Jacksonville Jaguars Make Statement Against New Orleans Saints

David Nelson@JvilleJaguarsCorrespondent IIIAugust 19, 2012

Justin Blackmon Gives Jacksonville a Big Weapon in the Passing Game
Justin Blackmon Gives Jacksonville a Big Weapon in the Passing GameChris Graythen/Getty Images

It's a fair and true statement to say that the Jacksonville Jaguars have opened up the 2012 NFL preseason looking improved and ready to go for Week 1 of the regular season.

Another fair and true statement is to say that we should not get ahead of ourselves, as this team still has a lot of work to do to become a contender for the NFL Playoffs.

Jacksonville went into Friday night's game vs. the New Orleans Saints after they showed flashes of improvement against the New York Giants.  Jacksonville came out of Friday night looking even better.

Blaine Gabbert showed why the national media's coverage of the Jaguars is not only a joke, but in some ways pathetic.

Not sure if the media needed this team to prove further that they are getting better, but they did just that on Friday night.

Blaine finished the game going 13-of-16 for 112 yards, two touchdowns and a 135.4 QB rating. 

At first glance, it's relatively difficult to grasp those numbers with Gabbert after last season, but really shouldn't be anymore.

With back to back 100-plus QB ratings in his first two preseason games, Blaine Gabbert looks not only ready to play QB in the NFL, but to lead the Jaguars to their first playoff appearance since 2007.

The outcome of the game went in the Jaguars' favor, 27-24, but really wasn't a big deal after a first half that represented the improvement of this squad.

Justin Blackmon, Rashad Jennings, Cameron Bradfield and the rest of the starting squad had the Saints' first team defense wondering if they will be able to stop anybody this year.  Between missed tackles and simply just not being able to have an answer for the pass and run game, the Saints defense looked confused and pretty weak.

Blackmon's debut in the NFL was a headliner this past week, and he did not disappoint.

In the first drive of the game for Jacksonville, Blackmon flashed his speed and hands and got into the end zone as well.

Finishing with 48 yards and a touchdown, Blackmon looks like a No. 1 receiver and the best WR of the draft class.

Rashad Jennings, once again, had a very solid game.  

Running for 62 yards on 11 carries, Jennings' totals for the preseason include 23 carries for 118 yards, a 5.1 YPC average.

With the improvement in the passing game, it's very obvious that the running game is able to take advantage of defenses that now need to play against both the run and pass—something that was not the case a year ago.

A surprising note to mention is how well the offensive line played without both Eugene Monroe and Will Rackley.

Moving Cameron Bradfield to left tackle, Eben Britton remaining at left guard, and Guy Whimper moving to right tackle, proved to be a good enough group that gave Blaine a lot of time to find his targets, and gave Jennings holes all throughout the first half to run through.

Defensively, the Jaguars made strides since the first game of the preseason.

Jeremy Mincey came out and scared the living heck out of Saints fans after he caused a sack forced fumble that made Drew Brees land extremely awkwardly.

Mincey is starting to show the characteristics of an elite defensive end in the NFL, and if this team can bring Andre Branch along, will have a chance to create a pass rush that has not been seen in Jacksonville for a long time.

With starters out that included Derek Cox, Rashean Mathis and Daryl Smith, the defense still has a ways to go to become the elite defense they want to be this year.

After a great start to the game that created pressure on the Saints passing game, Brees was able to eventually become Drew Brees.

Leading the Saints down the field, the Jaguars secondary struggled to keep up and showed holes throughout the secondary.

Aaron Ross and William Middleton did a mediocre job against such a high-profile passer, but Cox and Mathis were missed. 

I noticed that rookie Mike Harris was able to get some playing time in the second half and showed decent tackling capabilities, but was not showing good coverage skills.

Harris may be relied on to help out in the slot, so he needs to show obvious improvement by Week 1 if he is to get on the field for the regular season.

Aaron Morgan, once again, came through with a sack and looks to be wrapping up a spot on the final roster.

Looking for a chance to shine after injuries hurt his career, Morgan is making the most out of his opportunity. 

With John Chick out, the team is looking for an edge rusher to help get pressure on quarterbacks this season.  

Andre Branch and Jeremy Mincey seemingly have the starting spots wrapped up, with Austen Lane, Aaron Morgan, George Selvie and Ryan Davis looking for the spot to back them up.

Although it's difficult to gauge how the starting squad will look with so many key starters out, the Jaguars defense does need to improve to live up to the standards that are now set after being a top five defense a season ago.

The Jaguars travel to Baltimore on Thursday (7:30PM EST) to take on another great team in the NFL.

So far, so good, but the Jaguars will need to keep the energy and confidence up as they are a young team and have a long season ahead of them.


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