Few quarterbacks in the NFL catch as much flak as Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles.

The New England Patriots, it seems, aren’t among the ones piling on.

“He’s a good player,” Patriots safety Patrick Chung said. “He makes the right decisions, he has a good arm, he can make some plays. Yeah, he’s a good player man. I don’t know what people are saying about him, but to us he’s a legit quarterback.”

Bortles had one of his better outings in the AFC championship game in January. He capped off one of his best seasons by completing 23 of 36 passes for 293 yards and a touchdown.

Bortles has a career completion percentage of 59.1 and a QB rating of 80.6. He’s not lighting the world on fire with his numbers, but has steadily improved as a passer and earned enough confidence in Jacksonville to merit a long-term extension this past offseason.

In the title game against the Patriots, Bortles showed what he’s capable of when he’s on his game and making the correct calls.

“I think he’s smart enough and a good enough quarterback that he can see something that we’re doing and audible and get them into a different call that they probably game-planned throughout the week,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said.

McCourty also pointed to the fact that Bortles is underrated as a running quarterback, and that the Patriots’ efforts to contain Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson last week will carry over unto Week 2.

That’s no empty praise, either. Bortles has 1,452 career rushing yards and has posted at least 300 yards per year since entering the league.

Nonetheless, Bortles – now entering his fifth NFL season – struggled last week in the season opener, completing 18 of 33 passes for 176 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a 20-15 win over the New York Giants.

Last week was Bad Bortles. But going up against the team that derailed a Super Bowl shot, it may end up being Good Bortles this Sunday in Jacksonville.

At least, that’s how the Patriots a preparing.

JAGUARS RUNNING back Leonard Fournette is running again and feeling “better and better” about his strained right hamstring. He also is hopeful he will be able to play against New England.

Fournette cautions, though, that “it’ll be a game-time decision.” He spoke publicly Thursday for the first time since injuring his hamstring in the season opener at the New York Giants. Fournette says he “kind of felt it pop” on a screen pass in the second quarter.

REX BURKHEAD is on the mend.

After being listed as a non-participant on Wednesday’s injury report while dealing with a concussion, Burkhead was upgraded to a limited practice participant on Thursday.

Burkhead has reached step four of the NFL’s concussion protocol, which clears players for “football specific activities.” Despite being held out of Thursday’s initial drills, New England’s report indicates Burkhead at minimum participated in some “non-contact drills including throwing, catching and running.”

The fifth and final step is reached when a player shows not recurrence of signs or symptoms during those drills.

OTHER PATRIOTS listed as limited for Thursday’s practice were running back Sony Michel (knee), tight end Jacob Hollister (hamstring), offensive tackle Marcus Cannon (calf) and safety Nate Ebner (knee). All were limited last week, when Cannon and Ebner both played against Houston in the opener.

EIGHT FORMER New England Patriots were among the Modern-Era nominees for the 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame class announced Thursday.

Of the 102 former players and coaches, the list includes Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Ty Law, Willie McGinest, Richard Seymour, Corey Dillon, John Lynch and Fred Taylor. The nominees will be trimmed to 25 semifinalists this November and then 15 finalists in January.

Eight former Patriots are already in the Hall of Fame – Andre Tippett, John Hannah, Junior Seau, Curtis Martin, Mike Haynes, Nick Buoniconti, Randy Moss and Bill Parcells. Tippett was the most recent to be enshrined in 2008.

Tippett and Hannah are the only two career Patriots in Canton, as the others spent parts of their all-time careers with other franchises.

A third-round pick of New England’s in 2006, Bruschi is the only candidate who could join Tippett and Hannah in that capacity. He totaled 675 tackles, 30.5 sacks and 17 forced fumbles over a 13-year career in Foxborough. Bruschi was a member of three Super Bowl championships in 2001, 2003 and 2004, as were Law, McGinest and Seymour.

Harrison won titles with the team in 2003 and 2004. Dillon led New England in rushing during its ’04 Super Bowl run.

From a statistical standpoint, Law is the most likely of the eight to reach Canton. A five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, Law had 53 interceptions over his career, tied for 24th-most in NFL history with Deion Sanders. That figure ranks ahead of current Hall of Famers Brian Dawkins, Ken Houston and former Patriot Mike Haynes.

After Law, Harrison (two-time All-Pro and two-time Pro Bowler) and John Lynch should receive the most consideration. Lynch never played a regular-season game in New England, but finished his 15-year career with the team during the 2008 preseason. Taylor played in 13 games for the Patriots over the 2006 and 2007 seasons.

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