Short weeks are weird in the NFL. There are a lot of things I could say about Thursday Night Football and how it’s a money grab for the NFL, players don’t like it, coaches don’t like it, it increases injuries, and the games usually aren’t great. I could go on for days, but this is not what this article is about.
The Jacksonville Jaguars play the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night, and with this team seemingly headed in the right direction, it would be a big win to keep momentum and show their strength on national television.
More specifically, this article will focus on two players to watch from the Saints, one on the defensive side of the ball and one on the offensive side. The Jaguars will have to focus on these two players and make sure to nullify their impact to improve its record to 5-2.
Let’s start with the defensive side of the ball. The Saints are much stronger on defense than they are on offense. In fact, they rank 5th in the NFL in passing yards per game allowed (182) and 9th in the NFL in rushing yards per game allowed (96.3). The leader of the defense is star veteran linebacker Demario Davis.
Davis is the unquestioned leader of the Saints. He’s missed one game in 10 years and has recorded six straight seasons of 100 tackles and double-digit tackles for loss. In his last game against Houston, Davis recorded 7 tackles and 1 sack while igniting a defensive surge in the second half that saw the Texans score zero touchdowns and just one field goal.
Demario Davis is a problem pic.twitter.com/JD0n3zfOJw— Jefferson Gibson (@rumandcokejefe) October 19, 2023
This is a perfect representation of the versatility of Davis as a pass rusher. You can see him sitting in his linebacker position and showing absolutely zero hint that he will come at the quarterback. As soon as the play is snapped, he quickly sees that it is a pass and not a run and absolutely explodes off the edge. He is essentially unblocked, and it’s truly amazing that a 6’ 2” 248-pound man can move that fast.
Because Davis can get to the quarterback so easily and can disguise it so well, it will force whoever starts at quarterback Thursday for the Jaguars to find him immediately and try to figure out if he is coming on a rush. It will force running backs to either stay in the backfield to help block or force the quarterback to get the ball out quickly to avoid the sack. Davis keeps most offensive coordinators up at night, and with Lawrence’s recent knee injury, he keeps me up at night too.
On the other side of the ball -- most people’s favorite part of the game -- is the offense. Let’s not beat around the bush; the Saints are not a good offensive team. It seemed that ever since Drew Brees left, they have been unable to find a quarterback. The Saints seem to have the pieces, with a star running back in Alvin Kamara and two great wide receivers in Michael Thomas and Chris Olave. Because of its struggles, the Saints went out and signed quarterback Derek Carr. Despite all this hype, in his most recent game, Carr threw a total of 50 passes and the Saints scored a whopping 13 points in a loss to the Texans.
While their offense has been struggling this year, that does not mean they don’t have X-factors on a team that can change a football game and really hurt the defense. While Kamara might be the player that comes to mind first, I would have to disagree. Kamara had one of the biggest workloads among NFL running backs in 2021 and 2022. You can see it with most other NFL running backs that get that workload (i.e., Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliot).
If Carr is going to improve this offense and actually play well while their defense excels on the other side of the ball, it will all run through Olave. In his last game against Houston, Olave had 7 catches for 96 yards, and on the season, he has 32 catches for 414 yards and a touchdown. Along with his impeccable route-running skills, his downfield threat is what should worry the Jaguars the most.
Unreal catch by Olave from week 2 pic.twitter.com/LQFuQoA2b0— Jefferson Gibson (@rumandcokejefe) October 19, 2023
In this play, Derek Carr recognizes the Panthers are a one-deep-safety shell with man coverage. Olave has a go-fade route at the top of the screen against former Jaguar C.J. Henderson. Carr does a great job of looking off the safety and throws a good ball to Olave running up the sideline. It’s a good ball by Carr, but in my opinion, a better play by Olave being able to catch the ball with Henderson essentially all over him and probably could have gotten the pass interference call.
The Jaguars had extreme problems against deep throws in Week 3, and it was a big reason they lost that Texans game. It seemed that the defense cleaned it up against a downfield threat like the Bills and an embarrassing Colts offense. If the Jaguars can’t stop the deep threat of Olave, they will have a big problem in the Big Easy on Thursday.
To conclude, Demario Davis and Chris Olave are two key names to watch on this Saints team, especially for the Jaguars. With an impactful corner in Tyson Campbell likely out for this game, the Jaguars will have to continue to play well against this underperforming Saints offense. Yes, New Orleans’ defense is good, but the quarterbacks they have faced are Ryan Tannehill, Bryce Young, Jordan Love, Baker Mayfield, Mac Jones, and C.J. Stroud. If Trevor Lawrence plays on Thursday, it could get ugly in a hurry.