As Doug Pederson and his banged-up roster will attest to, Thursday Night Football comes round quick!
The Jacksonville Jaguars are preparing for a midweek matchup against the New Orleans Saints, hoping to make it four wins on the bounce. With spirits high and the team enjoying some real momentum, here are three matchups to look out for on Thursday night:
Montaric Brown vs Chris Olave
Sure as heck sounds like it will be Montaric “Buster” Brown will be getting the start opposite Darious Williams in place of Tyson Campbell Thursday.— Mia O'Brien (@MiaOBrienTV) October 17, 2023
Said he has a lot of family coming to NOLA + has been picking Darious/Tyson’s brain in preparation #Jaguars | #DUUUVAL pic.twitter.com/FOWkftCrfp
The injury bug hasn’t fully bitten the Jaguars just yet, but it’s certainly having a good nibble. Jacksonville hobbled away from the 37-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday with health concerns at quarterback, receiver, offensive line and cornerback. Doug Pederson was non-committal on the status of most of the names that didn’t practice on Monday, but confirmed that a hamstring injury would mean that starting corner Tyson Campbell would not feature against the Saints. That means that Montaric Brown will step in opposite Darious Williams in a Jags’ secondary that is playing lights out right now.
Brown has his work cut out on Thursday. The Saints will likely try and get second year receiver Chris Olave up against ‘Buster’, who showed some limitations athletically when he stepped in on Sunday. Olave excels stretching the field and making outrageous catches along the sideline. The Jaguars may attempt to have the in-form Darious Williams mirror Olave as much as possible, leaving Brown up against Michael Thomas - a pass catcher that predominantly works underneath. That would play to Jacksonville’s strengths, but Saints OC Pete Carmichael will use motion against zone coverage to get the matchups he craves.
Rumor has it that, following a subpar performance against the Houston Texans last weekend, quarterback Derek Carr held something of a meeting with Olave and Thomas to try and ‘get on the same page’. Expect New Orleans to sense an opportunity against a patched up secondary to do just that.
Travis Etienne vs Demario Davis
Will Trevor Lawrence be good to go on Thursday? The Jaguars quarterback is currently in a knee brace after taking a knock against the Colts on Sunday. Lawrence is optimistic about suiting up, but no decision will be made until gametime. Regardless, it would behoove Press Taylor and the coaching staff to try and take the pressure off whoever lines up under center against the Saints - and that means leaning heavily on the ground game.
Travis Etienne has put up 267 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns in his last two contests. The versatile running back is approaching peak form as the season really kicks into gear; an ominous sight for opposing defenses. And one look at the stats tells you that - usually - if ‘ETN’ has a good game, then the Jaguars win. The one time this season that the ball carrier was held to 40 yards on the ground, Jacksonville slipped to defeat - against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2. Putting it simply; if Etienne cooks, then the Jaguars EAT.
That won’t be easy on Thursday night. The Saints have restricted opposing offenses to 69 yards rushing per contest so far in 2023 - and are the only team in the NFL not to have allowed a rushing or passing touchdown to a running back this season. At the heart of this stubborn run defense is veteran linebacker Demario Davis, who has already racked up 38 tackles through six games. In an interesting twist, Davis was actually a non-participant in practice on Tuesday. It’s worth keeping an eye on, but the Saints are confident that the leader of their defense will be ready to suit up against the Jaguars.
Davis shows no sign of slowing down in his 12th season as a pro, and will be relishing going up against Etienne.
Anton Harrison vs Cameron Jordan
Jaguars rookie Anton Harrison in Week 6:— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 17, 2023
37 Pass Block Snaps
ZERO Pressures Allowed pic.twitter.com/YaEeFIVllV
Rookie offensive tackle Anton Harrison is learning his trade on the job, after being thrust straight into the lineup from Week 1. Harrison endured a tough time against Chris Jones in Week 2, undoubtedly his toughest assignment of his pro career to date. Since that watershed moment, he’s managed to avoid a marquee name - injuries to Buffalo Bills duo Greg Rousseau and Von Miller might have helped him dodge a bullet in Week 5 - but that fortunate streak ends in New Orleans on Thursday night…
Cameron Jordan is the gold standard of endurance and consistency. The Saints edge rusher has never started less than 15 games in any of his 13 seasons in the league so far, and the game against the Jaguars will mark the 198th time he has taken to an NFL field. Some would argue that, at times, Jordan has single-handedly kept this Saints defense competitive during some lean years in the Big Easy. With 116.5 sacks in his pro career, Jordan will be chomping at the bit to add to his tally - which stands at just one solitary QB takedown in 2023.
Harrison has shown steady improvement through his short career to date. And with the health of Trevor Lawrence a concern, the Jaguars will be hoping he is able to keep Jordan at bay in the Caesars Superdome, and make the Saints sack artist wait one more week to bulk up his stats.
Which matchups are you looking forward to watching on Thursday night?