The headlines were certainly depressing from last Sunday if you were a fan of the New Orleans Saints. The Saints were throttled 27-9 in a much-anticipated playoff rematch with the Los Angeles Rams. There was even more blatantly corrupt (yeah, I said it) officiating, the usually prolific New Orleans offense was bottled up, and the worse news of all: Saints quarterback Drew Brees will be lost for a minimum of 6-8 weeks with a major injury to his throwing hand. Amid all the horrible news though, the New Orleans defense acquitted themselves well for the majority of the game. The Saints held a star-studded Ram offense in check most of the day, something that will now be needed of them during Brees' absence. Up next for the 1-1 Saints is a road trip to the 2-0 Seattle Seahawks, where the New Orleans defense hopes to create plays to help their Brees-less offense. Today we have a look at how the Saints defense shapes up against an underrated Seattle attack.
SAINTS PASS DEFENSE vs. SEAHAWKS PASS OFFENSE
Other than a 57-yd. strike to Brandin Cooks on the Rams first drive and a 68-yd. 4th quarter catch and run by Cooper Kupp on a broken play, the Saints contained the Los Angeles passing attack well on Sunday. Quarterback Jared Goff finished with 283 passing yards against them, but just 158 through the air outside of those two plays. The big plays against the secondary do continue to be a major concern, however. New Orleans was also burned downfield numerous times against the Houston Texans in the season opener, nearly costing them the game. Marshon Lattimore is the Saints top cover corner. The third year cornerback has the ability to stay with the NFL's best wideouts, but was relatively inconsistent last season and to start this year. Fellow corner Eli Apple, like Lattimore a former 1st round draft pick, is often targeted in man coverage, as is slot corner P.J. Williams when he's in the lineup. Both players need to start making plays for their defense, something that the entire secondary has struggled to do. Safety Vonn Bell continues to play well, but his running mate at the spot Marcus Williams continues to cost the team with poor angles, poor reads, and poor tackling. The Saints best defense against the pass continues to be their pass rush. They sacked Goff three times on Sunday after a six sack performance against Houston's Deshaun Watson in the opener. Defensive end Trey Hendrickson leads the team with 3 sacks so far, and is well on his way to the best season of this three year career. Second year end Marcus Davenport, who has 1 sack and 4 quarterback hits, has shown marked improvement in play recognition as he rounds into a force along the edge. Cameron Jordan (2 sacks, 4 qb hits, and a fumble recovery) is the Saints best defensive player and one of the most disruptive linemen in the NFL. New Orleans is still without injured defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, but he seems well ahead of rehab schedule from his Achilles injury and could be back in the lineup shortly. Without him, tackles David Onyemata and Shy Tuttle have provided good inside push on the pass pocket. Losing linebacker Alex Anzalone to injured reserve hurts the New Orleans coverage packages, so depth will be tested here. Demario Davis is one of the league's most underrated players at the position though, capable of staying with running backs or tight ends in coverage as well as being a disruptive blitzer.
Seattle doesn't have nearly the talent in the passing game that New Orleans faced in Houston or Los Angeles, but Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is one of the most feared players in the league. The Seahawks had the least amount of passing attempts in the NFL in 2018 (427) and are again near the bottom of the league in that category this year. Wilson makes the most of his opportunities though, completing 78% of his attempts so far for 495 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. He's coming off a 300-yd. outing with 3 scores against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, and is perhaps the most mobile quarterback in the game today. Wilson needs to be mobile, because Seattle does a poor job up front of protecting their passer. Wilson was sacked 51 times last year, and has gone down 8 times so far this season. Left tackle Duane Brown is solid, but the right side of the Seahawks line is particularly troublesome. Right guard D.J. Fluker and tackle Germain Ifedi allowed 4 first half sacks against the Steelers. Fifth year wideout Tyler Lockett is Wilson's favorite target within a rebuilt receiving corps. Lockett is on the smaller side, but is extremely shifty and a precise route runner. Coming off a career year in 2018 with 57 catches for 965 yards and 10 touchdowns, Lockett has caught 11 passes for 123 yards and is one of only three wideouts to catch a pass so far this season. Rookie second round pick D.K. Metcalf is quickly developing a chemistry with his quarterback, and has pulled in 7 of his 13 targets for 150 yards and a touchdown. A physical specimen at 6'4 229-lbs., Metcalf has good speed but struggles a bit with route precision. Will Dissly gave the Seahawks surprising production from the tight end spot last week, catching five passes for 50 yards and two touchdowns, but Seattle usually relies on running back Chris Carson for receptions underneath.
Matchup to Watch:
Cam Jordan/Demario Davis/Marcus Davenport vs. Russell Wilson
Wilson may be the most elusive quarterback in the NFL, and extremely dangerous because he looks to make a big play down the field throwing the football as opposed to running with it when he breaks containment. The Saints should be able to pressure the pocket against the suspect Seattle line, but they must be able to get Wilson to the ground. Jordan, Davis, and Davenport are extremely athletic, and it's even possible that the Saints use one of them to spy or shadow Wilson when he breaks the pocket. Lattimore and Apple should match up well against Seahawk receivers Lockett and Metcalf, but the Saints pass rush must prevent Wilson from creating extra time thereby putting extra pressure on the New Orleans coverage.
SAINTS RUN DEFENSE vs. SEAHAWKS RUN OFFENSE
The Saints had the league's second ranked run defense a year ago, but have had some issues with gap containment and tackling on the edge so far this season. Houston ran for 180 yards on opening night, although New Orleans did hold the Rams to 115 yards on 30 carries last Sunday. Anzalone's loss may not affect the run defense as much as the pass, and Demario Davis is an outstanding every down defender. Anzalone's replacement Kiko Alonso is a strong run defender from sideline to sideline, and fellow linebacker A.J. Klein plays the run extremely well. The Saints secondary is one of the league's better back end units in run support. Their best hope for success is winning the battle at the line of scrimmage, especially inside with defensive tackles Malcom Brown, Onyemata, and Tuttle. Winning the point of attack will be particularly vital against a Seattle offense that is reliant on the run.
A Seattle running game that averaged a league best 160 yards per game last year is off to a bit of a slow start, though they did pick up 151 yards on the ground against Pittsburgh. Third year running back Chris Carson burst into relevance last season with 1,151 yards and 9 scores while averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Although he has just 106 yards thus far this season, he is still the Seahawks top ground option. Last year's 1st round pick Rashaad Penny provides a productive compliment to Carson, and the two combined for 122 yards on 25 carries versus the Steelers. While the Seahawks line struggles in pass protection, they are maulers up front in the run game.
Matchup to Watch:
Saints DT's Brown/Onyemata/Tuttle vs. Seahawks interior Mike Iupati/Justin Britt/D.J. Fluker
The key to the Saints success against the run last season was interior penetration, snuffing out plays in their infancy. New Orleans needs that same kind of performance from their tackles now, even without Rankins. The Saints did limit the Rams to only 3.8 yards per carry last week, but need to stonewall the point of attack more consistently against a Seattle team that has averaged less than four yards per attempt.
The Saints defense will be under the microscope over the next 6-8 weeks with Brees sidelined. While New Orleans still has plenty of offensive talent, expecting the same kind of production on a weekly basis without a Hall of Fame quarterback behind center might be unrealistic. The onus is now on a young New Orleans defense to step up there game, starting with this road showdown against the Seahawks, to keep their expectations of a championship pursuit on track.
Where is the Saints biggest defensive match up against the Seattle offense?
This poll is closed
Lattimore/Apple vs. Lockett/Metcalf
Jordan/Davenport/Davis vs. Russell Wilson
Jordan/Davenport vs. Seahawk OT's Germain Ifedi/Duane Brown
Saints DT's vs. Seattle interior o-line