Thursday, September 17, 2009

Know Your Enemy - NO


Let's take a quick look at the 1-0 Saints. They won their opener by picking on the helpless Detroit Lions. Final score was 45-27.

The Saints feature a great offense led by QB Drew Brees. The mastermind of the attack is Coach Sean Payton. He is my favorite playcaller in the whole league and has some really good weapons to work with.

Brees has gone from underrated player to just off the radar of the Brady/Manning area. That's a very impressive leap. Drew deserves all the praise that he gets. He isn't the biggest or most athletic guy. He lacks an explosive arm. He's special because he's very smart, very accurate, moves around well, and has great vision. He can "throw guys open". Michael Vick needs to be looking directly at an open player to think of him as open. Drew knows there are certain places he can throw the ball where his guy can go get it. You call this luck the first 50 times it happens, but we're now on year 4. This ain't luck.

The offense is built on a power run game, but features a lot of passing. Last week the Saints had 35 run plays and 34 passes. That came with their top RB hurt and the explosive Reggie Bush not running well. Coach Payton loves balance. He really puts pressure on the defense to cover the whole field and every player. NO will throw downfield. They throw out wide. They run up the middle and off the edge. They are so effective because all this is done in the flow of the offense and they have the players to execute such a dynamic attack.

The backfield has Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell, and Bush as the main weapons. Thomas is the best pure runner. Bush is the exploisve weapon. Bell is the healthiest guy. He is a N-S runner with some wiggle.

The receivers are a mixture. Marques Colston is big and physical. He's normally very productive. Devery Henderson is the speedy big play guy. Lance Moore is a better version of Jason Avant. Robert Meachem is a young guy still trying to find his place. And they've got some jerk at TE named Jeremy Shockey. I seem to recall playing him at some point in the past.

There has been some shuffling on the OL. LT Jammal Brown has dealt with a hip injury and is out for about 6 weeks. His backup is Jermon Bushrod (Towson). He's a young guy with potential, but Bushrod is battling a bad ankle himself. The best blocker is RG Jahri Evans. He can open holes for the runners or protect Brees. The rest of the line is solid, but unspectacular (C. Nicks - LG, J. Goodwin - C, J. Stinchcomb - RT).


The defense is a base 4-3. Except when they run a 3-4. I watched the season opener and was surprised to see them dabbling in the 3-4. NO hasn't had a top defense in a while. They finished 23rd last year and 26th the year before. At least they're consistent, right?

The big problem recently was the secondary. NO just gave up too many big pass plays. They've worked on that area quite a bit, but we still don't know how the moves will pay off. We need to give them 6 or 8 games before we can really see a pattern develop, good or bad.

Let's go back to the front of the D. The best interior lineman is Sedrick Ellis. He had 4 sacks last year. Athletic guy with a good motor. Kendrick Clancy does a lot of the dirty work. Will Smith is the most talented DE. At his best, Will is a disruptive player, whether attacking off the edge or up the middle. He only had 3 sacks last year. Charles Grant and Bobby McCray are the other DEs. McCray had 6 sacks last year to lead the team.

The LBs are solid. MLB Jonathan Vilma is the best of the bunch. He has good range and is an outstanding tackler. He had the team's only sack last week. Scott Fujita and Scott Shanle are okay on the outside.

Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter are the CBs. Roman Harper and Darren Sharper are the Safeties. Greer has quietly developed into a good player. Porter is young and has a lot of talent. He is banged up right now. Sharper is 150 years old and slow, but he still has great hands and a nose for the ball.


PK John Carney is older than Sharper. The P is Thomas Marstead. Bush is the PR and has explosive potential. Meachem is the KOR.


* The Saints have the 2nd oldest team in the league (only WAS is older)
* They have finished 8-8 and 7-9 the last couple of years.
* Top draft pick DB Malcolm Jenkins is mainly playing on STs right now.


Here is the gamebook:


I did tape the game and re-watch part of it. The Lions played hard, but clearly weren't close to the Saints in terms of talent or organization. That will only come with time.

OFFENSE --- Typical Saints, they did a little of everything. They lined Bush up at WR and threw to him. They ran a Flea Flicker. They threw a screen pass to the FB. They fed backup RB Mike Bell 28 carries for 143 yards. Brees threw 6 TD passes. The Lions got little pressure. With a clean pocket Brees is very tough. He did force some downfield passes into coverage. We could pick a pass or two if Drew does the same thing this week.

DEFENSE --- Played both 4-3 and 3-4. Blitzed the LBs a decent amount. They came off the edge and up the middle. I thought DE Bobby McCray looked good on some pass plays. He knows how to get to the QB. LB Scott Shanle had some quality tackles and played well. He finished with 5 tackles, TFL, and an INT. Darren Sharper picked off 2 passes. I didn't get a good feel for the secondary because of how erratic rookie QB Matt Stafford was.

STs --- The Saints were dreadful. Check out these major mistakes:

* Bush fumbled on a punt return
* Bush later muffed a punt
* NO gave up 43 yd PR
* NO gave up 87 yd KOR
* DET blocked a Saints FG

That looks like a bad month, not just a bad game. Philly fans would go to Ted Daisher's house, pick him up, and carry him to the state line if the Eagles had a game like that.

I'll cover strategy and matchups on Friday.



mcud77 said...

Malcolm Jenkins was on a very short list of my favorite prospects last April. I always kind of figured he'd end up as a FS on Sundays. I know the Saints like Roman Harper (he prevented the Shockey deal from happening a lot sooner, if memory serves) but its suprising to me to see Jenkins on the bench with Harper/Sharper out there.

Maybe its because he held out, perhaps he's not the player I thought he'd be early, or I wonder if the Saints just like their safeties' names to be similar.


Pass rush this week is the absolute key to me. If we pressure Brees consistently, and protect Kevin, we've got a good shot at a W. If not, its going to be a long day.

shlynch said...

You should consider buying the NFL Rewind package -- you can get any game played over the last couple years streamed. That way you don't have to tape this week's opponent to have things to say in your game previews, you can just fire up the computer and pick and choose.

cavortingEagle said...

I gave this game a watch earlier in the week too, just to get a feel for the Saints.
I thought the game was just sloppy in general and all 4 NFC East teams might well have gone into NO and won. Too bad we didn't get the Saints this past Sunday.

Stephen said...

I have a strange confidence in the Eagles D this game. I know the Saints have a ridiculous offense but our D didn't have a good game last week, they had a GREAT game. After the opening drive we gave up what, less than 100 yards and had 7 turnovers and 5 sacks? The point isn't that we dominated, its how we looked doing it. We looked confident and aggressive, we got multiple people involved in the playmaking (Akeem Jordan and Joselio Hanson with interceptions? Hell yes!) and we definitely showed that there will be new wrinkles in this defense that can be highly successful.

Before the season I felt like Abiamiri needed to step up to make this defense go to the next level, but now I feel that really its Mcdermott who's going to make the most difference. He impressed me both in terms of playcalling and the way he manipulated personel to get our guys in positions to make plays (Andyism). By moving Trent Cole around the formation like he did, it makes it harder to focus extra blockers on him. A guy like Howard could easily have another 10 sack season the way we're using him. Juqua Parker was active that game, as a backup I think he'll be right in his comfort zone.

I just have a strange feeling that this D is going to be a special one this year, even with Bradley out.