Finally, the New Orleans Saints are approaching a meaningful football game! Meeting New Orleans during the NFL’s kickoff weekend will be the Green Bay Packers. Both teams have had off seasons filled with questions, speculation, and different sorts of distractions. But it all leads to one of the more exciting matchups Week 1 has to offer.
We got the chance to meet with Jon Meerdink from SB Nation family member Acme Packing number on a variety of topics leading to Sunday’s game. Be sure to follow Jon on Twitter @JonMeerdink as we collaborated on another project where he asked us questions of his own.
With that being said, we welcome you to a long awaited Week 1 edition of Outsider’s Perspective.
The Saints are no stranger to offseason chaos in one way or another over the past decade. Green Bay has gone through their own “issues” to say the least when it comes to future hall of fame QB Aaron Rodgers, most notably this offseason in regards to his desire towards returning to the Packers.
But as the Saints know, a lot can change and be salvaged once games are played and won. Do you believe the Rodgers offseason situation will have any bearing on Green Bay’s success this year?
Not really, no. It was kind of a binary outcome situation: either Rodgers played for the Packers and they’d be a contender, or he wouldn’t and they wouldn’t. Rodgers is back, so I expect it to be business as usual for the Packers this season. That’s not to say things couldn’t go sideways, but if they do I don’t think it’ll be because of the Packers’ relationship with Rodgers.
One key matchup going into Sunday will be Davante Adams versus Marshon Lattimore. Can you go into detail about what makes Adams so special week in and out? What part of his game gives defenses the most trouble?
Adams is borderline supernatural when it comes to his release off the line. His feet are so quick that few can even get a hand on him, much less slow him down. He doesn’t have elite speed, but his ability to create separation allows him to do serious damage to defenses in the short- and mid-range passing game to the point that teams have to roll a safety over the top to really have any chance of keeping him contained.
That’s a weird thing to have to do for a guy who lacks crazy deep speed, but that’s more or less the only technique we’ve seen for slowing Adams down consistently.
If the Saints are to have any chance at winning this game, they’ll need to win the battle in the trenches on both sides.
But most importantly they’ll need to create opportunities to slow down Aaron Rodgers, as well as Aaron Jones out of the backfield. First-team all-pro tackle David Bakhtiari being on the sidelines surely should help New Orleans chances. In DB’s absence, what do you think Green Bay will do to help protect Rodgers and company against a talented Saints front-seven?
Weirdly, I don’t think it’s the Bakhtiari absence that’s going to cause them the most trouble, at least not on its own. I think they’ve got left tackle handled. Elgton Jenkins, a 2019 second-round pick at guard, is stepping into Bakhtiari’s spot on the offensive line and should hold up well.
Normally that would sound a little unusual, but Jenkins has started — and played well — at every other spot on the offensive line in his still-young career. Most people who follow the team closely more or less assume left tackle will be a pretty solid fit for him as well, even if he’s not quite to Bakhtiari’s level.
But that’s not to say there isn’t potential trouble up front. There is. Moving Jenkings, their normal starting left guard, to tackle leaves a void at a unit already dealing with significant turnover. We don’t know what the Packers’ starting offensive line is going to be yet, but there’s a very good chance they’ll have new Week 1 starters at both guard spots and center.
Left guard Jon Runyan Jr. (a 2020 draft pick), center Josh Myers (a rookie), and right guard Royce Newman (also a rookie) are all big and athletic, but they’re pretty raw. Runyan only played 160 snaps last year, a relative pittance considering he’s replacing Jenkins there.
Meanwhile, Myers steps in for iron man Corey Linsley, who’s off to the Chargers this year, and Newman beat out incumbent Lucas Patrick. Each of these guys is impressive in his own right, but to your point — that this game will be won and lost in the trenches — I don’t think Packers fans can rest easy just yet.
What’s the biggest misconception about the Green Bay Packers as the season starts?
I think there’s this perception that the Packers don’t have talent on defense. They do, it’s just been poorly utilized in the past. Jaire Alexander is about as good as it gets at cornerback, Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage are a great safety pair (thanks for the first-round pick that became Savage, by the way), Kenny Clark is a Pro Bowl talent on the nose, Za’Darius Smith is an elite pass rusher, and on it goes.
The big question is how they’ll work in new defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s scheme. Former coordinator Mike Pettine often produced units that seemed less than the sum of their parts. If the Packers are going to get over the hump and into the Super Bowl, Barry can’t let the same thing happen.
Your outsider’s perspective on the 2021 New Orleans Saints?
The Saints seem to be in a time of transition, and transition brings uncertainty. As an outsider, I don’t know what to make of the Saints right now. For so long, they were defined by what Drew Brees could do for them (even as his abilities waned with age), and now that he’s out of the picture, what are they? It’s tough to tell, and I’m guessing people like you who cover the team are wrestling with similar questions.
But uncertainty and transition are inherently interesting, so you guys should have a great year ahead of you. If nothing else, it shouldn’t be boring!
And that was our time with Jon, be sure to check out his latest work and an upcoming piece where he asks us questions of his own. Hope you enjoyed the latest edition of Outsider’s Perspective.
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