Jaguars vs. Saints: What to Watch

After some encouraging signs during their preseason opener, New Orleans Saints takes on Jacksonville Jaguars in their second preseason contest tonight. Here are a few things to watch the closest when the Saints face the Jaguars.
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The New Orleans Saints will host the Jacksonville Jaguars this evening in the second preseason game for both teams.

A 17-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the preseason opener came with encouraging signs, but also things on both sides of the ball that will need cleaned up.

Here are some things to watch closest when the Saints clash with Jacksonville tonight.

OFFENSIVE RHYTHM

New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) throws from the pocket against the Baltimore Ravens. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) throws from the pocket against the Baltimore Ravens. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The major storyline around this team continues to be the quarterback competition between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. Winston will get the first look with number one unit tonight, with Hill relieving him.

Both quarterbacks have had up and down moments throughout training camp, with adequate statistical production against Baltimore.

Hill completed 8 of 12 throws for 81 yards and an interception. Winston went 7 of 12 for 96 yards with a touchdown pass and an interception. Rookie Ian Book, who finished the game, was 9 of 16 for 126 yards and an interception.

More so than most teams in the league, the Saints run a timing-based offense that relies on rhythm and pace. Hill's first drive against the Ravens traveled 66 yards on 8 plays before ending in a fumble by RB Latavius Murray. It was the smoothest the offense looked with him at the helm.

Winston's best drive came near the end of the half operating the two-minute drill. It was an 80-yard march in seven plays that ended with a touchdown pass to Lil'Jordan Humphrey.

The offense looked more efficient with Winston in charge, but both quarterbacks need to improve their mechanics and be smoother with their reads.

Jacksonville ranked near the bottom of the league in most defensive categories last year. They added several players on that side of the ball this offseason to go along with a new coaching staff that brings a change in scheme. 

The Jaguars have a disruptive defensive front with some playmakers in the secondary to challenge a quarterback.

The Saints offensive line will have to give their quarterbacks time to go through their progressions, especially the 2nd and 3rd teamers that struggled last week. Either Winston or Hill needs to take a firm grasp of this offense and show they can run it at the pace that coach Sean Payton demands from the unit.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Baltimore cornerback Shaun Wade (29) intercepts a pass intended for New Orleans Saints receiver Kawaan Baker (14). Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY

Baltimore cornerback Shaun Wade (29) intercepts a pass intended for New Orleans Saints receiver Kawaan Baker (14). Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY

Aside from second-year WR Marquez Callaway and kick returner Deonte Harris, no receiver has shown the ability to be a reliable target for the offense. Given his size and special teams value, it’s unlikely we see Harris in the number two wideout spot.

Fourth-year WR Tre'Quan Smith has missed most of training camp with injury. Identified by several as a potential breakout candidate for the offense, Smith has been wildly inconsistent throughout his career.

Undrafted rookie WR Easop Winston has made some spectacular catches in camp and had a deep reception against the Ravens.

Third-year wideout Lil'Jordan Humphrey has gotten a lot of reps, but hasn't performed consistently enough to firmly secure a role. Veteran addition Chris Hogan has been extremely quiet after a solid start to camp.

One answer could be recent free-agent addition Kevin White. The Number 7 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the 29-year-old White has been plagued by injuries his entire career. He has great size at 6’3” and 216-Lbs. and has had a solid week of practices in his first week with the team.

White, who also had great speed before a series of leg injuries, has a shot to make an impact if he can finally stay healthy.

Another wideout that could make a mark is Kawaan Baker, a rookie seventh-round pick. Baker has great speed to go along with his 6’1” and 210-Lb. frame, but has cooled off after a nice start to camp.

Jacksonville has a solid foursome of cornerbacks who will challenge the Saints receivers to get separation. Pro Bowl free-agent acquisition Shaquill Griffin joins 2020 first-round choice C.J. Henderson at starter. Rookie second-round pick Tyson Campbell and former starter Tré Herndon provide adequate depth.

Wide receiver looks like the biggest weak spot on a New Orleans roster breaking in a new quarterback. 

Callaway looks like a valuable piece and the team could get back All-Pro WR Michael Thomas by mid-season, but this offense desperately needs another receiver who can step up and provide consistent production.

CORNERBACKS

New Orleans Saints cornerbacks Paulson Adebo (29) and Ken Crawley (25) perform defensive drills during a training camp session. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY

New Orleans Saints cornerbacks Paulson Adebo (29) and Ken Crawley (25) perform defensive drills during a training camp session. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY

Rookie third-round choice Paulson Adebo had an impressive debut in his first game with New Orleans. Playing in his first game since November 2019, Adebo was targeted six times and allowed just one reception against the Ravens.

Adebo has been just as impressive in practice, often running with the top defensive unit. Equally impressive has been the play of six-year veteran CB Ken Crawley.

A regular starter for New Orleans in 2016 and 2017, Crawley struggled in a brief stint with Miami before returning to the Saints late in 2019. He and Adebo are locked in a duel for the starting job alongside Pro Bowler Marshon Lattimore.

Lattimore is one of the best in the league, but can Adebo and Crawley continue their standout play to fortify a questionable unit?

Third-year star Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and veterans P.J. Williams and Brian Poole the defense's top coverage options in the slot. 

Gardner-Johnson is one of the unit’s best players, but Poole has been less than impressive and Williams has been a liability in man coverage throughout his career.

Jacksonville looks to get their passing attack going with first overall pick Trevor Lawrence at quarterback. Lawrence has a trio of talented wideouts to target.

Former Pro Bowler D.J. Chark is one of the league's most underrated receivers. Veteran free-agent addition Marvin Jones adds productive experience to complement explosive second-year WR Laviska Shenault.

LINEBACKERS

New Orleans Saints linebackers Pete Werner (20) and Kaden Elliss (55) look on during a training camp session. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY 

New Orleans Saints linebackers Pete Werner (20) and Kaden Elliss (55) look on during a training camp session. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY 

One of the most questionable units on New Orleans entering the offseason is developing into one of its deepest positions. All-Pro LB Demario Davis is one of the NFL's best defenders, and the team re-signed running-mate Kwon Alexander to complement him last week.

The Saints used a second-round pick on Ohio State LB Pete Werner, who sat out the Baltimore game but is expected to play tonight. Zack Baun, a third-round selection last season, has been a star in training camp and had an outstanding game against the Ravens.

With Davis, Alexander, and Werner out of the lineup last week, the depth of this unit flexed their muscle.

Baun, 2019 seventh-round choice Kaden Elliss, and former undrafted players Andrew Dowell and Chase Hansen have all had terrific camps and good showings against Baltimore.

Davis and Alexander will see few snaps against the Jaguars. Werner and Baun are expected to compete for a starting role. Elliss, the impressive Dowell, and Hansen are locked in a fierce battle for the other roster spots.

The Jaguars are just average at tight end, but have a running back unit that will test the New Orleans defenders with their assignments and coverage responsibilities.

First-round pick Travis Etienne adds an explosive element to the Jaguars attack. He’ll be used all over the formation and challenge the Saints linebackers in space. James Robinson, Carlos Hyde, and Ryquell Armstead are punishing runners that will test the linebackers in run support and gap responsibilities.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill (7) throws against the Baltimore Ravens. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill (7) throws against the Baltimore Ravens. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints had ten penalties and turned the ball over six times against Baltimore while converting just 5 of 11 third down opportunities. They take on a Jaguars team that lost 15 straight games after winning their season opener last year.

Jacksonville has an entirely new coaching staff and several new additions on each side of the ball. The Jaguars are a raw, but talented team hungry for a turnaround. They present a good challenge for a New Orleans team that still has open battles at several roster spots.


Follow Bob Rose on Facebook and Twitter @bobbyr2613.

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