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Saints Pass Defense vs. Seahawks Passing Attack

Can the New Orleans pass rush come to life and pressure Seattle backup QB Geno Smith to provide a big assist to the Saints huge coverage matchup against Seahawks wideouts?
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A 3-2 New Orleans Saints team comes back from their bye week with a road trip to face the 2-4 Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football. New Orleans is coming off a week five victory at Washington, while the Seahawks have lost two straight and four of their last five.

The Saints have had some ups and downs on both sides of the ball through the first quarter of the year. They've been more consistent defensively, where they are fourth in points allowed (18.2/game) and their 354 yards/game surrendered ranks 15th in the league.

New Orleans has been one of the toughest teams to run the ball on over the last four seasons and rank second in that category after five games. The Saints have been especially stout on third downs, ranking seventh, and near the goal line, where they have the NFL's top-ranked red-zone defense.

New Orleans hasn't been as disruptive against the pass as they were last season, but have dealt with several personnel losses and injury absences.

They'll take on a Seattle team that ranks 22nd in total offense, averaging 344 yards and 23.3 points per outing. The Seahawks have been above average on the ground, but this is a team driven by perennial Pro Bowl QB Russell Wilson.

Wilson suffered a hand injury two weeks ago, causing the Seahawks to turn to journeyman QB Geno Smith for the next several games.

The Seahawks are a desperate team in need of a win to stay in the NFC West race. Will New Orleans be able to match that intensity and shut down a backup quarterback with plenty of offensive weapons around him?

SAINTS PASS DEFENSE VS. SEAHAWKS PASSING ATTACK

New Orleans Pass Defense

New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams (43) breaks up a pass intended for Seattle receiver Tyler Lockett (16). Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams (43) breaks up a pass intended for Seattle receiver Tyler Lockett (16). Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints rank 23rd against the pass, surrendering 275 yards per game. They’d be ranked higher statistically if not for baffling breakdowns against the Giants Daniel Jones and Sam Darnold of Carolina, who combined for 707 yards through the air.

Save for a few occasions, the Saints have been strong in coverage. They've allowed less than 61% completion percentage against opposing passers and have 9 interceptions, second most in the league.

Cornerback was a perceived weakness coming into the year, but has developed into a team strength. Pro Bowl CB Marshon Lattimore is playing like a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Lattimore, who routinely shuts down the league's best wideouts, has allowed less than 42% completion percentage when targeted and has broken up 9 passes and intercepted one.

Lattimore is typically matched up against the opponent's top receiver, but the impressive development of rookie CB Paulson Adebo has strengthened the defense. Adebo, despite frequent targets, has allowed 61% completion percentage and is tied for the team lead with two interceptions.

New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) breaks up a pass intended for Washington receiver Terry McLaurin (17). Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY 

New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) breaks up a pass intended for Washington receiver Terry McLaurin (17). Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY 

Bradley Roby, acquired in a trade with Houston, is a starting quality corner who provides incredible depth. Versatile defensive backs Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and P.J. Williams man slot coverage duties.

Gardner-Johnson is off to a slow start, but teams with Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Williams to give the defense a trio of talented and versatile safeties. Jenkins, the team's oldest player at 33, is a dangerous blitzer along with Gardner-Johnson. His experience is also a valuable asset in deep support.

Williams is quietly having a year worthy of All-Pro consideration. He has 2 interceptions, 4 passes broken up, and makes quarterbacks pay with his outstanding range and anticipation.

LB Demario Davis is another defender having an All-Pro campaign. Davis, who leads the team in tackles, is capable of locking down opposing tight ends or backs with his terrific coverage skills. He’s also a devastating blitzer and has one sack and several hurries this season.

Kwon Alexander was an outstanding complement to Davis last season, but has been sidelined since week one with an elbow injury. He was activated off injured reserve this week and may play against Seattle, but rookie LB Pete Werner has emerged as an effective playmaker in his absence.

Werner, a second-round selection, has shown elite awareness and coverage ability. Fellow linebackers Kaden Elliss and Zack Baun are more downhill players used best against the run or as pass rushers.

Surprisingly, the pass rush has been the biggest issue for the Saints defense this season. After 145 sacks over the previous three years, only the Chiefs have fewer than the 8 sacks the Saints have recorded this season. New Orleans does have 35 QB hits, but they need to do a better and more consistent job at finishing pressures.

Perennial Pro Bowl DE Cam Jordan leads the team with 12 pressures and 7 QB hits, but has yet to record a sack. Veteran DE Tanoh Kpassagnon leads the team with 2 sacks, while rookie first-round pick Payton Turner and Carl Granderson have combined for 2 sacks and 7 QB hits from the edge.

The Saints defensive ends must finish plays and better live up to their disruptive potential. They've also faced consistent double-teams on both edges because of poor pass rush production from their defensive tackles. Shy Tuttle, Malcolm Roach, Christian Ringo, Albert Huggins, and Montravius Adams have played well against the run, but have combined for just 4 QB hits and zero sacks.

Turner is out for this game with a calf injury. However, disruptive DE Marcus Davenport may be back in the lineup after missing the last four games with a pectoral injury.

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Seattle Passing Attack

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) back to pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) back to pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY

The Seahawks have averaged 233 yards/game through the air, ranking 22nd in the league. Russell Wilson is a top-five quarterback, and his absence could severely cripple an already struggling offense.

Geno Smith, an eight-year veteran and 12-20 as a starter, must try to keep Seattle's offense afloat. Smith has completed 58.3% of his attempts with 31 touchdown passes and 37 interceptions in his career. He was 23 of 32 for 209 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions in a loss to the Steelers last week.

Smith has two elite wideouts and a playmaking tight end to target. Third-year WR D.K. Metcalf is the team’s leading receiver with 31 receptions for 441 yards and five touchdowns. Metcalf, who had 83 catches for 1,303 yards and 10 scores in 2020, is a matchup nightmare for defenses. He has great speed and at 6’4” and 235-Lbs., has a significant physical advantage over defenders.

Seventh-year WR Tyler Lockett is one of the NFL's most reliable targets. Coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns, Lockett has pulled in 27 passes for 425 yards and 3 scores so far. He has excellent route precision who shows the knack for finding the open area in crucial moments and is a great runner after the catch.

Sep 22, 2019; Seattle receiver Tyler Lockett (16) catches a pass for a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 22, 2019; Seattle receiver Tyler Lockett (16) catches a pass for a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Freddie Swain provides excellent depth at wideout, but the Seahawks also attack defenses with a pair of talented tight ends. Offseason free-agent addition Gerald Everett is an athletic target with great size, while Will Dissly is an underrated receiver who provides a reliable safety net for quarterback. Together they have combined for 20 receptions for 235 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Losing injured RB Chris Carson hampers the team's rushing attack, but Seattle doesn't empathize their backs often in the passing game. Alex Collins has taken on the role of primary rusher. Backs Travis Homer and Deejay Dallas are both capable receivers out of the backfield and hard to corral in open space.

Pass protection continues to be a major issue for the Seahawks. Seattle quarterbacks have been hit 38 times and sacked 18 times so far this season. Despite Wilson's elusiveness, he had been sacked 95 times the previous two seasons and 13 more in four games this year. Pittsburgh sacked Geno Smith five times last Sunday.

Seattle has been especially vulnerable to edge rushers, where LT Duane Brown has struggled and RT Brandon Shell has been banged up with an ankle injury. Starting LG Damien Lewis has not practiced this week because of a shoulder injury and swing lineman Cedric Ogbuehi has been limited because of a biceps injury.

What to Watch

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey (20) guards Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf (14). Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey (20) guards Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf (14). Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Geno Smith is certainly no Russell Wilson, but the Seahawks desperately need him to play well for any shot at a playoff push. Smith has weapons to throw to, and he was efficient in a come from behind effort against the Steelers last week.

The Saints must break a disturbing trend of letting mediocre quarterbacks have big games against them. Both Daniel Jones and Sam Darnold had terrific performances that led to upset losses.

It must start with pressure up front for the Saints. Their pass rush has been inconsistent and unable to finish plays. Seattle's offensive line struggles to protect the passer, and Smith presents a less mobile target than Wilson.

Demario Davis and the Saints combination of linebackers and safeties need to contain the Seahawks backs and tight ends to take away Smith's check-down options. He’ll be forced to hold the ball longer for plays down the field, their usual scheme with Wilson.

New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23). Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23). Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

An effective pass rush would give New Orleans an extra advantage in their secondary against Seattle's dangerous duo of Metcalf and Lockett. Expect the Saints to employ their usual scheme of aggressive man coverage, especially on the outside with Marshon Lattimore and Paulson Adebo.

Lattimore/Adebo vs. Metcalf/Lockett is a matchup worthy of pay-per-view. If the Saints pass rush comes to life, this coverage showdown should be the biggest factor in the outcome of Monday night's game. 

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