The Jacksonville Jaguars play host to the New Orleans Saints this Sunday.
Similarities Between Saints and Jaguars
Despite the Saints being 4-1 and the Jaguars being 2-3, the two teams head into their matchup this Sunday in a similar situation. They are both starting backup quarterbacks in place of injured starters: Teddy Bridgewater in place of Drew Brees, and Gardner Minshew in place of Nick Foles.
Saints Head Coach Sean Payton is confident in Bridgewater’s ability and likes what he’s seeing from him.
Neither team was expecting to be without their starting quarterbacks five games into the season, but both have filled in admirably. Teddy Bridgewater looks to keep up his solid play as he fills in for Drew Brees. However, he’s done more than just fill in.
He’s been good. The Saints have only lost once with him at QB, and that was when he was forced into the Saints’ Week 2 game against the Rams. Bridgewater is not the sole reason the Saints have been winning in Brees’ absence, but he has done more than was expected of him when Brees went down.
Last week against the Buccaneers, Bridgewater threw for 314 yards and four touchdowns. 184 of those yards were to Michael Thomas, the Saints number one receiver, and perhaps the number one receiver in the league right now. The Saints offense has not been great outside of Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, but going 3-1 without one of the best quarterbacks ever isn’t bad.
Not having Drew Brees until at least week 8 is less than ideal for a Saints team that has Super Bowl aspirations, but they seem to be in good hands.
Bridgewater and Minshew
Bridgewater was asked about Minshew and how he’s performed in Foles’ absence, and he had good things to say.
Bridgewater and Minshew are in interesting situations. When Brees comes back, there is no question he will start over Bridgewater. But that might not be the case with Minshew. If Nick Foles can come back this year, it could be a serious discussion. Minshew has performed well with the Jaguars despite their record. The key for Jacksonville’s success going forward is not turning over the ball, and giving Minshew enough time to get the ball to DJ Chark and the rest of the Jags’ receiving core.
Leonard Fournette is doing all he can to help Minshew and the Jaguars offense. He is third in rushing yards this year with 512 yards, only behind Vikings’ Dalvin Cook and Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey. The running game is doing enough for the Jaguars, but they’ll look to do so against a young and improving Saints defense.
Bridgewater Improving with Time
Last week against the Buccaneers, Bridgewater threw for 314 yards and four touchdowns, the latter of which tied a career-high. He will look to further improve against the Jaguars, but that could be tough on the road. He has improved vastly since he came in Week 2, with a 70.25 completion rating in his five games, which is good for fourth in the league. Despite his great completion percentage though, he is just 26th among all quarterbacks this year in yards per game.
Bridgewater will no doubt look to improve his yards per game this Sunday, and it’s clear targeting Michael Thomas is a key to that. Last week, Thomas had 11 receptions for 182 yards for two touchdowns against the Buccaneers. If he could put up even half that this Sunday, the Saints could be in good shape with Alvin Kamara going against a run defense that did not look good last week.
Jags Look to Slow Down Kamara
The Jaguars’ run defense was not up to the task against Christian McCaffrey. Most defenses aren’t, but McCaffrey’s 176 rushing yards and two touchdowns are problematic to say the least. However, Doug Marrone believes limiting these runs is just a matter of covering the gaps and tackling better.
Minshew’s Solid Play
Gardner Minshew had a great game against the Panthers last week, throwing for 374 yards and two touchdowns. Despite this performance, three key fumbles spoiled what would have been a great win for the Jaguars. Minshew blamed himself for the loss and looks to cut out the fumble from his game going into Sunday. If the Jaguars are going to beat the Saints, a big game from Gardner Minshew is key.
The game will be on ESPN 98.1 850 AM WRUF following coverage of the Gator volleyball game.