NFL Preseason Preview - Jacksonville (1-0) at New Orleans (1-1)
By Scott Garbarini, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The New Orleans Saints and Jacksonville Jaguars didn't have much in common during the 2011 regular season, and their preseason performances from this past week bore little resemblance to what either team accomplished for much of last year.
The Saints headed home for Friday's clash with the Jaguars seeking to get their normally potent offense on track after a sluggish showing at New England. New Orleans, which set a new NFL standard with 5,476 passing yards during last year's 13-3 campaign, mustered a pedestrian 280 yards total while committing a pair of turnovers in its 7-6 loss to the Patriots, the team's second outing without mastermind head coach Sean Payton on the sidelines.
Conversely, Jacksonville finished at the bottom of the league rankings in both total offense and passing yards while garnering only five victories in 2011, but delivered noticeably better results moving the ball in last Friday's 32-31 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. The Jaguars amassed a very respectable 356 total yards and rushed for 156 yards, numbers made even more impressive considering they came without the services of 2011 rushing champion Maurice-Jones Drew and highly touted rookie receiver Justin Blackmon.
Rashard Jennings did a pretty fair Jones-Drew impression by gaining a game- high 56 yards on 12 carries, while wideouts Mike Thomas and Brian Robiskie helped offset Blackmon's absence by combining for 161 yards and a touchdown on 11 catches. Robiskie recorded seven receptions for 72 yards while hauling in a short scoring strike from No. 2 quarterback Chad Henne, with Thomas compiling 89 yards on four grabs on the evening.
Starting signal-caller Blaine Gabbert made a contribution as well in his first effort off a trying rookie season, with the 2011 first-round pick directing a 13-play, 89-yard touchdown drive on Jacksonville's first possession. He capped the series with a three-yard connection with Cecil Shorts and ended his night 5-of-10 for 62 yards.
Jones-Drew remains away from the team due to dissatisfaction over his current contract, but Blackmon is set to make his anticipated pro debut in Friday's tilt. The fifth overall choice of this past draft had a delayed start to his career due to a holdout of his own that kept the two-time Biletnikoff Award winner out for nearly the first two weeks of camp.
The Jags won't have starting cornerback Derek Cox available after he strained his calf against the Giants, however, with guard Will Rackley (ankle), defensive end Austen Lane (ankle) and tight end Zach Miller (pectorals) also among those out for this week's game.
Even with Payton suspended for the entire 2012 schedule for his knowledge of and indifference to the Saints' scandalous bounty program, last week's struggles still aren't raising much concern entering the club's first Superdome appearance of this preseason. Record-setting quarterback Drew Brees played in only two series against New England, though the defending NFL Offensive Player of the Year managed a mere four passing yards on a 1-of-4 night, while All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham (back), wide receiver Devery Henderson (hamstring) and running back Mark Ingram (knee) were all inactive due to injuries.
Brees, who led the offense to a touchdown in his only drive in New Orleans' 17-10 win over Arizona in the Aug. 5 Hall of Fame Game, should receive considerably more snaps in this one, with the starting unit excepted to play all or most of the first half. Graham may be held out another week, however, while playmaking running Darren Sproles will miss the contest with a sore knee.
The Saints also won't have their usual depth at wide receiver, with Adrian Arrington (knee) and rookie fourth-round pick Nick Toon (foot) still rehabbing injuries that have kept them out of both preseason games. Their unavailability has enabled veteran Courtney Roby to make a push for the No. 4 spot in the rotation, with the return specialist coming through with a five-catch, 85-yard output against the Patriots that followed a four-reception, 54-yard night in the Hall of Fame Game.
On the defensive side, cornerback Jabari Greer continues to be sidelined from recent sports hernia surgery, but opposite-side starter Patrick Robinson (shoulder) could be ready to return from his two-game absence.
Friday's test will mark the first-ever meeting between these teams in preseason play. New Orleans has won three of its five regular-season encounters with the Jaguars, breaking a tie in the series with a 23-10 triumph in Jacksonville last October.
08/15 15:01:47 ET