Jacksonville remains intent on keeping disgruntled cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who requested a trade after the team’s Week 2 loss. Ramsey has curiously missed the last two games with a back injury, but that’s not all, he was spotted with Houston Texans quarterback this Sunday Ramsey, who was reportedly in Houston to see a back specialist, found time to visit his friend (Watson) and their agent, David Mulugheta, just hours after the Jaguars’ most recent loss. Despite several offers, Jacksonville has opted against dealing their All-Pro cornerback. According to NFL Analyst Adam Schefter, the Jaguars would not let Ramsey go even if it was “for five first-round picks”. Can the Jaguars overcome distractions and get back on the winning track at home against the short-handed Saints this weekend?
Minshew Mania continued last week, but Jacksonville ultimately came up short 34-27 on the road versus the Carolina Panthers. The Jaguars’ backup quarterback threw for 374 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions against the Panthers, but he lost three costly fumbles on the day that ultimately ended Jacksonville’s two-game winning streak. Running back Leonard Fournette rushed for 108 yards and a score, while emerging wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. added eight catches for 164 yards and two scores for the Jaguars, who fell to 2-3 with the loss. Fournette and Chark Jr. actually lead the AFC in rushing and receiving yardage, respectively, through the first five weeks. Chark’s five receiving scores also ties him for second in the NFL, alongside Dallas Cowboys star Amari Cooper.
Minshew’s 374-yard performance was his highest total of the season and the first 300-yard passing game of his career. The sixth-round pick now has seven touchdowns and zero interceptions in four starts this year. The man with the mustache has thrown for 1,279 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception through five weeks, making him the current front-runner for NFL Rookie of the Year.
On the other hand, the transition to backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been a breeze in New Orleans. Bridgewater has now led New Orleans to victories in three straight games, including wins over the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys, who currently sit atop their respective divisions. Last week, New Orleans avoided an upset at home versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, limiting them to just 252 yards of total offense (4.6 yards per play) and 3-for-11 on third down conversions. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore turned in his second straight strong performance on the outside, holding No. 1-wide receiver Mike Evans to zero catches in the win. Meanwhile, Bridgewater had arguably his best game under center, completing 26 of 34 passes for 314 yards, four touchdowns and one interception to improve to 3-0 as a starter this year. Head coach Sean Payton opened up the playbook for Bridgewater versus the Bucs, utilizing a much more vertical offense compared to Bridgewater’s first two starts. In Weeks 3 and 4, Bridgewater averaged 6.49 yards per attempt. That number climbed to 9.24 yards per attempt in Week 5, as Bridgewater finished with 314 yards passing and four touchdown throws.
Thomas remains productive despite QB changeAfter three straight wins with Bridgewater under center, don’t expect head coach Sean Payton to rush Brees back from the thumb injury, but if it’s up to the All-Pro quarterback, he could be back sooner rather than later. According to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, the Saints’ starting quarterback is eyeing a return before the team’s Week 9 bye, which would position him to return at home in Week 8 versus Arizona.
Bridgewater will have to pay attention to star corner Jalen Ramsey, who is back playing this week for the Jaguars.
“Definitely. He's an outstanding player," said Bridgewater. "I've been following him since he was in college at Florida State so I know all about him. Like you said, when he's out there, he brings that swagger to that defense, that confidence. If he's playing this week, we're looking forward to that match up. We know that it's going to be a fun one with him and our wide receivers and their entire secondary. They have a good group, a good young group too who are playing some solid football. We're looking forward to this match up this week.”
Michael Thomas was the main beneficiary of last week’s vertical passing game, catching 11 balls for 182 yards and two touchdowns. Tampa Bay tried pressing Thomas, which proved to be a bad idea. The Saints’ All-Pro receiver was press covered 63 percent of the time last week, catching nine of nine targets for 164 yards and two scores in those situations. It’s safe to say the Saints are getting their money’s worth from Thomas, no matter who is under center.
The Saints’ defense continues to make strides, especially in the passing game, where cornerback Eli Apple has quietly put together a strong start. While Lattimore has been praised for his shutdown performances over the past two weeks, and rightfully so, Apple has been the team’s most consistent defensive back in coverage. Apple earned the team’s highest overall defensive grade from Pro Football Focus after their Week 5 win over the Bucs. Second on that list is defensive end Marcus Davenport, who is also hoping to build on his best NFL game. Davenport finished with two of the Saints’ six sacks to go along with three quarterback hits, a forced fumble and three tackles.
Ramsey expected to play vs. SaintsElite in 2017, Jacksonville’s defense has failed to live up to the hype over the past two seasons and they enter their Week 6 matchup with the Saints struggling on the defensive side of the ball. They come in surrendering 382 yards per game (24th in the NFL) and they are allowing 245.4 yards per game through the air, which ranks 18th in the league. Luckily for them, owner Shad Khan told reporters on Thursday that Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who returned to practice in a limited capacity earlier this week, is expected to return to the field on Sunday versus the Saints. They will need to find a way to get to the quarterback though, after racking up just three combined sacks over the past two weeks.
When talking about Ramsey, Khan also left open the possibility of a trade. “You got to balance what is good for the team with what the individual's wishes might be,” Khan said. “I think we will be able to come to whatever makes sense for all.” The Philadelphia Eagles have long been rumored as the top destination for Ramsey, who requested a trade after an altercation with head coach Doug Marrone in the team’s Week 2 loss to the Houston Texans.
The Jaguars seem to have found their identity on offense as of late, which has involved a healthy dose of starting running back Leonard Fournette. The former top-5 pick has racked up at least 20 touches in three straight games and he’s compiled a healthy 333 rushing yards over the past two weeks. Fournette has rushed for 512 yards on 5.4 yards per carry this season, but he’s found the end zone just once, with Jacksonville electing to throw the ball in the red zone.
- Saints are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games in Week 6.
- Saints are 23-8 ATS in their last 31 games following an ATS win.
- Saints are 21-8 ATS in their last 29 road games.
- Jaguars are 1-3-2 ATS in their last 6 games after accumulating more than 250 yards passing in their previous game.
- Jaguars are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games in October.