JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 13-6 loss to the New Orleans Saints at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday …
1.Gardner Minshew II is a rookie … We always knew this, but it was easy to forget in the euphoria of the rookie quarterback's first four NFL starts. The Saints did an admirable job forcing Minshew to stay in the pocket and work the middle of the field Sunday, and Minshew for the first time in five NFL games appeared shaky and tentative with his passes.
2. … and the future of the position is not yet a done deal. Many observers – including this one – pontificated that the Jaguars would have a difficult time returning to veteran Nick Foles as the starting quarterback when he returns from a broken clavicle. It may still be a difficult decision, but Sunday helped us remember that it's too early to confirm Minshew as the future of the franchise.
3.None of this means Minshew is bad. He's a rookie, which means he's young. Young quarterbacks have games in which defenses confuse them with new looks. All quarterbacks go through games such as Minshew played Sunday. It's how they respond that separates good ones from the others.
4.Jalen Ramsey's back injury really is real. The cornerback now has missed three consecutive games with a back injury first diagnosed in a victory over Tennessee three four days after he requested a trade. A three-week injury reaches the point of being serious, and the hope must be that Ramsey can recover at some point and continue to play at a Pro Bowl level.
5.The Jaguars miss Ramsey … We knew this already, and we saw it in the first two games that Ramsey's aching back kept him out of the lineup. But teams continue to pick on Ramsey's replacement, Tre Herndon, when Ramsey is out. Herndon performed admirably Sunday, but the defense misses Ramsey's ability to take away a section of the field and allow the rest of the secondary to shadow other receivers.
6…. but they can play defense without him. Yes, the Jaguars missed Ramsey. And yes … the Saints clearly targeted Herndon at times – with some effectiveness. But Sunday was not a case of New Orleans abusing Herndon and winning that way. New Orleans scored 13 points Sunday. No one on the defense was "abused."
7.The Jaguars can stop the run. The Jaguars benched weak-side linebacker Quincy Williams in favor of veteran Najee Goode Sunday, and the difference was notable. After allowing 285 yards rushing to Carolina a week ago, the Jaguars limited the Saints to 104 yards Sunday. It wasn't a dominant defensive effort, but it was an improvement.
8.Running back Leonard Fournette continues to run hard. And well. Fournette failed to reach 100 yards rushing on Sunday for the first time since Week 3, but he still passed the eye test in terms of how he was running. He's at his best when he's running hard and breaking tackles. Fournette did this Sunday – and as Marrone said afterward, the biggest negative for Fournette was not getting enough carries.
9.The Saints are good. Even without quarterback Drew Brees this is true. The Saints won their fourth consecutive game Sunday, and they did so by executing efficiently offensively and defensively. That doesn't excuse the loss, but the Jaguars lost to a Top 5 team Sunday.
10.The Jaguars really need Josh Oliver. With James O'Shaughnessy out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, an already suspect tight-end group was weakened further. Oliver has the athleticism the Jaguars need at the position, and they really need him to return from the hamstring injury that has kept him out since early in training camp.
11.Josh Lambo is good. Your weekly reminder …
12.It's hot in Florida in October. Saints Head Coach Sean Payton appeared to take a dig at Jaguars fans Sunday when he called the game a "challenge coming here from an atmosphere standpoint." Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr.: "We already know that Jacksonville is not a real rah-rah type of stadium; we kind of know what's going to happen with the fans." Message to that duo: It's brutally hot in Florida in September and October, and it's a factor for all Florida teams. There's no air conditioning at the 'Bank. Or shade. Jaguars fans are passionate, and there's nothing wrong with the 'Bank's atmosphere that addressing the heat issue wouldn't solve.
13.The Jaguars still believe … Defensive end Calais Campbell after Sunday's game: "We have the talent to be a very special team. We have the players, coaches and game plan to make us succeed and win some games before the season ends."
14. … but it's Urgent Mode now. Yes, the Jaguars still feel good about their direction, and about what they can be this season. But if Sunday's game at Cincinnati isn't a must-win situation for the 2-4 Jaguars, that time is drawing near.