Dennis Allen’s scheme is sound, as are his play-calls. The execution is what’s been killing us.
Vonn Bell is a 2nd round pick, Kenny Vaccaro is a former 1st round pick, and Marcus Williams is a 2nd round pick. The safety position for the Saints is easily one of the deepest and healthiest positions on the defense. However, to this point we haven’t seen it used much.
So far through two weeks, we’ve seen Bell used in limited snaps along with P.J. Williams kicked inside at the slot position and Kenny Vaccaro attempting to play as a traditional safety. Coincidentally, Williams and Vaccaro have made costly mistakes in both roles that they clearly aren’t suited for.
It’s understandable why they were asked to play those roles (and I won’t go into details), but at this point it’s become very obvious that guys aren’t comfy in those positions doing specific things, and it’s causing mental lapses.
Now that the Saints are down two cornerbacks for the Panthers game, it’s time to get your best 11 on the field, and that’s going to be Ken Crawley and P.J. Williams at CB, Vaccaro in the slot, Bell as an in-the-box Safety, and Marcus Williams in a single high role. A.J. Klein and Alex Anzalone will handle LB duties, and your D-line will continue to be a mixture of Rankins, Onyemata, Davison, Okafor, Jordan, and Kikaha.
How the Saints should best use their Key Players in the Secondary
P.J. Williams - He’s being asked to see a lot of things from the slot, and Dennis Allen mentioned that he’s had some trouble with his eyes. Allow the kid to play on the outside where he can use the sidelines and his size to his advantage. In the slot, if he misses the jam, then he doesn’t have the agility to make up for it. When this happens on the boundary, he’s typically able to use his size/length to catch back up and body WRs.
Kenny Vaccaro - Vaccaro’s not a traditional safety, and never will be. He’s been at his best when being used in the slot as a hybrid DB/LB. With Greg Olsen out, you’ve got to like your matchup with any player they decide to put there against him. That includes McCaffrey, who may see some snaps there as well and could prove to be a handful for our LBs making Vaccaro the better option in coverage.
Vonn Bell - Has had some mistakes in coverage and lacks range but as an in the box strong safety despite his size he packs a punch. He also showed at times last year that along with KV he is a good blitzer. Whether the Saints decide to send 5-6 consistently or not against the Panthers, Bell needs to be one of the guys getting after the QB on occasion. He and Vaccaro both like to hit, and having both closer to the ball should help the defense.
Marcus Williams - Has been quiet, but as a free safety that’s a good thing. That position is much like that of an o-lineman. As long as you aren’t hearing his name, he’s doing fine. With that being said, it’s time to hear his name become synonymous with interceptions, but in turn the Saints have to start forcing more errant/quick throws from QBs so he can use his range to get there. He along with Lattimore have literally been the only guys in the secondary being played to their strengths.
Putting the listed guys in better positions to accentuate their strengths has to be #1 on DA’s list this week heading to Carolina. The Panthers have really struggled running the ball as of late, and playing more single high looks with 8 men in the box should help us continue that trend. The Buffalo package was successful last year and should be successful again as long as Allen commits to using it.