“That’s a good questions...wow..Didn’t know it was that many” said Sean Payton when asked by daughter Meghan on what they’d need to do to stop their five year Week 1 losing streak and get off to a fast start in 2019.
“We may have to look at changing the routine but this will be something the players hear about and will be a focal point”
The hint at a routine change is notable because the last time the Saints Head Coach decided to look closely at how he and his staff were doing things he consulted Andy Reid about the teams bye week woes.
At that time the Saints had gone 0-3 in such games under his command.
“I want to say, probably after ’07 or ’08, I visited with Andy Reid a little bit. He’s someone that I think a lot of and has had a lot of success in this league. His record after the bye was real strong and we chatted a little bit, and he just talked about what he did and so we kind of followed that a little bit. Players get away from here for a while and we’ll get some extra work in on the opponent today. As coaches, we’ve been on the film”
Since then the Saints are 8-2 when you give Payton extra time to prepare following the bye and perhaps altering their opening game process will yield similar results .
Now without further ado, let’s take a look at three things the Saints can focus on to secure a a victory vs the Texans on Monday Night.
Dim Houston’s 99 Watt Lightbulb
.@SeanPayton on J.J. Watt: “No. 1, he’s a really athletic and talented player. He can get on an edge, he can beat you with speed. He’s got great stamina, so you know you’re going to be in for a battle all day long."— John DeShazier (@JohnDeShazier) September 5, 2019
We all remember the quote don’t we? The one that could give Cam Jordan’s “Speed bump McGee” comment a run for it’s money?
No? Ok, I gotcha
“You might want to try somebody else at right tackle,” Watt shouted. “Quarterback is getting smoked back there.”
“I like Drew, I don’t like hitting him like that,” he added
Yeah, those were the words of J.J. Watt back in 2015 as he heckled former Saints RT Zach Strief on his way to 2 sacks and 8 QB hits of Drew Brees in a 24-6 victory over New Orleans.
Plain and simple - This can’t happen again!
Watt finished last season with 16.0 sacks and is still an incredibly disruptive force - think Hercules in Sandlot but will also be without former running mate Jadaveon Clowney whom attracted extra attention that Watt definitely benefited from.
Meanwhile, widely referred to as one of the best young RT’s in the game, it’ll be up to 2017 first round pick Ryan Ramzyck to avenge his predecessor and keep #99 in check so that Brees can navigate the pocket with confidence. Every QB’s kryptonite is a pass-rush and #9 is no different.
Put the game in Deshaun Watson’s hands
.@SeanPayton on Deshaun Watson: "We see a guy like Taysom (Hill) move around every day in practice. That’s the thing that’s impressive about DeShaun. He’s able to make plays outside the pocket when a— John DeShazier (@JohnDeShazier) September 5, 2019
play breaks down."
Sean Payton liked Deshaun Watson a lot coming out of Clemson even likened his will to win to that of Drew Brees, but I can assure you it’ll be a while before he can carry a team like prime #9.
Having a QB like Cam Newton in your division makes the Saints defense all too familiar with how to defend a running QB, so playing disciplined ball on the d-line and keeping him contained shouldn’t be unfamiliar territory. New Orleans will look to do this by either playing a significant amount of zone coverage. using a spy to shadow Watson, or some mixture of both.
Where the Saints have a distinct advantage is the return of their #2 ranked run defense a year ago along with the Texans losing their starting tail-back Lamar Miller to IR following an ACL tear - leaving them with only Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde to carry the load.
Stuffing the run and forcing Watson to be the savior and consistently make plays on 3rd and “unlikely to convert” should allow the Saints defense to capitalize and add to his career numbers of 81 sacks taken, 12 fumbles (4 lost), and 17 INT’s.
Watson is still young and young players make untimely mistakes so Dennis Allen will likely disguise secondary coverage to help him along.
Paging Lockdown Lattimore
.@SeanPayton on DeAndre Hopkins: “I think he’s got very strong hands in traffic. He’s very confident. You see him make a lot of catches in contested areas and the quarterback has got that confidence in him. And so the timing of watching those two work is very impressive."— John DeShazier (@JohnDeShazier) September 5, 2019
The 2nd part of forcing Watson to win the game is taking away his #1 receiving option and making him beat you with his #2, #3, and #4 reads.
The best way to do this for Marshon Lattimore to have a stellar game vs Nuk, aka DeAndre Hopkins who recently referred to Lattimore as a “great young player”.
While not as physical as Jalen Ramsey, I think Lattimore has shown increased field/zone awareness since entering the league and that should help him anticipate some of the routes Hopkins likes to run - putting him in position to either defend at the catch point or limit YAC using his strong tackling skills.
The good news?
Some of his best games in 2018 came against bigger WR’s with strong hands not known for their blinding speed, with his most notable coming vs Alshon Jeffrey whom he held to 4 catches on 5 targets for a pedestrian 31 yards while finishing with an INT.
I’m not expecting that level of shutdown vs a talent such as Hopkins but if Lattimore can limit his chances to make big play’s he’ll have done his part to help the defense.
Sometimes Week 1 games can look like pre-season Week 5, as was the case in Thursday night’s Packers vs Bears match-up and I think this plays in favor of more established teams like the Saints. The Texans have made an influx of moves in the last two weeks and added players like Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills to boost their offense but I find it hard pressed to believe that they’ll know how all the pieces to the puzzle fit by the time they get off the bus in New Orleans.
Texans 17 Saints 34