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Saints offensive line will have its hands full against Washington Football Team pass rush

The Jameis Winston era hasn’t started with a bang, but the Saints can make a statement with a strong game Sunday

NFL: Washington Football Team at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints have had a rough start to the Jameis Winston. Despite a 2-2 start, the early part of the 2021 season has been marred with inconsistency and a sputtering passing game. The Saints are 31st in the league in passing heading into Sunday against the Washington Football Team, a far cry from the fast and loose offense Saints fans expected to see in the post Drew Brees era.

In Week 2 against the Carolina Panthers, the Saints offense was in shambles against a pass rush that has been among the best in the league to this point. The Panthers’ defensive line has an impressive hurry percentage of 15.7 percent. The Saints line will have a chance to redeem itself against a line that’s impressive in its own right. Washington’s defense, led by 2020 No. 2 overall pick Chase Young, has accumulated a 14.6 percent hurry percentage.

With that in mind, the Saints will have to do something to placate the pass rush. One of the ways they can do that is by holding Washington with play action. The Saints have run just 16 play action passes on the season (four per game), despite leading the league in rush rate at 57.8 percent. An increase in play action would take some offensive pressure off of Alvin Kamara, who is feeling the weight of being the Saints’ best offensive player by a mile.

One of the fatal flaws of the Saints’ disastrous performance against the Panthers was an inability to make checks at the line of scrimmage. While there were plenty of built-in excuses in that game; including the fact it was just Winston’s second start, starting center Erik McCoy missed due to injury, and COVID-19 had ransacked a good portion of the Saints’ coaching staff, this game will not offer those same reasons.

Winston has been in the league long enough to figure these things out, and Cesar Ruiz has been coming along. The Saints offense actually put together a solid game against the New York Giants, but an overly conservative approach and a defense collapse allowed the Giants back into the game for a comeback win.

If Washington gets that kind of momentum, its pass rush will be hard to stop. Montez Sweat has proven more than competent across from Young and Jonathan Allen is a force instead. Washington will likely put Allen on Andrus Peat often to test him, so expect a lot of help.

Ultimately, the Saints will have to be creative to keep the Washington pass rush at bay. The best way to do that will be by leaning into what they do well, which is in the running game. Washington has the 17th-ranked run defense, meaning that Kamara should be able to gain ground against them. But if Washington is able to stack eight in the box, it could be yet another long day for the Saints offense on a field that is not friendly to visiting opponents.

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