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Jaguars vs. Saints preseason primer:

    • 75 posts
    November 18, 2018 8:00 PM PST
    Key matchups Jacksonville Jaguars Womens Hoodie , storylines, and predictions for Week 1 The Jacksonville Jaguars kick off their 2018 campaign tonight at 7pm EST against the New Orleans Saints (see Ryan O’Bleness’ crossover piece with Canal Street Chronicles).Although the starters may not see more than a series in all likelihood, that shouldn’t mitigate the enthusiasm of seeing the Jaguars suit up in an organized competition for the first time since January. Toss in the debut of our new threads — teal tops and white pants, by the way — and tonight’s affair becomes must-see-TV.OpponentOne of the strongest rosters in the NFL, the Saints will likely sideline their marquee veterans, including Drew Brees. This means a heavy dose of Tom Savage, who is still probably experiencing PTSD from the Jaguars ten sack thrashing against the Texans in week one of last season. Undrafted rookie quarterback JT Barrett of Ohio State should see the majority of snaps in the second half.Similar to the Jaguars, the Saints are pretty set across the board with their starters and there won’t be many position battles to key in on. One player I look forward to watching is rookie running back Boston Scott of Louisiana Tech. Scott was a prospect I was very high on as a potential draft gem and Corey Grant replacement, and he should get plenty of play as the Saints seek clarity at the bottom of their running back depth chart with Mark Ingram suspended for the first four games of 2018.StorylinesThe Jaguars’ offseason has been relatively uneventful to this point owing to the dearth of position battles on this roster, but this is what I like to refer to as “champagne problems.”While I do expect the offensive and defensive starting units to begin the game and sweat a little bit, I don’t expect them to stay in very long. This means a heavy dose of Cody Kessler and rookie Tanner Lee, who is vying to earn a spot on the practice squad. Kessler will need to show fluency in the offense in a live situation and demonstrate that he can limit turnovers in the event he ever has to play this season.The battle for the final wide receiver spot should also start to come into focus. My understanding is that Shane Wynn and Jaydon Mickens (with an exception) are eligible for the practice squad this season, and rookie free agent Allen Lazard has come on strong lately. When I interviewed Lazard at the Senior Bowl, he shared that the Saints were his favorite team growing up and that they “grilled him” on the whiteboard in his first meeting in Mobile. With such promise at the position and early nicks to Marqise Lee and Donte Moncrief in camp, it wouldn’t be the most outrageous thing if the Jaguars end up keeping just three running backs and seven wide receivers on the final 53 man roster.On the defense, the amount of reps that rookie strong side linebacker Leon Jacobs sees in his debut will be something worth noting. Jacobs has impressed his coaches and teammates in camp Womens Customized Jacksonville Jaguars Jerseys , and Thursday’s exhibition will be a huge test for how well he can actually apply the information in game speed. Expect Jacobs to see a lot of snaps, especially with backup Brooks Ellis sidelined for most of the past week.Key matchupsMarcus Davenport and Trey Hendrickson vs. Will Richardson2018 Saints first round pick Marcus Davenport is the guy I would love to see test rookie right tackle Will Richardson, but Davenport has spent more time working with trainers thus far than he has on the field and likely will be shelved for the game. This sets up a big opportunity for Florida Atlantic product Trey Hendrickson to square off against Richardson, and we will have a better idea by the end of the match up if Richardson is cut from NFL cloth.Tre’Quan Smith vs. Tre HerndonA familiar name for most Jaguars fans, UCF rookie receiver Tre’Quan Smith has lit up camp for the Saints. Smith will likely see snaps on both the outside and in the slot, where he will be competing with Ted Ginn Jr. and Tommylee Lewis for regular season snaps. If rookie free agent cornerback Tre Herndon can continue the positive momentum he’s generated so far, he can continue to build his case for making the team.Deon Yelder vs. Leon JacobsIf Jacobs sees snaps into the second half, he will have his hands full against rookie free agent tight end Deon Yelder. Jacobs has flashed his coverage skills and Yelder will be a nice challenge to see if Jacobs can play backwards from the line.Natrell Jamerson vs. Tanner LeeTanner Lee was a turnover machine at Nebraska, and his performance so far in camp suggests this may be a theme that carries over into his pro career. Similar to Kessler, Nathaniel Hackett and Scott Milanovich will be evaluating Lee on his ability to take care of the football, which is priority number one for this offense.Final predictionI think the Jaguars take a lead into halftime, but a couple Tanner Lee picks allow the Saints to take home the win in the fourth quarter. That’s fine. Whether or not the Jaguars win on the scoreboard, they will be real winners if they can enter next week with an empty injury report. Leonard Fournette sprinted right, took a couple of stutter steps while waiting for blockers, cut back sharply and then made another abrupt move to elude two defenders and find an even bigger opening.He was celebrating in the end zone a few seconds later.Fournette's 21-yard touchdown scamper in an exhibition game against Atlanta was longer than any run he had during Jacksonville's final seven games last season. It showed the kind of vision and burst Fournette lacked down the stretch as a rookie, and provided a glimpse of what the Jaguars expect from the centerpiece of their oft-maligned offense in 2018."I want to be great ," Fournette said.With that in mind, Fournette shed more than 15 pounds this offseason in an effort to "take it back" to his college days. He now expects his second NFL season to look a lot like his sophomore year at LSU , the 2015 campaign in which he averaged 6.5 yards a carry, scored 22 touchdowns and finished sixth in Heisman Trophy voting.Fournette insists he's eating better, conditioning more and even doing 50 push-ups a night."I would say it is probably one of my first years feeling healthier than I ever did before," he said.The Jaguars are counting on it making a difference on the field, too.Fournette carried 268 times for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns in 2017. He scored seven touchdowns in his first six games, including on runs of 90 and 75 yards.He slowed significantly down the stretch, missing two games because of injuries and another because of a suspension. The Jaguars led the league in rushing, averaging 141.4 yards a game, but the ground attack was hardly the same during the second half of the season and the playoffs.Jacksonville averaged 40 yards less a game over that stretch and was down a little more than a yard a carry.The stalled ground attack reached a low point in the AFC title game at New England. Trying to milk the clock and preserve a lead, the Jags managed a measly 41 yards on 15 carries in the second half. More than a third of those yards (14) came on one play.Fournette shouldered the blame, and the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft decided to do something about it. He got leaner and fitter in hopes of gaining a little more top-end speed and becoming a three-down back. He also plans to get out of bounds more often to save his body from the pain and pounding that comes with a 16-game schedule."It's Year 2," offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. "You always look at Year 2 being in the same system and understanding everything: the speed of the game, the offense. That's always going to amp up your production."Jacksonville made several other moves to help Fournette.General manager Dave Caldwell and football czar Tom Coughlin signed All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell to a five-year Jacksonville Jaguars T-Shirt , $66.5 million contract in free agency. They also revamped the receiving corps by signing big-play receiver Donte Moncrief and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, then selected speedy receiver DJ Chark in the second round of the draft.Caldwell and Coughlin believe Norwell and a few more passing threats will help create more space for Fournette near the line of scrimmage.And for Jacksonville — which wants to win games by running the ball and playing stout defense — that could mean everything in a season with Super Bowl aspirations.Fournette being leaner could pay dividends, too."I feel like he's faster," defensive end Yannick Ngakoue said. "I can tell he's been working hard."Some other things to know about Jacksonville heading into the season opener at the Giants:DEFENSIVE DOMINANCE?: After finishing second in the NFL in yards allowed, points, sacks, takeaways and interceptions last year, Jacksonville's defense believes it will be improved in 2018 . The unit returns 12 of its top 14 players, including eight starters who earned Pro Bowl honors in the last four years."We like to talk a lot of trash and back it up and make teams fear us," All-Pro defensive end Calais Campbell said. "Our ultimate goal is to strike intimidation, and people know that we know how good we are. That's a good feeling to have."MISSING RECEIVER: The Jaguars will be without top receiver Marqise Lee for the season. Lee tore ligaments in his left knee in a preseason game, was placed on injured reserve and will have season-ending surgery. The team will rely on second-year pros Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook, one-year rental Moncrief and rookie Chark to fill the void.POSTSEASON BOUND?: Jacksonville is looking for consecutive postseason berths for the second time in franchise history and first time since the 1998 and '99 seasons.