Three things you need to know before the Saints visit the Panthers for a NFC South clash on Monday Night Football...
1. These teams offer a stark reminder that precision accuracy is the most important trait for a quarterback. Pocket presence, field-reading, play-extending—none of it matters if a quarterback can’t put the ball where he wants. Drew Brees is having the best season of his illustrious career because his precision accuracy is almost perfect. New Orleans’s offense is so dangerous because its receivers don’t have to be completely open to make a catch. Cam Newton, on the other hand, is a picture of uneven throwing. He is tough in the pocket and dangerous on the move, and this season he’s mostly reading the field as sharply as he ever has. But still, Newton is the league’s 17th-rated passer because inconsistent footwork and mechanics make him wild and high on a handful of throws each game.
2. Don’t be surprised if the Saints blitz a little more than usual Monday night. On third downs, and especially in the red zone, the Saints like to rush three and drop eight men into Cover 2, usually with defensive end Cam Jordan as an add-in underneath pass defender. But Cam Newton is a big, strong mover, and he doesn’t fret when holding the ball longer like many quarterbacks would. At times last season, he hurt New Orleans’s eight-man coverages late in the down. Over the years, Newton has looked uncomfortable when extra defenders rush, and right now Carolina’s offensive line, particularly left tackle Chris Clark, is struggling in pass protection. Blitzing would force Clark and others to sustain blocks one-on-one.
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3. A fun debate with no wrong answer: which running back would you rather have, Alvin Kamara or Christian McCaffrey? Both of these offenses go through these remarkably similar second-year scat backs. The vote here is Kamara because his balance and strength on contact is a little firmer, plus he plays a tick faster than McCaffrey. The argument for McCaffrey, however, is simple yet strong: he has played 97.5% of Carolina’s snaps, while Kamara, in games where Mark Ingram has been available, has played 59% of New Orleans’s snaps.
Bold Prediction: The Saints will attack struggling second-round rookie corner Donte Jackson deep at least three times, including early in the game. Look for Tre’Quan Smith to line up across from Jackson.