The New Orleans Saints 23-21 victory at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars was once again the story of two halves for their defense. However, in the end, Jameis Winston delivered a definitive and decisive performance in the Saints' quarterback competition over Taysom Hill.
The defense could be extremely reliable this season for New Orleans. Ken Crawley, who is this man? The defensive line — ends and tackles — may be the best collection for the Saints in recent years.
SAINTS PRESEASON GAME REPORT CARD - JAGUARS
Quarterbacks: Jameis Winston delivered. Period. Those summer workout sessions with wide receiver Marquez Callaway are paying off. The "Winston-to-Callaway Connection" produced two touchdowns for 104 yards in two of Jameis' three drives. Winston needed 1 quarter to produce a "near-perfect" evening by connecting on 9/10 passes for 123 yards, 2 TDs, and a 157.5 QB rating. The biggest plus was his 0 turnovers.
Taysom struggled with the reserves as personnel on six drives with two scores - Punt, Punt, Downs, FG, Punt, and TD. His 57-yard touchdown drive ended with a nice 14-yard lob to WR Lil' Jordan Humphrey to the left in the Podryas Street endzone. Hill ended his night with 11/20 passes for 138 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, and a 93.3 QB rating. He was sacked twice.
Siemian's four drives with three 3-and-outs and 0 points. His 4/8 and 59-yard night wasn't horrible but may have created separation between him and Book — favoring Book.
Grade: B- (Winston: A+, Hill: C+; Siemian: C)
Running Backs: Tony Jones, Jr. may very well become the No. 2 running back by next week. Jones Jr., Murray, Freeman, and Washington unit rushed 21 times for 63 yards (3.0 yards/carry), and 0 TDs. Murray's and Freeman's struggles are a concern for the veterans. In two preseason contests, the Murray has rushed 9 times for a whopping 12 yards. Freeman's efforts haven't been much better with 13 carries for 24 yards in 2 games. Both laid the football on the ground. Washington finally saw action by rushing 4 times for 16 yards (4.0 yards/attempt) and caught 2 balls for 39 yards - the longest reception went for 33 yards.
Receivers: Marquez Callaway deserves an A+ with five targets, 5 receptions, 104 yards, and 2 TDs. Lil' Jordan Humphrey added 1 TD and 74 yards on 4 receptions. Ty Montgomery made plays with 3 catches for 53 yards. The rest of the receivers were a non-factor in the contest. Recent signee Kevin White dropped 2 passes. Vannett, Harris, Johnson, Baker, E. Winston, and Wolf were the receivers, and tight ends targeted to yield only 4 receptions. New Orleans' loss of TE Adam Trautman to a foot injury is a major concern.
Offensive Line: Outstanding first half besides the two false-start penalties by RT Ryan Ramczyk and C Erick McCoy.
Grades: First-Half, B; Second-Half, C
Defensive Line: Jalen Dalton may have earned a roster spot. He was disruptive most of the evening. The defensive front pressured QB Trevor Lawrence with several near-miss sack attempts. Dalton and Huggins had 2 sacks on Jags' QBs. Kpassagnon, Davenport, Onyemata, Huggins, McIntosh, and Dalton registered QB hits.
Linebackers: Good evening for the linebackers. McManis intercepted a pass and recorded 3 passes defended.
Secondary: This preseason may be witnessing a resurrection in Ken Crawley's career. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson dominated the first half and was a co-leader with 6 tackles and 1 pass defended. Paul Adebo had 4 tackles. The second half was a significant dropoff and helped the Jaguars get back into the game.
Grade: First half: A, Second half: C-
Punter: Gillikin boomed 3 punts for 140 yards (46.7 yds/punt), longest of 63 yards. Cooney went 4 punts for 174 yards (43.5 yds/punt), longest 49 yards. Rosas was a mixed bag. His strong leg was noticeable on the 52-yard field goal. But the missed extra point may have Sean Payton auditioning more kickers for this week's practice.
Grade: B (Punters: A, Kicker: C)
Returners: Individual grades — Harris (B-), Montgomery (B-) E. Winston (B), Jones Jr (B-)
Gunners and Cover Team: Nothing notable on the evening.
Good coaching across the board. In Tuesday's meetings, the defensive backs and reserve wide receivers should get an ear full from assistants Richard and Johnson.