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Film Study: Saints secondary faces young Raiders passing attack

Derek Carr and his cast of rookies and sophomores face the Saints on Monday Night

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints get to have the honor of opening up Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas this coming Monday night when they fly into Las Vegas to take on Jon Gruden’s Las Vegas Raiders. The Raiders are coming off of a 34-30 season opening win over our dear friend Teddy Bridgewater and the Carolina Panthers.

Of course, the Saints had their share of success in Week 1 as well, defeating Tom Brady and the new look-Buccaneers 34-23 in a game where the defense shined when called upon. The Saints defensive front got to Brady to the tune of 13 pressures, 6 hurries, 4 hits and 3 sacks, along with a pair of interceptions from Marcus Williams and Janoris Jenkins (the latter of which took his back to the house).

Janoris Jenkins operates in an important role for the Saints as the cornerback opposite Marshon Lattimore, a role that they’ve needed to fill since Lattimore was drafted in 2017. While Jenkins did have a starring role thanks to his pick six, he was far from perfect. Jenkins was targeted 9 times in coverage on Sunday and allowed 7 receptions for 98 yards, a majority of that to Scotty Miller, who burned Jenkins from on a go route and made a 38-yard catch late in the 4th quarter. Let’s take a look at this via All-22 footage.

Oh, that’s right. It’s Wednesday afternoon and NFL Gamepass still hasn’t uploaded the All-22 footage. Anyways, let’s take a look at this through the regular broadcast cam then.

Jenkins also let up a 23-yard catch to Chris Godwin in the week 1 matchup, being the target on two of Tampa’s three biggest passing plays. However aside from those two catches, Jenkins was fantastic and proved that he can more than handle the #2 cornerback role against one of the better receiving duos the Saints will see this season (and some might argue the best).

Marshon Lattimore also was in prime form as he allowed just 2 catches on 4 targets, including 0 receptions against longtime nemesis Mike Evans. Evans was kept in check for nearly the entire game, his only catch coming on a 2-yard touchdown pass with Demario Davis in coverage. Lattimore, per usual, was lockdown.

Saints Coverage Stats vs TB

Player Cov. Snaps Targets Receptions Yards TDs INTs Pass Breakups
Player Cov. Snaps Targets Receptions Yards TDs INTs Pass Breakups
Marcus Williams 46 1 1 8 0 1 0
Marshon Lattimore 45 4 2 17 1 0 0
Janoris Jenkins 43 9 7 98 0 1 0
Malcolm Jenkins 40 2 0 0 0 0 0
C.J. Gardner-Johnson 39 7 7 43 0 0 0
Demario Davis 37 6 3 20 1 0 0
D.J. Swearinger 31 2 2 44 0 0 0
Patrick Robinson 6 1 1 9 0 0 0

(All coverage stats taken from Pro Football Focus’s Premium Stats)

The strength of the Las Vegas Raiders offense does not lie in its passing game, but instead in running back Josh Jacobs. Jacobs struggled as a pass catcher in 2019, only totaling 20 receptions as a rookie for 166 yards (50th among all running backs in the NFL). However he did show more proficiency in that department in Week 1, with 4 receptions on 5 targets for 46 yards. His biggest catch of the day came when the Panthers put Shaq Thompson in coverage on him.

We can see here Jacobs breaking Thompson’s ankles on a backfield corner route, avoiding a tackle from Tre Boston and taking this play for a big gain. The Saints will have to work to neutralizing Jacobs in the passing game, but with whom is another question. Demario Davis, Marcus Williams, Janoris Jenkins, Chauncey C.J. Ceedy Duce Gardner-Johnson, and Marshon Lattimore all took coverage snaps against Tampa’s running backs last week, and with less of a wide receiver threat to worry about, look for defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to mix and match who takes on Jacobs.

The biggest threat for the Saints to worry about will remain Darren Waller. Waller’s a 6’6 tight end who broke out for the Raiders last season, catching 90 passes for 1,146 yards and 3 touchdowns. On Sunday, Waller managed 6 catches off of 7 targets but didn’t do much with them, picking up just 45 yards. However, Waller is a massive yards-after-catch threat, finishing with 594 YAC in 2019. The Saints will have to focus on bringing him down the moment he catches the ball and not any later, because he could hurt a defense that’s been burned trying to tackle tight ends before.

The Raiders receiving corps is still a young one. They spent a first round pick on speedster Henry Ruggs III from Alabama, who in his debut picked up 3 receptions on 5 targets for 55 yards, most of that coming on a 45-yard catch, getting wide open on a crossing route thanks to some sloppy coverage from the Carolina secondary.

Along with Ruggs, the Saints will have Hunter Renfrow to worry about. The former Clemson man had a stellar rookie year with 49 catches for 605 yards and 4 TDs, cementing his starting spot in the Raiders lineup as a familiar target for Derek Carr. The Raiders also added Nelson Agholor over the offseason, who took his only target for a 23-yard touchdown last weekend.

Lastly, a quick look at the Raiders’ offensive line. This unit performed exceptionally last weekend, allowing just three pressures and not letting Derek Carr get hit once. However, this weekend will be a bigger test for the unit that rated 5th in Pro Football Focus’s pass blocking grades, as Cameron Jordan and Trey Hendrickson will attempt to pose a bigger threat than what the Raiders saw last Sunday.

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