Today's game in Jacksonville is the first in a three-game stretch away from the Dome for the New Orleans Saints, so let's consider this edition of Hot Reads the road map for the Saints to find their way to a good start on this road trip.
So, start unfolding it as you make the jump...
**Just like last week, let's use the comment area as our pre-game Open Thread for the run-up to the kickoff!!**
Saints vs Jaguars coverage
With the Saints O-line down two starters, and two newbies who played well in surprise duty last week seeing their first NFL starts, you just had to know that the first 'Read' would be to PROTECT DREW BREES.
The Saints do have a bit going in their favor in this regard. Despite the overall defensive strength of the Jaguars, they have only recorded three sacks all season long, and pass-rushing threat DE Aaron Kampman will not play.
What I'd like to see: Brian De La Puente and Charles Brown, I'm looking at both of you to build on your solid performances of last week with a full game of crisp, mistake-free blocking. It's one thing to play well in mid-game replacement, and quite another to step up from start to finish with a complete, good game, especially after a whole week of thinking about how you MUST PROTECT DREW BREES. Good luck, gentlemen.
Checkdown # 1
Literally, the only proven weapon in the 2011 arsenal of the Jaguars is Maurice Jones-Drew, so I implore the defense to POOP-CAN MJD. (While I'm in this neighborhood, does anyone else connect the acronym "MJD" with the nickname "MGD" for Miller Genuine Draft? I was either almost drinking age, or just past it when Miller released this product, and whenever I hear/read MJD, I always picture the gold and black cans and bottle labels of that beer.)
OK, back to the reason we're here. Jones-Drew has rushed for 97, 88, and 122 yards this year at a yards per carry average of 4.7. He averages 22 carries a game, and has scored a TD. If the Saints defense can shut him down, they'll be well on their way to victory.
What I'd like to see: Maurice neutralized while the Saints build a big lead early in the game, and then watch him hardly get used in the rest of the game while they futilely turn to the arm of Blaine Gabbert to make up the lost ground.
Checkdown # 2
We all know what Gregg Williams likes to do with rookie quarterbacks, so today's victorious effort will be bolstered by an effective pass rush that GETS TO GABBERT early and often.
He's in the second start of his young career, it's his home debut, and I see two Jacksonville offensive linemen (Eugene Monroe and Jason Spitz) listed as QUESTIONABLE for the game. Can you envision the drool collecting on the edge of GW's lips? He might even smell blood in the water already.
What I'd like to see: Gabbert knocked down frequently, sacked multiple times (often on third down would be great), and putting up miserable passing stats while he is made very uncomfortable every time he drops back to pass. That should just about do it.
To avoid another slow start and get that early lead to allow the defense to pin their ears back and pound the QB, the Saints need to WIN ON THIRD DOWN, on both sides of the ball.
Last week, the Saints were only two of five on third down in the first half, and trailed 16-10. Then in the second half, they went six of eight, and outscored the Texans 30-17. See what I mean?
On the season, the Jags have only converted 15 of 44 third downs, while the Saints have rocked 25 of 44.
What I'd like to see: The Saints get it done early on third down, offensively and defensively, to allow these trends to continue, which will send us to a big early lead.
Extra Bonus Hot Read
Forget everything you've read above. The real Mane Event of this game is the Battle of the Hair (brought to you by Suave Botanicals) between the luscious locks of the hirsute Thomas Morstead and Gorgeous Blaine Gabbert.
Whoever's hair stands up best to the humidity and heat of Jacksonville and the sweat of live game action will tip the scales of victory in favor of his team. Mark it eight, Donnie.
Go here and then click on the Gabbert story photo to see what he brings to the party.
Go here to see a picture of Morstead's profile in the locker room after the Bears game.
What I'd like to see: Gabbert's hair, limp and plastered to his head (or sloppily tucked under his cap) while he sits on the sideline with a look of frustration on his face. The frustration will be over his on-field performance as well as the performance of his conditioner. This will contrast with Morstead's bouncy waves of hair displaying much body with a healthy glow.