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Film Study: Old friend visits the Superdome on Sunday

Saints’ secondary will be looking to spoil Teddy Bridgewater’s return to NOLA

NFL: Chicago Bears at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints fans will always hold a soft spot for Teddy Bridgewater. From him being a loyal backup to the team in his first year in New Orleans to him accepting the backup role for another season and then going on to go undefeated in his five starts in 2019 when regular starting quarterback Drew Brees went down, Teddy did everything and more to make himself loved by the fanbase.

Teddy makes his triumphant return to the Superdome on Sunday afternoon, this time donning the black and blue of the Saints’ NFC South rival Carolina Panthers, who had rattled off three straight wins before falling victim to the 5-1 Chicago Bears and the Point Differential of Doom. Bridgewater’s enjoyed a decent season so far in 2020, with 1,677 passing yards and six touchdowns to five interceptions, and he’ll be a good shout to bounce back after his two-interception outing against the aforementioned Bears last week.

First, a look at Teddy’s only bad interception of the game versus Chicago (with the other being a deflected pass that can’t be really considered Teddy’s fault). Late in the game, down seven Teddy knows he needs to push the ball down the field, something he’s not been asked to do much so far this season. Teddy’s looking for DJ Moore on this post route from the snap, and DeAndre Houston-Carson’s got it read all the way. Teddy telegraphed it, Houston-Carson read it and reacted, and the game was over the second Teddy threw that pass.

The Panthers passing all around had a bad game, as their offensive line wasn’t able to hold up against the Bears pass rush, and Chuck Pagano’s defense did a good job of making Teddy uncomfortable all game long, forcing him to scramble seven times and also take four sacks. The Panthers receiving corps dropping five passes also didn’t seem to do much to help Teddy’s cause.

The Panthers passing attack this season has had the most success when finding Robby Anderson and getting him the ball. Anderson, who’s in Carolina for the first season after having been banished to the New York Jets for the first four years of his pro career, is unsurprisingly thriving once he left the Jets, with 40 receptions for 567 yards so far in 2020, both of those numbers top five among all NFL wide receivers. Anderson’s picked up at least 99 yards in four out of six games in 2020 and has reached at least 50 yards in all six, and he’s quickly earned himself the mantra of Teddy Bridgewater’s favorite target for reasons like this.

If Bridgewater and Anderson are connecting like this against the Saints, it’s over. Anderson’s a weapon all over the field as well, and while he doesn’t lineup in the slot as much as he does outside (194 snaps wide rather than 100 in the slot), Anderson still thrives in that role. Anderson’s 2.64 yards per route run (per Pro Football Focus) is 4th in the NFL, and he’s only dropped 1 of the 16 targets thrown his way when in the slot. With Anderson in the slot, the Saints will have to rely on Chauncey C.J. Ceedy Duce Gardner-Johnson in coverage, where he’s allowed a 107.2 passer rating when in coverage in said slot. The Saints will need Ceedy Duce to be in prime form on Sunday to slow down Anderson when he’s in the slot, assuming Marshon Lattimore has Anderson duties when the Sun God lines up outside.

Saints Slot Coverage Stats

Defender Coverage Snaps Targets Receptions Yards TD Pass Rtg
Defender Coverage Snaps Targets Receptions Yards TD Pass Rtg
Chauncey C.J. Ceedy Duce Gardner-Johnson 113 17 13 89 1 107.2
Malcolm Jenkins 30 5 3 13 0 64.6
Demario Davis 18 5 1 2 1 79.2
Marcus Williams 8 2 1 50 0 95.8
D.J. Swearinger Sr. 7 1 1 29 0 118.8
Janoris Jenkins 7 3 1 5 0 42.4
Patrick Robinson 3 1 1 9 0 104.2

The other threat that the Panthers have is the third-year Maryland product, D.J. Moore. After a breakout sophomore campaign where Moore managed 1,175 yards with a combination of broken Cam Newton and a regular Kyle Allen at quarterback, Moore’s on pace to hit 1,200+ yards with Teddy throwing him the ball. Besides, all Teddy has to do is get D.J. Moore in space, and then the former Terrapin can do this.

It’s hard to talk about the Panthers offense without mentioning Christian McCaffrey, and luckily for the Saints, it seems we’ll have to wait one more week before Christian McCaffrey laces up for the Panthers. CMC is still rehabbing an ankle injury suffered in Week 2, but what’s fun for all of us is that he seems to have a chance to play in the Panthers next contest versus the Atlanta Falcons, where he can hopefully continue to ruin their season.

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