Saints Defense at Raiders Offense Preview

Bob Rose

A surging New Orleans Saints defense will try to keep their momentum rolling in Week 2 when they travel west to take on the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football. New Orleans held a Tampa Bay offense loaded with weapons to just 310 total yards and forced 2 turnovers, returning one interception for a touchdown. The Saints finished 11th in the league in total defense a year ago, 10th in turnovers forced (23), and held seven opponents to less than 20 points.

They’ll take on a Jon Gruden Raiders squad that has a few dangerous playmakers. Las Vegas finished 11th in the league in total offense last season but averaged just 19.6 points per game, eighth-worst in the NFL. They scored 34 points on the road in a Week One victory over Carolina, putting up 372 yards of offense and not turning the ball over.

THE PASS: SAINTS DEFENSE vs. RAIDERS OFFENSE

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Sep 13, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) is pressured by New Orleans Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata (93) during the fourth quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY

A New Orleans pass defense that ranked 20th in 2019 predicates its success on pressuring the quarterback. The Saints took down opposing passers 51 times last season and sacked Tampa Bay QB Tom Brady three times in Week 1, hitting him several other times and forcing an intentional grounding. Defensive end Cameron Jordan leads the assault upfront. The 31-Year-old Pro Bowler has had double-digit sack totals in four of the last five seasons, including a career-high 15.5 last season. 

The Saints hope to welcome third-year DE Marcus Davenport back to the lineup after missing the opener with an elbow injury. Davenport is a disruptive force when on the field, but New Orleans has quality depth here in Trey Hendrickson and Carl Granderson, who combined for two sacks and four pressures on Brady. The Saints can complement their edge rush with powerful interior pressure from a talented DT rotation of Sheldon Rankins, David Onyemata, Malcom Brown, Shy Tuttle, and undrafted rookie Malcolm Roach.

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Sep 13, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Janoris Jenkins (20) defends Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) during the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY

Outstanding play from the New Orleans secondary allowed them to contain a Tampa Bay offense loaded with weapons at both wide receiver and tight end. Brady would finish with 239 yards passing, but much of that after the game had already been decided. Elite Cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins completely took Pro Bowl wideouts Mike Evans and Chris Godwin out of the game, each turning in dazzling performances. Marcus Williams took away the deep ball as a deep safety, while the combination of safeties Ceedy Duce and Malcolm Jenkins and linebackers Demario Davis and Alex Anzalone clamped down on the underneath routes to Bucs tight ends.

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Sep 13, 2020; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) looks to pass as Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short (99) defends in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Raiders QB Derek Carr leads a passing attack that finished 9th in the league a year ago. In his seventh season, Carr threw for 239 yards and a score with only eight incompletions against the Panthers. He had career-highs in yardage (4,054) and completion percentage (70.4%) last year while throwing 21 touchdown passes against 8 interceptions. 

Carr has one of the league's most underrated tight ends to target in fifth-year pro, Darren Waller, who led the team with 90 receptions and 1,145 yards last year. Second-year WR Hunter Renfrow, the team's second-leading receiver last year with 49 catches for 605 yards, is a reliable possession receiver. With WR Tyrell Williams on injured reserve, the offseason additions of WR Nelson Agholor from the Eagles and TE Jason Witten from Dallas need to be productive.

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Dec 15, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders tight end Darren Waller (83) carries the ball as Jacksonville Jaguars outside linebacker Austin Calitro (58) makes the tackle during the Raiders final game at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum before relocating to Las Vegas for the 2020 season. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY

Las Vegas also added two wideouts in this spring's draft that are expected to be big parts of the offense. They grabbed Alabama speedster Henry Ruggs with the 12th overall selection of the 1st round, then used a 3rd round pick on South Carolina's Bryan Edwards. Carr has more receiving talent than at any point in his career, and hopes for continued protection to keep him upright to find those weapons. 

After taking a beating early in his career, Carr was sacked just 29 times in 2019 and not once against the Panthers. Their big-bodied offensive line can have trouble against athletic pass rushers, however, and they may be without RT Trent Brown on Monday night after he left last week's game with a calf injury.

THE RUN: SAINTS DEFENSE vs. RAIDERS OFFENSE

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Sep 13, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) and linebacker Alex Anzalone (47) and safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson (22) tackle Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II (27) during the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY

The Saints held Tampa Bay to only 86 yards rushing and just 3.3 yards per attempt last Sunday. It was the 31st time in the last 54 games that they've held an opponent below 100 yards on the ground and the 44th consecutive game without allowing a 100-Yd rusher. Their dominant defensive line not only controls the line of scrimmage but also pushes into opposing backfields to make plays. The standout play upfront allows Demario Davis and Alex Anzalone to fly to the ball carrier. 

Both Davis and Anzalone are athletic linebackers who are devastating blitzers and can stay with the league's best tight ends in pass coverage. They are also outstanding run defenders with excellent play recognition. Ceedy Duce and Malcolm Jenkins also help the defense from their safety spot by making plays against the around the line of scrimmage.

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Sep 13, 2020; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (28) runs for a touchdown in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Raiders running game ranked 13th in 2019, averaging 118 yards per game on the ground. Josh Jacobs, the 24th overall pick last year, is their primary offensive weapon. Jacobs had five games of over 100 yards rushing last season on his way to 1,150 yards and seven scores. He scored three touchdowns in last week's win over Carolina while picking up 93 yards rushing and adding 46 more through the air on 4 receptions. The 5'10" 220-Lb Jacobs is both effective between the tackles and has a lethal burst in the open field.

Look for New Orleans to be aggressive at the line of scrimmage in an effort to bottle up Jacobs and put pressure on Carr, who tends to be mistake-prone under a heavy rush. That will leave the Saints in one-on-one coverage situations on the back end. Las Vegas doesn't have the receiving weapons that the Buccaneers do, but the Saints secondary must be able to contain Waller, Renfrow, Agholor, and the big play threat of Ruggs.

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