidelined in a Week 6 matchup with the Raiders, it's been something of a roulette in the Jaguars' backfield, with several different players taking on a starting role.

Rashad Jennings was the first to have a go at replacing Jones-Drew, but he is currently dealing with a concussion that has kept him off the field for two straight weeks. Jalen Parmele earned the next shot at the job, taking 24 carries for 80 yards against the Texans in Week 12.

Most recently, special teams standout and former University of Maine star Montell Owens has been the workhorse, with 25 carries and 138 yards over the past two games.

The loss of Jones-Drew has had a dramatic impact on the Jacksonville offense, which has rushed for 40 fewer yards per game in 2012 than it did in 2011, a season in which Jones-Drew rushed for 242 more yards than any other player in football.

Should he return to the field this weekend, he'll add punch to an offense that has struggled to find the end zone all year.