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Quick thoughts: Saints 23, Jaguars 21


NEW ORLEANS, La. – Senior writer John Oehser, senior correspondent Brian Sexton and team reporter Ashlyn Sullivan offer quick thoughts on the Jaguars' 23-21 loss to the New Orleans Saints in a 2021 Preseason Week 2 game at the Louisiana Caesars Superdome Monday …

Oehser …

  1. This felt like some growing going on. The Jaguars struggled to get started for a second consecutive 2021 preseason game Monday night, and the effects of missing three starting offensive linemen – left tackle Cam Robinson, center Brandon Linder and left guard Andrew Norwell – was very real early as the Jaguars produced 40 yards and no points on their first four series. The next two series didn't produce touchdowns, but they certainly produced encouraging moments for rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, Lawrence got significant repetitions on the final two series of the first half and – playing behind a line that included rookie Walker Little at left tackle and second-year veteran Ben Bartch at left guard – he completed nine of his final 14 passes. That ended Lawrence's night – and while it wasn't the production he wanted; it was valuable repetitions as the regular-season approaches. Speaking of growing … Little not only started at left tackle, but he also played well into the second half – after the other starting linemen had left the game. The Jaguars like the second-round selection's potential. He needs extensive repetitions and experience if he's going to play early – and he sure got that on Monday.
  2. Maybe the run defense is the silver lining. Plenty didn't go right for the Jaguars Monday, particularly early – and among the concerns was a pass defense that didn't get enough pressure on Saints quarterback Jameis Winston, who hit two long touchdown passes in the first quarter to wide receiver Marquez Callaway. But the Jaguars did continue one trend they liked on Monday. A week after allowing the Cleveland Browns 41 yards rushing on 26 carries, they allowed 63 yards on 21 carries to the Saints. Yes, the Jaguars have plenty to clean up – and they must pressure the quarterback more than they did on key plays Monday. But defense starts against the run, and the Jaguars have showed some encouraging early signs there this preseason.

Sexton …

  1. The Jaguars must get their running game started. Meyer reached out to Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow in the spring to learn what last year's No. 1 overall pick would do to help this year's No. 1 overall pick. Burrow stressed the importance of the running game and play action. On Monday Night Football in New Orleans, the Jaguars' ground game was no help at all. At one point in the second quarter Jaguars running backs James Robinson, Carlos Hyde and Travis Etienne Jr. had a combined six rushing attempts for six yards. That's not good enough and it was a struggle because the offensive line couldn't move the Saints off the ball. Was it a rookie left tackle and backups at guard and center versus the Saints' first-team defense? Maybe. One thing is certain: the heat is on the Jaguars' offensive line to figure it out and carve some running lanes into the defense, backing them off the ball and giving Lawrence time in the pocket.
  2. Josh Allen is the Jaguars pass rush. The third-year defensive end and one-time Pro Bowl performer looked ready for a huge season before being placed on Reserve/COVID-19 on Monday before the game. He wouldn't have played too many snaps against the Saints, but he might have made a big difference. Winston had far too much time and felt far too comfortable in the pocket; nine completions in ten attempts and two beautiful touchdown passes were the result of almost no pressure. Everything or everyone involved in the pressure packages is a result of at least one guy who can win his one-on-one battle. K'Lavon Chaisson couldn't for the Jaguars – and neither could Dawaune Smoot or Jihad Ward until the Saints first team offensive line was out of the game and standing with Winston on the sidelines. This defense needs Allen to make the scheme coordinated by Joe Cullen work.

Sullivan …

  1. Not enough rhythm offensively. The theme from Jaguars 2021 Training Camp leading up to this second preseason game was how will the offense look faster and more efficient than they did a week ago? Meyer mentioned multiple times he wanted to run more plays, show more looks and be faster overall. That did not happen Monday night in New Orleans. The Jaguars only recorded 26 yards of offense in the first quarter and could not get the ball down field until third-string quarterback C.J. Beathard entered the game late.
  2. Concerns in the back. As much as there will be worries about play calling, I have my eyes on this pass defense. The secondary gave up three huge plays for touchdowns, including two with cornerback Shaquill Griffin in coverage. No doubt, the Jaguars have improved against the run – and they only allowing 63 rushing yards against the Saints. However, in a game of making plays, the Saints made the ones that counted. They will now be concerns if the Jaguars did enough to hold their own against opposing receivers.

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