Taysom Hill and the New Orleans Saints passing attack will look to bounce back against the Atlanta Falcons in this Sunday, after relying mostly on the run game against the Denver Broncos.
They won’t have the luxury of not having to take any risks due to their opponent having a salesman at quarterback this time around, as they’ll look to exploit an improving Falcons defense.
Just last week, the Atlanta defense shut down Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders passing game, holding them to six points, while coming up with five sacks and forcing five turnovers.
While this isn’t a great Falcons defense, they’ve definitely been trending in the right direction. They’re allowing 20.4 PPG since Week 5, and they haven’t allowed a team to score over 24 points in that span.
This isn’t dominance, but it’s competence. While a lot of this production comes from stopping the run, they’ve also improved in defending the pass recently.
On the season, they’re allowing the third-highest yards per pass attempt in the NFL, at 7.8 yards. But in the last three games, they’re allowing 6.5 YPA, which is 14th-best.
They’ve achieved this competence by communicating better in the back-end, where they are adept at disguising looks and coverages pre-snap, as they showed vs. NOLA and Las Vegas.
Take this play that I highlighted on Twitter for example.
The Falcons tried to fool Derek Carr with a disguise of Cover 2 Zone last week.— Andrew Bell (@AndrewBell_98) December 3, 2020
They trail the shift and motion players and show a man coverage look pre-snap, then deploy Tampa 2 post-snap with #24 AJ Terrell playing the deep middle of the field.
Carr checks it down. pic.twitter.com/tSyvmCo763
Like Denver, they like to try and make things difficult for the QB they’re facing by not giving him static looks.
Whether it’s disguising Cover 1 man with a two-high safety look:
Or Cover 2 Zone with a one-high-ish look -
They want to make you have to process after the snap and give their pass rush more time to get home.
Much like Denver, they’re going to deploy a lot of Cover 1 Man through these disguises.
Almost through Week 12 of the #NFL season —— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) December 2, 2020
Let’s look at defensive coverage rates again.
Cover 1 (man-free)
1. JAX — 49.0%
2. ATL — 46.2%
3. DEN — 45.5%
4. AZ — 45.1%
5. PHI — 44.7%
28. TAM — 28.1%
29. LAR — 28.0%
30. GB — 27.3%
31. CAR — 19.5 %
32: NYG — 16.0%
My advice to Taysom in last week’s pass offense film study was to simply rely on Michael Thomas when he gets these Cover 1 looks. And for two weeks in a row, he’s done that.
In Taysom’s first start vs. Atlanta, he targeted Thomas 11 times. He caught nine for 104 yards. He then went his way six times last week, and Thomas hauled in four catches for 50 yards (over 64% of Hill’s passing yards).
A lot of those opportunities should still be there, unless Atlanta drastically changes their game plan. Like here, where MT is given inside leverage on the dig route and Taysom hits him off of play action.
And if they do shade a safety towards Mike, like in the play below, Hill needs to react and get the ball to guys like Emmanuel Sanders. He misses an open Sanders on this play when the safety shades towards Mike.
After a frustratingly hesitant performance against Denver that you can read about here, it looks like Taysom is set to get back to a more aggressive style of play.
Taysom Hill: As we prepare for this (game against Atlanta), ... I would say I'm back to that aggressive, let's go let loose (mentality).— Luke Johnson (@ByLukeJohnson) December 2, 2020
This is good to hear, because the opportunities should be there.
He had multiple that were underthrown in the first matchup with Atlanta due to well-documented lateness on his reads, but the looks presented themselves against the Raiders last week as well.
Here, the Falcons D is in a Cover 1 Man look on third down, and the Raiders run a double post type concept. The first post/deep seam route carries the safety, and the second skinnier post is open deep.
Carr steps up and actually puts a pretty decent ball on Henry Ruggs, who is unable to bring it down due to better coverage by Terrell.
The Saints ran almost the exact same play, just with a different look off of play action, in Week 11.
It’s there, as Sanders is wide open and comes back to catch an underthrown ball by Hill for a TD. But it’s called back due to a holding penalty.
The lesson here though is that this ball should be thrown earlier. Once Taysom hits the top of his drop, he should see the safety is on the other side of the opposite hash and let this thing rip as soon as Sanders breaks.
Instead, he waits an extra tick, steps up and underthrows a very long pass. If this is out earlier, the hold probably doesn’t have time to occur and it’s most likely an uncontested touchdown.
These are the plays I’ll be looking for Taysom Hill to complete this time around against a familiar Falcons defense.
He’s probably only got a couple more games to prove what he can do, and this one will be absolutely crucial — not only for this season — but for his career outlook on this team.
What are you expecting to see from Taysom Hill this Sunday? 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 @AndrewBell_98.