After an uncharacteristic two straight losses for the New Orleans Saints, they’ll look to bounce back an right the ship against the Detroit Lions. Here are five questions we have heading into the matchup in Motown.
Can Alvin Kamara keep up his production?
Over the first three games of the season Kamara has astounded and delighted just about every time he’s touched the ball. After ripping off a 49-yard scamper and a 52-yard show stopper of a catch and run against the Green Bay Packer, the third-round draft pick will size up another favorable matchup against the Detroit Lions. Matt Patricia’s defense has allowed the third-most rushing yards per game in the NFL with an insane 172.3 yard per game average so far. This should set up a big game for Kamara and Latavius Murray on the ground. As long as the defense keeps them in it, of course. Additionally, the Detroit defense is 23rd in the NFL at defending opposing running backs per Football Outsiders. Remember, the Packers were ranked 24th last week and Kamara ripped off 197 total yards. For the record, they’ve fallen to 28th since that game. The 2020 offensive player of the year so far (Yeah, I said it.) should be set for another headliner game.
Can the Saints limit the penalties in critical situations?
Stand on which ever side of the issue of legitimacy you want when it comes to the Saints’ penalties. Those that have taken place now two weeks in a row in the fourth quarter have been killer. I’m really not sure where the NFL stands on uncatchable passes, but at this point players and coaches across the league have to know that there’s continued inconsistency and imprecision in the league’s approach to officiating and refusal to get things right. Because of that, you have to play better and more disciplined football. It might not be fair, but it’s the reality.
Now on top that, the fourth quarter penalties that extended drives and thus leads for the opponents were avoidable. More discipline might have kept Janoris Jenkins from extending a drive on third down with a DPI on Henry Ruggs III. It might have kept Demario Davis from leaping offside on a third and three and also could have helped avoid a coinciding pass interference penalty, again on Jenkins. Not giving up a touchdown there when the drive was going to expend anyway is the right choice, but the following DPI also draws concern. The Saints need to clean up the penalties they can control.
Will the Lions continue to ignore their talented backfield?
I mean, I get Adrian Peterson is a Hall of Famer, but come on, Matt Patricia. The Lions have two talented backs in D’Andre Swift and Kerryon Johnson. Leave alone the touches, last week against another weak against backs defense in the Arizona Cardinals, Swift saw only six snaps. It obviously favors the Saints to continue this usage. Or lack thereof.
DET used the 43rd overall pick on Kerryon Johnson. And the 35th overall pick on D'Andre Swift. They're both healthy. Touches yesterday:— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) September 28, 2020
* Adrian Peterson 23
* Kerryon Johnson 4
* D'Andre Swift 1
Can the Saints secondary clean up the miscues?
The equal parts fortunate and unfortunate truth about the New Orleans secondary is that the issues they’ve experience so far come from effort on a couple of occasions. Fortunately, that is fixable. Unfortunately, it’s top talent that’s guilty. Matt Stafford (10) may not want to throw 20+ passes as much as Aaron Rodgers (24), but he goes between 10 and 20 quite a bit. He’s completed 15/29 passes in that area of the field, heavily weighted to the linebacker and offensive left side, which is often occupied by cornerback Marshon Lattimore. The cornerback has raised a lot of questions in his play these last two weeks, it would be a big benefit to the team to see him bounce back against the Lions and by not allowing those 10-20 yard targets to turn into bigger opportunities. So far, the former first-rounder has allowed a perfect 153.8 passer rating when targeted. He’ll look to curve that on Sunday. Meanwhile, if Janoris Jenkins cleans up the penalties while maintaining his level of play, he should continue to be a bright spot.
Will Marcus Davenport play?
Head coach Sean Payton said that the team hopes to have defensive end Marcus Davenport back for the Week 4 tilt in Detroit. Having him return would be a big win for the Saints defensive line which has struggled to consistently put on pressure. Four of the Saints’ seven sacks so far this season have come in the first quarter of games, five in the first half. Meanwhile the majority of Davenport’s sacks have come in the second half. I don’t like to count sacks as a means of evaluation on production because overall, sacks in general are too small a percentage of dropbacks in today’s NFL. However, there is something to be said about game situation and quality over quantity in relation to the context under which a sack (or even hit or hurry) takes place.
I’d likely take a season of 20 team sacks on third down over 55 total sacks on first and second. The impact is just greater. The deeper into the game or drive you can affect the opposing quarterback, the better. Drive enders like third and forth down sacks as well as fumbles forced are important. That’s why Davenport has so much value. Four of Davenport’s 10.5 sacks have taken place on third or fourth down and he’s also forced four fumbles with only one of those overlapping. With two of those fumbles being turnovers, Davenport has essentially put together a 50% production rate on ending drives with sacks. The Lions have already given up nine sacks on Stafford with six in the fourth quarter and four on third down.
Lagniappe: Will we see a continued improvement by Drew Brees on accuracy and ball placement?
What are your biggest questions ahead of the Saints-Lions Week Four matchup on Sunday Night? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @RossJacksonNOLA and subscribe to my daily Saints podcast, Locked On Saints.