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Jaguars Week 7 Sentiment: Protect the Future - Quick Thoughts Headed into Thursday Night Football

Quick Thoughts (pregame)

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser, senior correspondent Brian Sexton and team reporter Kainani Stevens offer quick thoughts on the Jaguars as they prepare to play the New Orleans Saints at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans Thursday in a 2023 Week 7 game …

John Oehser, Jaguars Senior Writer…

  1. Credit where it's due. The Jaguars' Most Valuable Player through six games? There are multiple possibilities, including running back Travis Etienne Jr., but it's hard to argue against outside linebacker Josh Allen. Head Coach Doug Pederson following a victory over the Indianapolis Colts at EverBank Stadium Sunday called the fifth-year veteran the "heart and soul" of the defense and that's absolutely true. Allen, the No. 7 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, long has been the Jaguars' best player defensive player – consistently pressuring quarterbacks and playing well against the run. Allen this season has turned pressures into sacks and game-turning plays. He has a team-high seven sacks, including two sacks/forced fumbles in the last three games. The defense has been the strength of the Jaguars team this season and is a major reason the team leads the AFC South. Allen's pressures have strained quarterbacks, contributing to the team's 15 takeaways. Allen is in the final season of his rookie contract. If he plays all season as he has in the first six games, it's hard to see how the Jaguars won't make a serious push for him to be the defense's core moving forward.
  2. A passable test. Thursday's game figures to be among the Jaguars' tougher tests of the season. One reason is that the Saints are very good defensively with enough offensive skill talent to make them difficult to beat. he second reason is the Jaguars enter with more injury issues than in any previous game this season. Not only is quarterback Trevor Lawrence's status uncertain because of a knee injury, the Jaguars also could be without cornerback Tyson Campbell, offensive linemen Walker Little and Brandon Scherff and wide receiver Zay Jones. Whatever Lawrence's status, his situation could limit the offense. The positive for the Jaguars? Their defense is stout enough and is forcing turnovers consistently enough to give them a chance. Thursday night games are often low-scoring and sloppy. A team used to scrapping its way to victories can win such games and the Jaguars in recent weeks have shown themselves to be such a team. This test will be tough, but it's passable for a Jaguars team that is learning to find multiple ways to win. Finally, the thought here is if Lawrence can protect himself and feels he can play, then he will – and should – play. Every game in the NFL is important. There are only 17. If he runs no risk of further injury and can play, then let him play.

Brian Sexton, Jaguars Senior Correspondent …

  1. Everyone is playing with backups by Week 7. The Cleveland Browns took down the unbeaten San Francisco 49ers Sunday with journeyman quarterback P.J. Walker, who wasn't even in their training camp last summer. They played great defense, ran the ball reasonably well and made a few plays when they had to make them. The New York Jets played without cornerbacks Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed against the unbeaten Philadelphia Eagles. Undrafted rookie Tony Adams intercepted Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts in the fourth quarter to secure a Jet victory. The Jaguars' coaching staff is excellent. I expect the Jaguars will give themselves a chance to win in the fourth quarter Thursday. The question is who will be their Walker or Adams and step into a bigger role on a much bigger stage to play well enough for their team to win?
  2. I would be willing to sit Trevor Lawrence this week. That won't be a popular sentiment, but this is one game – one non-conference game. It's coming just after the Jaguars have returned from Europe without a bye week. It's also a Thursday Night game, which means they're playing a third game in 12 days. I would rather have Lawrence healthy and mobile for the final ten games, particularly if the offensive line is not 100 percent. The Jags should be able to go to New Orleans with their defense and a veteran backup quarterback and find a way to win. Even if they don't a healthy Lawrence in November and December is more important that a win over the Saints in October.

Kainani Stevens, Jaguars Team Reporter/Producer ...

  1. Protect the future. It likely will be a game, time decision for Lawrence Thursday. If I were Pederson, my decision would revolve around Lawrence's health and the ability to protect the franchise quarterback. Little and Brandon Scherff did not practice on Tuesday and likely will be out for the Saints game. That means the offensive line will feature at least two backups and rookie right tackle Anton Harrison. With a potentially hobbled quarterback, I would not take any chances on a short week.
  2. Take it away. The Jaguars' defense may end up being the deciding factor Thursday, when games are often ugly and low-scoring affairs. This plays into the hands of the Jaguars' defense that pounces when an opponent's offense is at its most vulnerable. The Jaguars defense has 15 turnovers through the first six weeks and shows no signs of slowing down. A timely strip sack or even a pick-six could be the difference on Thursday in the Caesars Superdome.

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