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Scouting the Saints 2015 Opponents: Week 1 vs. Arizona Cardinals

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Let's dissect each of our opponents this upcoming season.

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints start regular season play on Sunday, September 13, opening on the road @ the Arizona Cardinals. Let’s do some breakdowns ahead of the match-up to get a glimpse of what the Saints are marching into.

Series Matchup All-Time

(Full list here, via The Football Database)

Saints 14 – Cardinals 14

Yes, including playoffs, we are .500 against the slightly-less-dirty Birds.

Last 5 Games

(2013-2014) Cardinals 7 -Saints 31

(2010-2011) Saints 20 - Cardinals 30

(2009-2010) Cardinals 14 - Saints 45 (Divisional Playoffs)

(2007-2008) Cardinals 24 - Saints 31

(2004-2005) Saints 10 - Cardinals 34

Home team wins this series, going back to the Saints 2000 win in Tempe 21 - 10.

2014-2015 Cardinals Totals

(Saints #1 total offense, #31 total defense according to ESPN)

Total Offense #24

Passing/YPG #14

Rushing/YPG #31

Total Defense #24

Passing/YPG #29

Rushing/YPG #13

Projected* Rosters

(courtesy of Our Lads and some common sense)

Saints

Cardinals

Offense

QB

Drew Brees

Carson Palmer

Luke McCown

Drew Stanton

Garrett Grayson

Logan Thomas

RB

Mark Ingram

Andre Ellington

CJ Spiller

Stefan Taylor

Khiry Robinson

David Johnson

WR

Brandin Cooks

Larry Fitzgerald

Marques Colston

Michael Floyd

Nick Toon

John Brown

TE

Josh Hill

Troy Niklas

Benjamin Watson

Ted Bolser

LT

Terron Armstead

Jared Veldheer

LG

Tim Lelito

Mike Iupati

C

Max Unger

Ted Larsen

RG

Jahri Evans

Jonathan Cooper

RT

Zach Strief

D.J. Humphries

Defense

LDE

Akiem Hicks

Calais Campbell

NT

Brodrick Bunkley

Alameda Ta’amu

RDE

Cam Jordan

Frostee Rucker

LOLB

Junior Galette

Alex Okafor

LILB

Stephone Anthony

Kevin Minter

RILB

Dannell Ellerbe

Sean Weatherspoon

ROLB

Anthony Spencer

Matt Shaughnessy

LCB

Keenan Lewis

Patrick Peterson

RCB

Brandon Browner

Jerraud Powers

NCB

Delvin Breaux

Justin Bethel

SS

Kenny Vaccaro

Tony Jefferson

FS

Jairus Byrd

Tyrann Mathieu

Special Teams

K

Dustin Hopkins

Chandler Catanzaro

P

Thomas Morstead

Dave Zastudil

*For matchup purposes, I don’t think it necessary to include guys like Mike Brewster, Nick Becton, or Willie Snead in projections. Guys that were included are likely to get some playing time in each game.

Key Cardinals

Offense

Larry Fitzgerald (8x Pro Bowl, 1x FT All Pro): Fitz will be 32 by kickoff. The 11 year veteran will be back in Arizona this season after a somewhat underwhelming 2014 campaign (2TDs and 780 yards in 14 games). Though, this is likely bound to happen when your best QB, Carson Palmer, only plays 6 games, and a menagerie of mediocrity in Logan Thomas, Drew Stanton, and the Abominable Throwman, Ryan Lindley, are calling signals. No less, Fitz has to be respected. The Saints’ facelifted secondary should be up to the task - An [arguably] inferior secondary gave Fitz fits in 2013, holding him to only 5 receptions on 6 targets for 64 yards and no TDs.

Jared Veldheer: This dude is increasingly becoming something of a decent left tackle in the NFL. Though garnering a lone All Pro vote last year (in a crowded class of talented LTs), the 5th year man out of Div. II Hillsdale College graded-out as Pro Football Focus’ #13 tackle (Terron Armstead was #20 in 2014). Paired with the next guy on this list, the left side of the Cards’ o line looks to be solid.

Mike Iupati (3x Pro Bowl, 1x FT All Pro): PFF’s #15-ranked guard of 2014-2015, Iupati is a known quantity from his first 4 seasons in the league with the 49ers. According to PFF, though effectively negligible in pass blocking against the Saints in each of 2013 and 2014, Iupati posted decent run blocking grades in those matches. This is consistent with his overall grades for last season – Good against run D, subpar against the rush.

Here’s to a combination of Cam Jordan, Anthony Spencer, and Dannell Ellerbe/Stephone Anthony, putting pressure on Palmer’s blind side. If they can do it from game 1 against the Cards, they should be able to keep it up throughout the season.

Defense

Calais Campbell (1x Pro Bowl, 1x ST All-Pro): Calais Campbell is a big, mean man. Dude’s a beast and can be very disruptive in 18 different ways. Campbell graded #4 among PFF’s 2014-2015 3-4 DEs (and has been graded #3 since 2011). Fortunately, he has to get through the same right side of the Saints line that he attempted to in 2013 (2 tackles, 0 sacks), plus there's the added insurance of C Maximus Unger. He can be moved around on defense and will be schemed for, but I’m actually not particularly concerned here.

Patrick Peterson (4x Pro Bowl, 2x FT All-Pro): Obligatory LSU! PP is PP. He’s fast, athletic, and has amazing ball skills. He wasn’t amazing last season despite playing across Antonio Cromartie, but given his best-WR coverage responsibilities, and that he faced Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, Calvin Johnson, and Julio Jones, I wouldn’t lend any reservations about his brilliance much credence. I suspect he’ll try and shadow Cooks most of the game. I’ll take 5’10" Jerraud Powers covering Colston.

TL;DR

The Cardinals have solid blind side protection for Palmer, a pretty well-rounded linebacker core (with Weatherspoon, Shaughnessy, Minter (LSU!), and Okafor) and a couple of scheme-worthy defenders in Campbell and Pat Pete. Andre Ellington is a pretty impressive youngish RB and though getting ancienter (coining this word), Fitz remains a threat. Rookie RT D.J. Humphries will have to deal with one or both of Kikaha and/or Galette.

Let’s take game 1 on the road, eh, Saints?

Feedback on depth chart and other bits of information to include in this series is appreciated.