The New Orleans Saints are set to face off against their second straight AFC South foe in the Jacksonville Jaguars, this time in primetime on Thursday Night Football. The Jags will be looking to earn their first win in franchise history in the Superdome, while the Saints will be looking to keep pace in the NFC South.
This week we are joined by Gus Logue from Big Cat Country who has answered five questions about the Jags season and this week's game in our Week 7 edition of Interview with the Enemy.
HR: First things first, how is the health of Trevor Lawrence? Do you think there is any chance he doesn’t play Thursday? And if he does, do you think he will be limited at all by the knee injury he sustained against the Colts?
Gus Logue: The health of Trevor Lawrence is up in the air. Doug Pederson was noncommittal at Monday’s media availability: he simply called Lawrence “day to day” multiple times and anticipates a decision on the quarterback situation will be made “kickoff on Thursday night.” Jacksonville’s head coach pulled a similar stunt last year after Lawrence sustained a toe injury in Week 13 to keep the opposition guessing.
After last Sunday’s game, Lawrence was walking with relative ease around the locker room and feeling good enough to speak to media. The short week could change things, but as of Tuesday morning, I’d say there’s a 75% chance Lawrence suits up. He’ll almost certainly be limited if he does play, so look for the Jaguars to lean on the run in Week 7.
HR: Before the season, not many thought the Jags defense would be any better than just average, but through 6 weeks they have played much better than anticipated. Do you think this defense is just off to a hot start or do you think they are a legit top 10-15 unit in the NFL, especially with the return of players like Dawuane Smoot last week?
GL: Yes. The Jaguars are both off to a hot start (no other team has more takeaways) and a legit top 10-15 unit. Jacksonville’s defense passed two big tests with flying colors in the past two weeks, with convincing performances against both a top-shelf quarterback in Josh Allen in Week 5 and a bottom-shelf passer in Gardner Minshew in Week 6. In the first three quarters of each game, the Jaguars forced six punts and allowed 7 points to the Bills then created three turnovers and allowed 6 points to the Colts.
Mike Caldwell’s unit ranks ninth in defensive DVOA and is allowing opponents to score on just 27.5% of drives, the fifth-lowest rate in the league. And as you mentioned, the defense isn’t even at full strength, with Dawuane Smoot having just played his first game of 2023 and DaVon Hamilton still working his way back. The story of the season for Jacksonville is its chaos-inducing defense.
HR: A player we know all too well here is former Falcon Calvin Ridley. He is a great player but hasn’t consistently produced like a dominant WR1 through 6 weeks. What do you think the reasons for that are?
GL: There are many reasons Calvin Ridley hasn’t consistently produced as a dominant WR1. A few early season drops could suggest some rust after he missed nearly two years of NFL action, and he and Lawrence have improved their chemistry but not yet chiseled it.
I think one underrated reason for his underwhelming production so far is the defense. That side of the ball has done much of the heavy lifting for Jacksonville this season. We haven’t seen a ton of Ridley highlights partly because the team hasn’t required them.
HR: Tyson Campbell also unfortunately sustained an injury against the Colts, who really went after his replacement Montaric Brown in the second half to some success. How do you see the Jags secondary holding up against Chris Olave, Michael Thomas and Rashid Shaheed if Campbell is unable to go this week?
GL: Tyson Campbell is one of Jacksonville’s five best and most important players. His loss is critical, especially since as you pointed out, the depth behind him isn’t encouraging. Indy immediately went after 2022 seventh-round cornerback Montaric Brown; fellow young guns Gregory Junior and Christian Braswell are on injured reserve; and former CB4 Chris Claybrooks is on the commissioner’s exempt list. The Jaguars added Amani Oruwariye to its practice squad on Monday.
Darious Williams leads the league in pass deflections and is tied for the lead in interceptions, but his job becomes much more difficult as the No. 1 cover man as opposed to CB2. Jacksonville’s cornerbacks against New Orleans’ wide receivers are arguably the biggest mismatch in this game. Chris Olave, Michael Thomas and Rashid Shaheed should be heavily involved for the Saints to get the win.
HR: Despite the talent on both offenses, DraftKings Sportsbook has the O/U at a measly 39 points. If both teams hit their average for points scored this season, (23 for the Jags and 18 for the Saints) they will hit the Over. What do you see as the main obstacle to the Jags hitting that mark this week?
GL: Obviously, Lawrence’s health will be a major obstacle this week. Marshon Lattimore will also be a tough test for Calvin Ridley. The biggest thing I’m looking for is Jacksonville’s success on the ground in New Orleans; if Travis Etienne isn’t able to get going, it could be a long night for the Jaguars offense.
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