NEW ORLEANS, La. – The start was slow. Again.
But while a quick double-digit deficit set the early tone for the Jaguars in Preseason Week 2 Monday night, the tone changed dramatically – if not enough to win, enough for some encouraging moments in a 23-21 loss to the New Orleans Saints in a nationally televised ESPN game at the Louisiana Caesars Superdome.
"We just have to get to work," Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer said. "There's no secret sauce other than we're going to go out and keep working and get a little better."
The Jaguars moved to 0-2 in the 2021 preseason, trailing 17-3 at halftime and 23-3 entering the fourth quarter before outscoring New Orleans 18-0 in the fourth quarter.
"There just wasn't much rhythm in the first half," Meyer said. "We just have to keep swinging. I'm looking for fighters and I'm looking for competitors. We will have a locker room full of competitors.
"I'm looking for guys who show that spark, show that energy."
Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence started a second consecutive game to open the preseason, completing 14 of 23 passes for 113 yards and improving as the game continued. He played the entire first half, leading a scoring drive on the second-to-last possession of the half.
"I thought we did some things well," Lawrence said. "A lot of other things we need to get better at."
The Jaguars' offense produced 40 yards on it first four possessions, then produced 94 yards on the next two – the last two before the half.
Lawrence, the No. 1 selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, left after halftime and was replaced by Gardner Minshew II. Lawrence completed nine of 14 passes for 86 yards on his final two drives.
"The starting offense, two weeks in a row …we're just struggling to get into some rhythm," Meyer said. "We're not balanced right now."
The Jaguars were without starting center Brandon Linder, starting left guard Andrew Norwell and starting left tackle Cam Robinson. Linder and Norwell were out with knee and elbow issues, while Meyer said Robinson sustained an ankle injury Sunday.
"We've got to get our offensive line back and playing better," Meyer said.
Minshew completed 13 of 21 passes for 149 yards and no touchdowns with one interception. C.J. Beathard replaced Minshew in the fourth quarter, completing nine of 14 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Beathard's touchdown passes to wide receiver Jeff Cotton Jr. and Collin Johnson helped rally the Jaguars from a 23-3 deficit.
Saints quarterback Jameis Winston completed nine of 10 passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns while playing New Orleans' first three series, with both touchdowns going to wide receiver Marquez Callaway in the first quarter. That gave the Saints a 14-0 lead after a quarter.
Callaway caught five passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter.
"I thought we did some good things," Jaguars safety Rayshawn Jenkins said. "They made some good plays out there tonight. A few of those touchdowns, you couldn't have a better ball placement. At those moments, those guys won that matchup. It's the game of football. You have to learn from it."
Step by step:
- New Orleans led by fourteen points with a dominant first quarter. The Saints took a 7-0 lead when Winston passed 43 yards to Callaway, who beat cornerback Shaq Griffin deep on a post pattern and caught the pass despite pass interference on Jaguars rookie cornerback Tyson Campbell; that capped a six-play, 72-yard game-opening drive. The Saints doubled the lead on their third series, with Winston capping a six-play, 57-yard drive with a perfect pass down the left sideline to Callaway, who made an outstanding catch just behind Griffin with 2:50 remaining in the first quarter. The Saints outgained the Jaguars 137-26 in the quarter.
- The Jaguars slowed the Saints' momentum in the second quarter, piecing together two long drives and pulling to within 14-3 when kicker Josh Lambo converted a 34-yard field goal with 6:00 remaining in the first half to cap a 53-yard drive. Lawrence drove the Jaguars to the Saints 16 on the ensuing possession but was sacked on third down from there and Lambo's 43-yard field goal bounced off the right upright with 36 seconds remaining in the quarter. Aldrick Rosas' 52-yard field goal on the final play of the half pushed the Saints' lead to 17-3. New Orleans outgained Jacksonville 225-134 in the first half. …
- With Minshew replacing Lawrence to start the second half, the teams played even much of the third quarter – until late in the quarter when wide receiver Lil'Jordan Humphrey caught a 14-yard pass from quarterback Taysom Hill. Rosas missed the extra point to keep the Saints' lead at 23-3.
- The Jaguars cut into the Saints' lead early in the fourth quarter when Lambo converted from 36 yards with 12:58 remaining. Beathard then passed three yards to Cotton to make it 23-13, Saints, with 5:19 remaining. Beathard's 24-yard pass to Johnson on the ensuing series cut the lead to 23-19 and Beathard's two-point conversion pass to running back Nathan Cottrell made the final margin two points.
Notable:The following players did not dress for the Jaguars Monday night: defensive end/linebacker Josh Allen, wide receiver DJ Chark Jr., Linder, Norwell and cornerback Tre Herndon. Allen was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Monday, and Chark underwent surgery on his hand earlier this month. Linder has been out with patella tendinitis, and Norwell has been out with an elbow issue. Herndon sustained a sprained medial collateral ligament in a Preseason Week 1 loss to Cleveland and Head Coach Urban Meyer said last week he is week to week. … Rookie Walker Little worked with the starters in the first half Monday in place of Robinson; Little, a second-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, has been among the more impressive rookies throughout much of 2021 Training Camp. "He just wasn't healthy enough to go tonight," Meyer said of Robinson. "He should be back."
Injury report: Jaguars rookie running back Travis Etienne Jr. sustained a sprained foot injury in the second quarter and did not return. "We don't know the seriousness of it yet," Meyer said.