Saints Defense Needs to Step Up and Create Opportunities

The Saints still have offensive weaponry, but it's going to be harder without their top two receivers out. This is the week the defense has to step up and return to form.
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The Saints are once again finding themselves having to overcome adversity in this early season. New Orleans will be without their top two wide receiving threats on Sunday against the Panthers, as Michael Thomas (ankle/hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19 list) will be out of action. The bye week was supposed to fix things, and for the most part it has with the team having their defense at full strength. They'll be needed more than ever against the Panthers to create opportunities for the offense.

"I think it's just the nature of the game. It's a next man up league," linebacker Demario Davis said on Friday when asked about the positive Sanders test.

"And you know you're going to have guys up and down all the time, you just kind of keep rolling, that's even more in this season, with COVID and all this going on with that. You've just got to find a way to find a way. So no matter what happens in a game, if you lose a guy, the next guy up has to be ready. And all the guys on the team kind of pull their weight."

New Orleans has their work cut out for them without Thomas and Sanders, as they'll be rolling into their game with Tre'Quan Smith, Deonte Harris, and Marquez Callaway. Bennie Fowler went on injured reserve on Friday, having surgery on his shoulder to repair his labrum and rotator. Some roster movement won't be surprising, as Austin Carr and Tommylee Lewis are obviously familiar with the offense and can be called up from the practice squad. Rookie Juwan Johnson could also see his number called too, especially if Carr or Lewis signs to the active roster. Of course, a heavy dose of Alvin Kamara is expected.

While the moves remain to be seen, this divisional clash needs to see the Saints defense step up and help make it easier on Drew Brees and the offense. It was a common theme when Teddy Bridgewater was the starter last season, as they were able to help take over games and make it easier on him. However, this year's defense has struggled a ton, and the big plays from communication breakdowns have been a real concern.

"We just got to communicate more, make sure everybody's on the same page," said Janoris Jenkins on Friday.

"Everybody has to know what's going on, understand what's going on and just play fast. And all eleven guys got to swarm to the ball."

While it doesn't solve everything, getting Jenkins back in the lineup should help some. He was clearly frustrated with his shoulder injury, but is ready to play and help his team. Other players like Marcus Davenport have been completely off the injury report, which is a good sign for the team's pass rush. We're going to see firsthand how a week off has helped Dennis Allen's squad facing off against the man who came in and stepped up in a big way when he was needed most.

It doesn't have to be perfection out of the Saints defense, but strides in the right direction will help make it easier for New Orleans to close out October on a high note and keep pace with the Bucs.

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