JACKSONVILLE – In a weekly feature for the 2021 season, NFL Media and Jaguars Media analyst Bucky Brooks breaks down the Jaguars' performance in a 23-21 loss to the New Orleans Saints in a 2021 Preseason Week 2 game at the Caesars Superdome Monday.
The Jaguars didn't fare well in a nationally televised game that was viewed as a "measuring-stick" game by some observers. The Saints whipped the Jaguars at every turn and exposed some on the team's roster. Although it is important to keep preseason performances in perspective, the beatdown highlighted the gap between a perennial playoff contender and a team in the midst of a rebuild.
KEYS TO VICTORY
The Saints easily handled the Jaguars with their dynamic offense and aggressive defense dominating for most of the sixty-minute affair. Saints quarterback Jameis Winston and Co. torched the secondary with a flurry of bombs and intermediate throws that exploited the one-on-one coverage on the perimeter. While the Jaguars had defenders in place to make plays on the ball, the Saints repeatedly came down with contested catches down the field. On offense, the Jaguars were whipped early and often by the Saints' defensive line at the point of attack. The frontline was unable to generate a push in the running game or provide solid protection for rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence and others in the pocket on passing downs. The constant harassment kept the Jaguars from finding an offensive rhythm for most of the first half and left the team's QB1 and QB2 frustrated with the offense's overall effort.
Despite the narrative circulating the national news media, Lawrence had a solid showing against the Saints. The rookie completed 14 of 23 passes for 113 yards while facing constant harassment and tight coverage on the perimeter. Lawrence showed composure and poise under duress, and never appeared rattled by his unsettled circumstances. Moreover, he responded to the challenge with a few A-plus throws that showcased his impressive arm talent and passing skills. That said, Lawrence will need to continue to work on quickening his internal clock against pressure. He needs to get the ball out of his hands quickly and find different ways to counterattack the aggressive pressure tactics he will continue to face with the offensive line struggling with pass protection. With more reps and experience, Lawrence will improve in this area but everyone in the building must remain patient as he develops as a playmaker.
UNDER THE RADAR
C.J. Beathard continues to impress as a reserve quarterback. The veteran has been an offensive spark plug whenever allowed to lead a unit, and his efficiency should not be ignored despite facing backups. Beathard's timing, touch and accuracy during a solid performance (9-of-14 for 102 yards with two touchdowns) against the Saints is notable considering the offense's overall struggles for most of the game. The veteran attacked aggressively and made the Saints pay for their aggressive tactics and blown assignments in the game's late stages. Considering how well Beathard has played in each of the Jaguars' preseason games, he might play his way into the QB2 by the end of training camp.
The Jaguars' offense sputtered most of the night due to a lackluster performance from the offensive line. The unit was whipped repeatedly at the point of attack and their inability to control the trenches resulted in a pedestrian performance on the ground and through the air. The running game in particular was extremely disappointing for most of the night. The Jaguars only amassed 45 rushing yards on 20 attempts with the runner finding few creases at the line of scrimmage. The inability to run made life miserable for the Jaguars' quarterbacks as the Saints feasted on a one-dimensional attack. On the perimeter, the Jaguars' receivers need to create more separation from tight coverage. The lack of space prevented the Jaguars from utilizing "catch-and-run" concepts to generate big plays through the air. Against future opponents, the pass catchers must perform better against top secondaries to give the Jaguars a better chance of knocking off elite competition.
The Jaguars' defense played with great effort and energy, but the unit's execution was not up to the standard. The defense allowed too many big plays in the passing game and the "bombs away" tactics from the Saints resulted in easy scores. While each of the deep balls hauled in by the Saints' receivers was considered 50-50 balls due to close coverage, the Jaguars' defensive backs need to find ways to knock the ball away at the moment of truth. The Jaguars' run defense continues to impress in preseason play. The defense held the Saints to a 3.0-yard average (21 carries for 63 yards) on the ground while exhibiting discipline, physicality and focus. The front seven played well in the trenches and their collective effort gives coaches something to build on going forward.