JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' 13-6 loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 6 of the 2019 regular season at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday
1.The rookie played like a rookie. Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II started his fifth NFL game Sunday, and it's nothing short of remarkable that the Saints were the first team to make him look like a rookie. Minshew, named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Week four times in his first five appearances, won't win awards for Sunday's 163-yard, no-touchdowns, one-interception performance. While Minshew showed enough poise and composure to lead two field-goal drives to keep the Jaguars even through three quarters, the Saints confused him with some exotic fronts and double-man coverage on the outside – and Minshew looked more confused Sunday than he had in four previous NFL starts. A couple of questions for the coming week. One is how Minshew will adjust now that defensive coordinators have the beginnings of a blueprint to defend him. Another is whether were we all a little quick to assume Minshew would make it difficult-if-not-impossible to return to Nick Foles when the latter is healthy in November. Time will tell on both topics.
2.Give the Jaguars' defense credit. This unit took deserved criticism all week, and defensive coordinator Todd Wash said this week he believed the group would play better against the Saints than it did against Carolina a week ago. The reason? Wash believed in his guys. Those guys proved Wash correct Sunday with their best performance since a Week 3 victory over the Tennessee Titans. Yes, the Saints were without quarterback Drew Brees and running back Alvin Kamara appeared to show the effects of an ankle injury that had his status uncertain entering the weekend. But remember: The Jaguars' defense was again without cornerback Jalen Ramsey; whose back injury continues to be debilitating enough to keep him out of the lineup. The Jaguars were solid against the run through three quarters, held the Saints to 13 points – and the defense was particularly impressive when it held the Saints to three points despite seemingly the entire first quarter being played in the Jaguars' half of the field. I received a slew of emails late in the game critical of Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash. On a day on which the defense kept the Jaguars close despite an ineffective offense, the questions seemed uninformed at best and silly at worst.
3.The urgency starts now … and in a sense, the Jaguars' season does, too. When the Jaguars were 2-2 and coming off back-to-back victories, I wrote and said the Jaguars had a real chance to lose their next two games – and that if they did lose, it wouldn't make them a bad team. That was because that losable two-game stretch was a road game at Carolina and a home game against New Orleans, two of the more difficult games on the schedule. I thought at the time the Jaguars could lose those two games and play their way back into the AFC South conversation with victories over Cincinnati, the New York Jets and Houston in late October and November. Well … the three-game "winnable" stretch is now at hand, and the Jaguars at 2-4 very much need victories in all three games to play their way back into the postseason discussion. The Jets and Bengals the next two weeks look winnable. Now, the Jaguars absolutely must win them.
1.Give Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen credit for a strong plan against the rookie quarterback. He made Gardner Minshew make the tough throws. He didn't allow easy throws underneath or anything over the top and because the Saints are so talented in the secondary and capable of creating pressure with their front four, they were able to execute all afternoon. Minshew couldn't find DJ Chark or Dede Westbrook unless they were quick hitters, nearly screen passes coming out of the backfield. Minshew is going to have to be able to find the hole in the defense, called the honey hole and deliver the ball with zip. He's going to see the same scheme until he does. I don't know that you'll ever see visible signs of frustration but he wasn't the same guy we've seen since Nick Foles went down on Opening Day.
2.Michael Thomas took over in the second half, but it wasn't because he dominated AJ Bouye or Tre Herndon in the third and fourth quarter. Sean Payton did an excellent job of creating favorable matchups and on the Saints' touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter he found mismatches with linebackers and attacked them, Thomas finished with eight catches for 89 yards and he moved the chains and set the Saints up with 6 second half catches. Payton is one of the game's brightest offensive minds and he stresses the defense with so many different personnel groups and alignments and motions that it becomes a game of who's smarter, the quarterback or the defense. On Sunday it was Teddy Bridgewater who aced the exam.
3.Zero takeaways for the second consecutive week. New Orleans used their interception of Minshew on the first possession of the third quarter to gain a 6-3 lead. It felt as if the Jaguars were always driving from deep inside their own territory while the Saints always seemed to be starting somewhere north of their own 30. The Jaguars desperately needed a takeaway to flip the field and make life easier on their offense. They say takeaways come in bunches, but right now the Jaguars just need one.