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Jaguars vs Saints: Game Balls for Week 7

Jacksonville’s linebackers fired on all cylinders in prime time

Jacksonville Jaguars v New Orleans Saints
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Foyesade Oluokun returns an interception for a touchdown during the third quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Caesars Superdome on October 19, 2023
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Sure, Christian Kirk’s 44-yard touchdown reception was the go-ahead score. Yeah, Travis Etienne got in the endzone twice for a third straight week. No doubt the offense made plays.

However, in my opinion, it was the Jacksonville Jaguars defense who once again ensured its team was coming back home with another notch in the win column.

The New Orleans Saints dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 12 minutes and 20 seconds longer than the Jaguars. By the end of the game, it was evident that the unit was getting gassed. The pass rush had a hard time getting home all night and play in the secondary was inconsistent, especially after safety Andre Cisco exited the game in the third quarter.

Despite all that, Jacksonville’s defense still ended the night with an impressive performance. The Jaguars linebackers played like studs, making them both my week seven game ball recipients:

LB Foyesade Oluokun

Oluokun is one of the best players in the entire NFL. He’s an unsung leader on the Jaguars defense and rarely gets any recognition.

This week, that’s finally come to an end, but some of the attention is wildly misplaced. A video posted to of a post-game interview with Oluokun called his performance on Thursday Night Football a “breakout.”

He’s led the entire NFL in total tackles two years in a row, and could be well on his way to do it for a third time this season. Yet, he’s never been named an All-Pro or even made a Pro Bowl. It’s understandable to value highlight plays, but it can’t be done in a way that discredits a player who’s been a league leader since 2021.

Basically, people outside of the Jaguars fan base need to put some respect on Foye’s name, and it shouldn’t take a pick-six for it to happen. With that I’ll end my little ramble.

Oluokun did ball out on Thursday, leading the team in total tackles with 14. He also returned an interception for a 24-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The play was a needed jolt as Jacksonville’s offense struggled to move the ball through the majority of the second half.

The game-changing turnover made Oluokun the first player in the last 30 seasons to record 80 tackles and a defensive touchdown through a team’s first seven games, according to ESPN.

LB Devin Lloyd

After missing the pair of games in London, Lloyd has been reintegrated into the Jaguars defense. He’s been playing with a partial cast on his right hand after undergoing surgery on his thumb.

Fans won’t forget his dropped interception attempts against the Indianapolis Colts during week 6. Lloyd made up for it, however, with one of the better performances of his NFL career. He’s playing loose and aggressive, two attributes the best linebackers possess.

Lloyd is possibly starting to make the step up that everyone started to expect after his impressive training camp this offseason. On Thursday night, he was the perfect complement to Foye, adding on 11 total tackles on his own.

The reason I’m giving two game balls this week is to highlight a point: Lloyd’s development will make Oluokun even better.

As Lloyd takes command of his role in the defense, there will be less responsibility on Oluokun to keep a watchful eye on what his counterpart linebacker is up to.

With both players healthy, their growth as a duo will be one of the most exciting things to watch on a defense that is already wildly entertaining. Every other player on the field will be elevated when Lloyd and Oluokun play at their best, which is what we saw Thursday night.