The Jacksonville Jaguars head to New Orleans this Friday night to face the Saints in the second game of preseason. Last season, the Jaguars hosted the Saints in Week 4 at Everbank Field, in what was Blaine Gabbert’s second start of his career, as the team fell to New Orleans by a score of 23-10. However, things are different in Jacksonville this season, as the new regime, led by head coach Mike Mularkey, and his team will head to 'the Big Easy' for their first road game of the year. The team will head into this game without their Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who is continuing his holdout.
Last week, the Jaguars came out with a victory in Jacksonville over the reigning Super Bowl Champions, as backup quarterback Jordan Palmer led a late fourth-quarter drive to defeat the Giants by a score of 32-31. Most notably, however, was the execution of the first drive by the Jaguars offense, led by second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert. On the first offensive series of the game, Gabbert led the offense 89 yards in 13-plays to put up the first points on the board, capping off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Cecil Shorts. While this new Jacksonville offense will look to improve this Friday night against the Saints, hopefully, the offense can hold onto the ball, as there were multiple fumbles last week in Jacksonville.
Justin Blackmon, who the Jaguars selected fifth overall in this year's draft, was finally signed to prior to the game against the Giants last week, and will make his preseason debut for the team this week in New Orleans. Blackmon has been practicing with the first team this week, and it will certainly be interesting to see how he integrates into this offense, and how the chemistry with his quarterback looks. Blackmon, a key piece of this new offense, will need to catch-up, in terms of reps, as he’s missed time in camp.
Just like last week, Rashad Jennings will be one of the key players to watch in this game. Last week, the fourth-year running back out of Liberty rushed for 56 yards on 12 carries, including a 17-yard run down the side of the field. If Jennings can carry the momentum into New Orleans, and have another good showing, it could hurt any leverage that Maurice Jones-Drew has, as he continues his hold-out. Also, watch for Montell Owens out of the backfield, as he was just moved up to the second spot on the depth chart. As a former Pro Bowl player on Special Teams, he had a touchdown run against the Giants this week, so look for Owens to continue to capitalize on his opportunities.
Due to injuries throughout camp, the Jaguars have become thin on the offensive line, with left tackle Eugene Monroe's status now uncertain for Friday night, following a hit to the head in practice on Wednesday. Cornerback Derek Cox will also miss this game with a hamstring injury. Either way, much like the New York Giants, the New Orleans Saints are a great opponent for the Jaguars to face in the preseason. Let's see if this team can continue to improve on last week's showing, and how they stack up against one of the elite teams in the league in the Saints.