The Jaguars travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints in front of a national television audience for preseason week two. After falling at home to the Browns, the Jaguars look play a more impressive brand of ball with the world watching on ESPN's Monday Night Football. The game kicks off at 8 pm.
Here's what I'll be watching for.
The star of the show each and every time the Jaguars take the field is Trevor Lawrence. Last Saturday, the first overall pick had a solid first outing against the Browns, completing 6-9 passes for 71 yards and looking mostly comfortable on third down. He did hold the ball too long a couple of times and had a couple of inaccurate passes, but overall the spotlight didn't look too big for Trevor, even after taking a sack on the first play of his pro career. This week will be an entirely new challenge. Lawrence will "probably" start, according to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. But when will he be named the starter? The Saints will be gunning for the rookie quarterback, and he could be without his three starting interior offensive linemen. Brandon Linder is out with tendonitis, Andrew Norwell hasn't practiced fully in a couple of weeks with an elbow injury, and AJ Cann, who is vaccinated, tested positive for COVID-19 late last week, but Urban Meyer believes it may have been a false positive. We've received no news on that front since Friday. If the entire interior of the O-Line is out, Trevor will need to be even hastier with the football. On Friday, Jaguars' head coach Urban Meyer mentioned wanting to get Trevor more playing time in this one but also acknowledged that injuries up front could impact how long they keep Lawrence out there.
The Rest of the Rookie Class
The Jaguars have a large rookie class, and many of them had impressive debuts in the preseason opener.
Travis Etienne, however, did not. The rookie running back received just one carry and didn't catch a pass, with his lone target being an errant pass from Gardner Minshew. I'm not advocating for Etienne to get a full workload, but a handful of touches would help him get his feet wet in the pro game.
Second-round cornerback Tyson Campbell was very impressive last week, that is, outside of one play. Unfortunately, that single miscue gifted the Browns a touchdown. Campbell proved sticky in the shallow and intermediate areas of the field, but he needs to prove he can make plays on the deep ball.
Second-round offensive tackle Walker Little played over 40 snaps in week one, all on the left side, and should be in line for another heavy workload Monday night. Little has some hand placement and footwork issues to clean up, but overall he looked really good, surrendering just two pressures and creating holes in the run game, and even working to the second level with ease. He'll look to knock off some more of the rust this week. After all, Little hadn't played in a game since week one of 2019.
Third-round safety Andre Cisco may have been the best Jaguar on the field against the Browns. He lined up everywhere, and I do mean EVERYWHERE. More impressive, he looked calm, cool, and collected no matter his assignment. Cisco hasn't technically earned the starting safety job next to Rayshawn Jenkins, but Urban Meyer conceded that the rookie is competing for the starting job. If he continues to play well, there's no reason to keep the playmaking safety off the field.
Fourth-round defensive tackle Jay Tufele, who also hadn't played since 2019, looked stout in his pro debut and showed off his explosiveness on the interior. He recorded just one tackle, but he showed the ability to hold up at the point of attack and penetrate.
The Jaguars traded up for EDGE Jordan Smith on day three of the draft, and he showed why the team was so high on him. He was strong against the run, displaying the ability to set the edge and the awareness to bat a pass at the line of scrimmage with the team backed up in the redzone.
Fifth-round tight end Luke Farrell caught just one pass on one target, but he did his job, helping create space in the run game with his blocking ability.
The Jaguars' final pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, wide receiver Jalen Camp, was relatively quiet, but he hauled in one pass for nine yards. He has the size and athleticism to make an impact, but he's still adjusting to the pro game after coming from an unconventional Georgia Tech offense in college.
Urban Meyer was unsatisfied with the Jaguars' "wallowing" offense last weekend. He wants to see more tempo, urgency, and a little bit more in the playcalling department. It appears there's been a bit of a struggle when it comes to what the Jags are willing to show in the preseason. Meyer wants to go all out to put some points on the board early, but his coaching staff has cautioned against revealing any of their offensive secrets. Keep an eye on the playcalling and pace early on in this one.
Last week, the Big Cats were strong against the run, allowing a mere 1.6 yards per carry on the ground. But they struggled mightily to stop screens. It's been an issue in Jacksonville for a long time, but new defensive coordinator Joe Cullen didn't seem too concerned after the game. "Well, they had three screens on second-and-long," Cullen shared. "So, first of all, a screen is a run, so all 11 guys have to stop it, and we've just got to do better at it. I have to coach better and do better. So, it's no big deal. I mean, you recognize turn and sprint, and then you force the ball back inside. And on those screens that did break, the positive thing is we had two D-linemen make the play, and they were sticking their foot in the ground and redirecting 20 yards down the field. But we have to get it cleaned up, and we will." The Jaguars did some game planning this week, and I'm sure the Saints did too. They'll know the Jaguars couldn't stop the screen in preseason week one.
Pass Rush, Third Down Defense
Despite resting all their starters, the Browns' offense converted 58% of their third-down tries against the Jaguars. Part of the issue on those converted attempts was a lack of pressure from the Jaguars' defense. Despite the Jaguars employing a blitz-heavy scheme, the Browns didn't seem too rushed back there and were able to beat the blitz on some quick passes. There will need to be more urgency to the quarterback and tighter coverage earlier in routes this week.
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