NEW ORLEANS, La. – Senior writer John Oehser examines five key plays that shaped the Jaguars' 23-21 loss to the New Orleans Saints in a 2021 Preseason Week 2 game at the Louisiana Caesars Superdome Monday …
1. First Saints touchdown. Monday's loss had a difficult beginning for the Jaguars' defense, particularly against the pass – and that set the tone for the key early part of the game when starters played for both teams. While the interior run defense was solid on the first drive, quarterback Jameis Winston passed for 71 yards on the possession. The highlight play came on 2nd-and-6 from the Jaguars 43, with Winston passing deep down the middle of the field. Winston got good blocking and plenty of time, finding wide receiver Marquez Callaway behind Jaguars cornerback Shaq Griffin. Callaway caught the pass in the end zone, holding on for a 7-0 Saints lead despite interference called on Jaguars rookie cornerback Tyson Campbell, who came over too late to be any real help in coverage.
2. Second Saints touchdown. The rest of the first quarter looked a lot like the early going, with the Jaguars' struggling offensively and Winston continuing to be efficient with time to throw. The Jaguars got the Saints off the field on New Orleans' second drive, but Winston moved the Saints efficiently on their third drive and gave the Saints a 14-0 lead with his second touchdown pass of the game. This one came on a perfect throw and catch, with Callaway beating Griffin again – this time down the left sideline. Callaway made a big-time catch behind tight coverage with 2:50 remaining. It was Winston's final play of the game, and he left having completed nine of 10 passes for 123 yards with two touchdowns on three series.
3. An encouraging finish to the first half. Not enough went right early for the Jaguars or rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence for a second consecutive week to start the preseason – and the offense had just 30 yards on its first four possessions Monday. But Lawrence's fifth series featured some encouraging happenings. Not only did he convert 3rd-and-7 from the Saints 45 with a 13-yard pass to wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., but he also converted third and 7 from the Saints 29 with a nine-yard scramble. Lawrence early in the series also found Jones for an 18-yard gain. Lawrence stood in nicely under pressure on the 13-yarder, a key play on a drive that ended with a 34-yard field goal by kicker Josh Lambo. Lawrence also drove the Jaguars to the Saints 16 on the ensuing drive before a sack ended the threat, with Lambo missing off the right upright from 43 yards to allow the Saints to maintain a 17-3 lead.
4. Cottrell and Ozigbo get involved. The Jaguars pieced together some scoring opportunities in the second half, in large part because reserve running backs Devine Ozigbo and Nathan Cottrell did a nice job turning short passes into significant gains. Ozigbo on the final play of the third quarter turned a short pass into a 30-yard gain to the Saints 26, a play that set up a 36-yard field goal by Lambo. Cottrell early in the fourth quarter turned 3rd-and-5 from the Jaguars 33 into a first down with a 27-yard catch-and-run from quarterback Gardner Minshew II. Minshew followed that with a 34-yard pass to wide receiver Josh Hammond, but Saints linebacker Wyntin McManis intercepted a short pass from Minshew in the end zone with 8:09 remaining to end that drive.
5. Deep to Cotton – and again to Cotton (and to Johnson). The Jaguars struggled offensively much of the game, and Lambo managed their only points through three quarters. While missing from 43 yards in the second quarter, he also converted from 34 and 36. A bright spot for a second consecutive week was the play of reserve quarterback C.J. Beathard, whose 37-yard pass to wide receiver Jeff Cotton Jr. with 6:07 remaining moved the Jaguars to the Saints 19. Beathard found Cotton again two plays later for a three-yard touchdown pass with 5:19 remaining and Beathard's 24-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Collin Johnson gave him two touchdown passes for the game – and three in two preseason games.