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What you missed this week with the New Orleans Saints

A look at some of the biggest Saints news and notes from the first week of 2018.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Wild Card weekend, and the New Orleans Saints are set to face-off against the Carolina Panthers for the third time this season. Did you know it’s tough to beat a team three times in one season? Or wait, that’s not really accurate. Here’s a look at some of the biggest things related to the black and gold for the past week.

Quick Hits

  • Trey Hendrickson and Terron Armstead enter Sunday as the only players questionable. Hendrickson said earlier in the week that he anticipates playing, and it’s hard to see Armstead missing this game.
  • The Saints will be in all black for their game, with a lot of alumni set to come in. There was a list floating out there, but it’s not totally accurate, and because the NFL is the NFL, Reggie Bush can’t bring in a bat. There will be rally towels on hand.
  • The game will be nationally televised on FOX, with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman having the call. If you don’t know for some strange reason, the game is set to kickoff at 3:40 p.m. CT.
  • New Orleans has started working on their 2018 roster, signing three players to reserve/future contracts this week. They include wide receiver Paul Turner, offensive guard Andrew Tiller, and defensive back Bradley Sylve.
  • One roster move involved sending Garrett Griffin to injured reserve and bringing back John Phillips. The Saints tight ends have become the defensive backs of last year.
  • Alvin Kamara ended up closing out the regular season by winning the team’s 11th Pepsi Rookie of the Week award. Kamara was named to the AP’s All-Pro Second team, and he’s up for two awards you can vote on. The first is Pepsi Rookie of the Year, along with teammate Marshon Lattimore. He’s also up for Vizio’s Top Value Performer of the Year.
  • Lattimore won the NFL’s Rookie of the Month, and was also voted as FOX’s defensive rookie of the year. Guess who took down their offensive rookie of the year? That Kamara dude. By the way, they also won Sports Illustrated’s too.
  • More awards, as Cameron Jordan and Thomas Morstead were voted to Pro Football Focus’ All-Pro team. Jordan was a first-team All-Pro, oh by the way.
  • The 2018 opponents are set, check them out here.

How Dan Roushar, Alex Gibbs have helped keep Saints' offensive line going despite injuries |
“I don’t think where it’s been this year, I don’t think that situation (has ever occurred) for me and my career,” coach Sean Payton said earlier this year. “I think that Dan Roushar has done a great job with these guys. Credit to those guys as well, being able to play multiple positions and do it well.”

It’s not a situation where the line is just surviving. It's excelling. New Orleans allowed the fewest pressures during the regular season (109), according to Pro Football Focus, and it tied with Kansas City for the league lead in rushing yards per attempt (4.7).

Once again, the behind-the-scenes work gets some attention. Drew Brees had his lowest sack percentage total (3.6%) since 2011, and his 20 sacks were the lowest since 2009. The Panthers will obviously look to bring more pressure. They sacked him three times this season, twice in Week 13 and once in Week 3.

Saints still working to fix surprising third-down woes |
Obviously, when you talk about attention to detail and room for error, when you get into the playoffs, you want to be as efficient as possible in those areas because that can be the difference between winning and losing," Brees said.

Third down performance will make or break this team in the postseason. They were awful against the Buccaneers, and in two games against the Panthers, they were 7-of-14 in the first game (6-of-12 on offense) and held them to 3-of-10 in the rematch, but went 6-of-15 offensively. The biggest thing is to not get into 3rd and long situations on offense.

Alvin Kamara, the Saints and New Orleans: a perfect fit |
He had no desire to make an outlandish purchase after he was drafted, because there was nothing he wanted. “I got my signing bonus and I put that s--- in the bank and I went and got some motherf---ing wings,” he says. That is Kamara.

This quote needs to be framed or on a t-shirt. One wonders where Kamara is on the scale of fan-favorites this season.

Having pass-rush periods during Saints practices this year has paid off for defensive line |
Rankins laughed when told about Nielsen giving too much information.

“For me, it’s not much of a big deal. I’ve always been a guy who could see the bigger picture, could see all the things that they’re trying to throw at me," Rankins said. "It kind of slows down for me, and I don’t have an issue with it.

“It’s definitely a lot more information than we got last year. I think Ryan’s a bit of a perfectionist. He wants every play to be played exactly as he sees it playing in his mind. If it doesn’t play that (way), he’s got some coaching points.”

I’m sure there were many wondering how Ryan Nielsen would fit in with New Orleans, and I’d have to say he’s done a great job. Here’s to hoping the pass rush delivers off the edge in the postseason with Hendrickson, George Johnson, and possibly Al-Quadin Muhammad.