Week 1 is nearly upon us and with that, we have a chance to breakdown how the Saints will fare in their matchup against their division rival Atlanta Falcons. In this article, I will be breaking down how the Saints' passing offense stacks up against the Falcons' pass defense, and how each receiver will fare against their respective cornerbacks. So, without further ado, let us begin with the first and most important matchup:
Michael Thomas vs. A.J. Terrell
The matchup we have been waiting to see again ever since December 6th of 2020, when Terrell was a rookie and Thomas was still playing through injury. Now, provided Thomas clears his injury from training camp, we will get a chance to see one of the best young cornerbacks in football (like the Falcons or not, this is true) vs. the 2019 OPOY, and when on the field one of the best receivers in football.
In the last and only matchup between Terrell and Thomas, Thomas got the upper hand, posting 9 receptions on 11 targets for 105 yards (11.7 per reception). While this is not the best stat line from MT ever, it is clearly an effective game regardless and showed how he was able to dominate. Nevertheless, Terrell has improved since then, making the matchup even more interesting to watch during the week 1 matchup.
Chris Olave vs. Casey Hayward
Next up, we have one of the more exciting matchups we will see in this game as a whole, that being rookie Chris Olave vs veteran Casey Hayward. Both players have above-average speed, both players have a great ability to make a play on the ball, except both players have completely different length tenures in the league.
This will be a great test for Olave right off the bat, as Hayward is not necessarily a premier-level cornerback, but he is certainly in the good to great tier. They have very similar skill sets, just on opposing sides of the ball, so this will allow Olave to get accustomed to the NFL level, and also prove his worth as a player if he can beat Hayward a few times. We will get a chance to see whether the young gun or the seasoned vet comes out on top this Sunday.
Alvin Kamara & TEs vs. LBs & Richie Grant
Finally, we take a look at the Saints’ tight end group and Alvin Kamara against the Falcons’ linebackers and Richie Grant. This swings relatively heavily in favor of the New Orleans Saints for one reason and one reason only, Deion Jones is injured. With Deion on the field, Kamara would be at least somewhat held in check at times as a receiver, either out of the backfield or across the middle. With Jones on IR due to a shoulder injury, this leaves Kamara up against Lorenzo Carter and Adetokunbo Ogundeji on the outside, which favors Kamara.
In terms of the Saints’ tight end room, it is an interesting one. We will get to finally see Taysom Hill embrace a full-time, tight-end role alongside Adam Trautman, which could be great but will likely take time to develop into a functional unit. We will see them going against inside linebackers Rashaan Evans and Mykal Walker on the inside, and any deep routes will be fed towards safety Richie Grant. Grant is a solid safety and looked good in his relatively limited snaps last season. He will now likely take the starting role and will pose a good opponent for anyone trying to turn a pass downfield.