After a little bit of a nerve-racking win last week against Atlanta, the New Orleans Saints will be visiting the Cleveland Browns in a Christmas Eve matchup against Deshaun Watson and Co. The secondary has continued to be very solid in these last stretch of games as they look to finish strong even with slim playoff hopes. The weather for this game will look to be in the secondaries favor as the forecast in Cleveland has consistently called for up to 50 mph wind gusts, a supposed high of 13 degrees and some snow precipitation as well. This game probably won’t be a fun one through the air for either team but there’s always a chance for some magic when you have talented players on the field.
Let’s see how these two passing units have fared this season.
How have these two units performed so far this season?
When it comes to the Browns passing game, they currently stand at 20th in passer yards per game, 26th in passing touchdowns and 24th in passer rating. This offense surprisingly has not gained any spark since their highly valued signal caller returned from suspension. He has recorded only two touchdowns in three games contributing very minimally to the offense as they continue to struggle to score points. On the positive end for the Browns, they do however have the capabilities to generate offense with a very balanced group of skill players. Amari Cooper has been as productive as can be with the change of scenery at quarterback closing in on 1000 yards on the season as well as ascending young player Donovan Peoples-Jones who could possibly eclipse 1000 yards with a couple of strong outings. Both are dynamic route runners and are uniquely explosive in their breaks. They also have a physical specimen in David Njoku whose talent and capabilities stand out much more than his numbers. He can definitely give a defense fit without a plan in place.
As far as the Saints secondary, they currently rank 7th in passing yards, allowed 4th in passing touchdowns allowed and have given up the 11th lowest in passer rating in the league to opposing quarterbacks. All jumps from the previous week. Surprisingly enough, we have still yet to see star cornerback Marshon Lattimore in the lineup which is getting seemingly odder by the day. Co-Defensive Coordinator Kris Richard told the media that Lattimore’s injury status is a “Marshon thing”. At this point, by hearing that, it would not surprise me if he does not play another snap this season. In no offense to him at all, it would just be smart for him to heal up for next season instead of playing meaningless football as far as playoffs are concerned (even though there’s “technically” still a chance to make it). On the positive end with Lattimore out, we have seen Alontae Taylor really start to make some noise, breaking up three passes last week and almost securing multiple interceptions on the day. It seems as though the level of confidence he is playing with is clearly elevating his performance. That combined with the wowing physical traits he possesses, will likely make him one of the better cornerbacks in the league in a short amount of time. Like I said last week, these last three games will be a huge audition for next year's number two corner spot and so far, Taylor looks to be in the lead.
What to expect in this game?
The expectation for this game is that it should be a very messy one. We shouldn’t see a lot of success through the year due to inclement weather which will maybe allow for the secondary to get their hands on a few passes. If the conditions are good to run in however, Amari Cooper is a player that would concern me because of his superior suddenness in his routes which is something that we have seen many of the Saints cornerbacks struggle with in the past. It will also be interesting to see how the Saints matchup against David Njoku. Tyrann Mathieu has been manning more of the tight ends and slot receivers as of lately and has done a pretty nice job in doing so. But the size difference between the two should almost definitely call for a different matchup like Marcus Maye or one of the starting linebackers. This game will likely be one of wild events with all things considered but the secondary shouldn’t have many issues in this one.