The focus of Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen must be to get to the Giants QB. Time for Eli equals a loss for the Saints.
Aug 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley (90) in the second quarter of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
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From the ICYMI files today (that’s “in case you missed it” for the less acronym savvy readers), Pro Football Focus ran an article called “32 PFF stats to know for NFL Week 2”. The article is an overview of interesting facts relating to all sixteen contests for Week 2. Here’s the blurb that stands out the most for Saints fans:
Going into the offseason, one of the biggest concerns for the Giants was the offensive line. As a group, however, they only allowed three hurries with no sacks or hits against the Cowboys in Week 1. While Dallas wasn’t expected to have a great pass-rush, neither are the Saints. Last year, when Eli Manning was under pressure, he produced an NFL passer rating of 78.3, compared to 100.6 without pressure. If he can keep that play up without pressure, this could be a very high-scoring game.
Sep 11, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) in the pocket in the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
A 22.3 point drop off in passer rating. That’s an astounding stat. It illuminates the issues facing the Black and Gold defense in a repeat of last season’s highest scoring game. In that contest both teams combined for 101 points; that’s the fourth highest point total in a game in NFL history.
Recently, the Saints defense has proven to be historically bad. Pair that with a history making QB in Drew Brees and we’ve seen the results. Amazing offense can’t carry a horrible defense every game. In fact, for the Saints, the chances of winning have been less than 50/50 in three of the last four years. And if what the defense showed in Week 1 against the Raiders is any kind of predictor, that stat may well become four of the last five.
In that game against Oakland, the Saints’ front four got very little, if any, real pressure on Derek Carr, and the G-Men, arguably, have a better offensive line. I’d suggest there are enough similarities between David Carr and Eli Manning and in comparing the two teams’ receiving corps to make it clear that something must change this week or a result like last week’s 35-34 loss Is fairly inevitable for the Who Dats on the road.
In the Oakland game, the Saints’ D ran a mix of packages but relied heavily on four-men and even three-men fronts, nickel and dime packages that were obviously not enough to keep up with Carr and crew. He seemingly had all day in the pocket.
NEW ORLEANS, LA – SEPTEMBER 11: Derek Carr
In that game, in a first quarter play leading up to the Black and Silver’s first TD, from the Saints’ 41 yard-line, Carr hit Amari Cooper in stride for a gain down to the 5. In zone coverage, P.J. Williams passed Cooper off to Jairus Byrd in his typical center field position. Though he closed quickly for the tackle with a good angle, Cooper was a good ten yards ahead of him when he made the catch. Counting Mississippis, Carr had a good four seconds in the pocket and as he released the ball, there was still no Saints defender anywhere near him.
NFL quarterbacks are trained to expect less than three seconds in the pocket before they need to move or release the ball. The four seconds allowed to Derek Carr were a luxury and he enjoyed the fruits of all that extra time.
On that particular play, Delvin Breaux was still in the game showing that even fielding our best, the Saints have glaring weak spots. Against Big Blue his services won’t be available. As evidenced in the stats from the Pro Football Focus story, Eli also knows what to do with extra time.
So what can the Saints do?
Sep 11, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) is pressured by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) during the fourth quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Raiders defeated the Saints 35-34. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
We can hope that recent acquisition DE Paul Kruger is just getting acclimated to the Saints defensive scheme and will be more productive with time. He was a non-factor against the Raiders. Cameron Jordan had a very quiet game as well. In fact, it seemed that only pass rush specialist Kasim Edebali had any luck in getting any penetration off the edge.
Dennis Allen is going to have to dial up some blitz packages that the Giants aren’t expecting. Certainly he’s not comfortable bringing pressure from the secondary since that will leave a weakness even further exposed. If Jairus Byrd is a big part of that weakness in coverage perhaps he can be better employed in blitzes. We know SS Kenny Vaccaro is capable of blitzing but he’s needed in pass and run coverage. Let’s see if we can get some of our money’s worth out of Byrd.
I’d also like to see the Black and Gold make some attempts to incorporate linebackers Stephone Anthony and Craig Robertson into the pass rush. Say what you will about former Saints defensive coordinator Greg Williams and his bend don’t break defenses, but he knew how to dial up some exotic and effective blitz packages. We’ve seen none of that from Dennis Allen so far and it’s a concern.
NEW ORLEANS, LA – AUGUST 26: Vonn Bell
How about this? So far, 2016 second round draft pick FS Vonn Bell has pretty much been limited to special teams. If he can’t pass Jairus Byrd on the depth chart that’s another issue we’ve discussed regarding the Saints’ draft decisions.
But here’s a quote from Bell during training camp comparing his blitzing potential to former LSU standout and current Arizona Cardinal star Tyrann “The Honey Badger” Mathieu:
“I always watched Tyrann, so I said, ‘I think I can do a little bit better than him. So, we got the one-on-one drills with the running backs, and I won every one. So, I said, ‘Nobody can block me out here.'”
With what we’ve seen so far from the pass rushing abilities of this team, let’s give the kid a shot. Could it honestly be any worse? Does Dennis Allen honestly feel more comfortable with Byrd on the field over Bell?
And Erik Harris, the former CFL defensive standout, has yet to see significant playing time after enjoying a pretty strong training camp. Let’s give him a crack at it.
Sep 1, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) in the first half against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
You can believe New York’s head coach Ben McAdoo and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan are game-planning based on what they’ve seen from the Saints defense in preseason and against the Raiders. All of the weaknesses are on display. If Dennis Allen doesn’t make some attempt to show them something new then the Saints are going to get worked over badly by Manning, vets Odell Beckham, Jr, Victor Cruz and upstart rookie Sterling Shepard.
Take a page from the Greg Williams playbook and take some chances. You can’t get burned worse than the Raiders burned the Saints in the fourth quarter in Week 1. At this point, let’s throw all of it at the wall and see what sticks. Giving Eli time to work his magic is obviously not an option.