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Saints Film Room: A deep dive into how Kwon Alexander and Jameis Winston played in Week 10

We take a look at the performances of newly-emerging Jameis Winston and newcomer Kwon Alexander in Week 10.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints’ Week 10 duel with the San Francisco 49ers was the first time we got to see two things this year:

  1. Kwon Alexander in a Saints uniform.
  2. Jameis Winston in Sean Payton’s offense in non-garbage time.

After a brutal rib injury sustained by Drew Brees in the 2nd quarter, which looks like it will keep him out for an extended amount of time, the W-eating Florida State alum took over QB duties.

He started off pretty conservatively, then made a couple plays, before a couple of rough ones.

Alexander also had some struggles in areas he’s been noted to struggle in, but did showcase some of his speed and athleticism in the run game.

After sifting through the all-22 tape, it’s much more apparent what the two new faces, who we’ll be seeing a lot of over the next few weeks, need to improve upon.

Flameis

Jameis started off with a pretty expected-level performance, thene things got a bit weird. Sean Payton wasn’t really letting him do too much early, and there were some Taysom plays mixed in there on 3rd downs that weren’t letting him get into much of a flow.

He went 6/10 for 63 yards, but had a weirdly-low average depth of target of 6.0. That’s Brees-level stuff for the gunslinging Winston.

One of his incompletions was a miscommunication, one was an inaccurate ball, one was basically a throwaway, and one was a dropped pick.

His first two drives in the second half were 3-and-outs, and not really because of anything he did. Not counting a screen to Alvin Kamara that got called back, he threw a check-down to Deonte Harris and a check-down to Kamara.

The throw to Kamara was a 1st down play, where the Saints were running a smash concept to the weak side — with Michael Thomas running the corner and Kamara on the option route underneath him. The Niners sit back in Cover 6 Zone, with the one-safety side of the field to the weak side. In other words, it’s Cover 2 Zone at the bottom of the screen.

I thought there might have been enough room to fit this in to Thomas on the corner, but it definitely would’ve been a tight window.

The safety is driving on it, but I’m not completely sure the underneath corner had enough depth, because he’s eyeing AK underneath.

Maybe if he’d been in the offense for a few weeks and had his feet under him, Winston lets this rip. But considering the situation of the game and it being his first full quarter as a starter, I like the move to just get it to AK.

The third drive was where we got to see a few things from him.

His first play of the drive, he notices the underneath defenders get too much depth and hits AK for a big gain. The play after that, he gets MT matched up against a linebacker in Quarters coverage and hits him with an accurate ball on the option route.

These aren’t impressive plays, but they’re expected. Jameis was doing what was expected of him, and that’s all this offense needs him to do.

A couple plays later, he made his best throw of the night. He recognizes Man coverage after a defender follows the motioning Emmanuel Sanders, then knows he’s got a linebacker on AK, who runs a wheel route.

MT does a nice job of setting a pick-ish route up to where the backer has to weave around him, and Winston drops a nice ball in.

You could tell Jameis started off playing very conservatively. He took a couple of sacks in the red zone when there wasn’t anything there, and he was way outside on a couple of balls to MT. My guess is a combination of a lack of connection between he and Thomas, along with him wanting to make sure these passes weren’t coming near defenders, is why this drive ended in a field goal.

But lack of connection or not, the fade ball to MT out of the slot was just off-target.

There was really only one play that was super-concerning from Winston on Sunday, and I’m sure those reading know which play I’m referring to.

It’s key to note here that the Saints are in their Jumbo look here, with six offensive linemen.

So, Winston correctly reads that it’s man coverage and wants to hit Thomas on the dig because he beats his man. But he doesn’t take into account that there are two underneath defenders whose responsibilities in coverage are pass-blocking. Plus, there’s a sixth offensive lineman in the game, so of course there’s going to be an extra underneath defender, if he’s not blitzing.

This is QB 101.

He somehow misses this and throws it directly the safety, but gets lucky that it’s dropped.

This is basically a typical Jameis play if you’ve followed him throughout his career. And while this game is really too small of a sample to take much from, it also didn’t do anything to change preconceived notions about his questionable decision-making.

The Saints have a pretty easy four-game slate coming up, but Winston is going to have to find that balance between aggressiveness and sound decision-making if he wants to not only win some games, but impress teams who may consider signing him in the future.

Kwon

Saints fans seemed to be very excited about the Kwon Alexander signing when it happened. While I wasn’t really one of these people, I didn’t mind getting more depth at a position that has suffered due to injuries over the years.

However, some of the struggles that were noted when NOLA signed the six-year LB out of LSU showed up on Sunday. The primary struggle was poor tackling.

He’s a very athletic, speedy backer, who can get to his spots in a hurry. But sometimes, it’s for nothing.

Take this play for example.

It looks like the Saints are in Quarters coverage, and Tight End Jordan Reed is going to run an option route vs. Alexander on 2nd and 10.

Kwon is right there in great position, and if he could just make a tackle, it would probably be 3rd and long.

Instead, he whiffs and falls. This allows reed to get a solid gain, and would eventually result in their offense moving the chains on 3rd and short.

This is something Alexander has always been bad at. According to PFF, he has never had a season tackling grade above 60.6, and he’s had two below 30 (!!). He’s been top three among linebackers in missed tackles in all three seasons where he’s played over 425 snaps.

That is not great.

Kwon has typically made up for some of his tackling deficiencies with his athleticism and speed in coverage. But what I saw Sunday was in no way better than what I’ve seen from Alex Anzalone all year.

Kyle Shanahan was just straight attacking him on this play in the 2nd quarter.

They motion Jerrick McKinnon out to his side and clear everything out for a option route from the slot.

Even with McKinnon nearly falling down on the route, he still cooks Alexander for a 13 yard gain and first down.

He was targeted four times in coverage this game and gave up four catches for 32 yards.

Say what you will about Anzalone — and he definitely is not the athlete Alexander is — but I probably trust him more in coverage than I do Kwon right now.

Anzalone has actually been pretty darn good against running backs this year, and just in coverage overall, besides two bogus penalties.

Where Alexander was solid on Sunday was in run defense. I only noticed one missed tackle in this aspect of the game, and his speed caused a couple of plays to go the Saints’ way — like this one, where he beats the RB to the edge and forces a block in the back penalty on San Fran.

While PFF’s coverage grades can sometimes be a bit spotty, I generally trust their run D grades. And his was 62.3 in this game (60 is average).

So, I wonder if Dennis Allen and the Saints may consider playing him on early downs and Anzalone on late downs/pass downs.

Either way, the tackling issues for Alexander are concerning and will be something to monitor moving forward. And as much as y’all love to bash Marcus Williams about tackling (He’s been playing great lately, by the way), you better hold Alexander accountable for it too.


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