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Saints Rushing Attack vs. Jets Run Defense

With the struggles of their passing game, New Orleans will need an old-school and hard-nosed effort from their running attack against the Jets to end a five-game losing streak and stay in the playoff hunt.

A battered New Orleans Saints squad travels north to take on the 3-9 New York Jets this Sunday afternoon. The Saints have lost five straight games to fall to 5-7 and are currently out of the NFC playoff picture. It's the longest losing streak this team has had under the 16-year tenure of head coach Sean Payton.

Much of the reason for the losing streak has been an ineffective offense besieged by injuries at every position. New Orleans has averaged 22.8 points per game, but rank only 23rd in total offense with an average of 317 yards/game.

An inept passing attack has allowed opponents to stack the line of scrimmage to stifle the run. The Saints have also been without injured Pro Bowl RB Alvin Kamara for the last four games and injured tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk for three contests.

New Orleans won't know the statuses of Kamara, Armstead, or Ramczyk until later in the week. This is an offense that has already been without WR Michael Thomas, QB Jameis Winston, G Andrus Peat, and TE Adam Trautman. Explosive WR/KR Deonte Harris will also be unavailable, thanks to a three-game league suspension.

On paper, a good tonic for an ailing offense could be a putrid Jets defense. New York has given up 396.8 yards and 30.6 points/game, both last in the league. The Jets have held just two opponents under 20 points, while five teams have scored more than 30 points against them.

New York has forced the fewest turnovers (9) in the league and has been torn apart by opposing quarterbacks. Still, with an offense as shorthanded as the Saints, the formula for success is simple: Run the Ball.

SAINTS RUSHING ATTACK VS. JETS RUN DEFENSE

New Orleans Running Game

Dec 17, 2017; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) runs through a hole against the New York Jets. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 17, 2017; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) runs through a hole against the New York Jets. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints have averaged 114.7 yards/game on the ground, ranking 14th in the league. After starting the year strong, injuries to Kamara, Armstead, Ramczyk, and Peat along with big second half deficits have affected their numbers.

The infusion of Taysom Hill over the struggling Trevor Siemian at quarterback increases the effectiveness of their rushing attack.

Hill broke his middle finger in last weeks loss to the Cowboys, but still ran for 101 yards. Most of those came in the second half, when he had the Dallas defense reeling.

The hand injury will hinder Hill’s throwing ability. As a runner, he’s a bulldozer between the tackles with great open field speed. If Hill can throw the ball cleanly, that will make the run/pass option plays more deadly.

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) against the New York Jets. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) against the New York Jets. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Even while missing the last four games, Alvin Kamara is the Saints leading rusher with 530 yards and three scores. He is the NFL’s most versatile offensive weapon and can carry the offense when healthy.

Kamara was averaging a career low 3.6/carry before his knee injury because of the lack of weapons around him. He’s the league's most dynamic receiving back and leads the team in catches, despite playing just eight contests.

Veteran RB Mark Ingram has been slowed by a knee injury of his own. He still has 233 rushing yards in five games since his return to New Orleans.

The franchise's all-time rusher, the 31-year-old Ingram is far more effective when splitting backfield duties. He’s still a devastating runner between the tackles who can bowl over defenders in the open field.

If Kamara misses another contest, the Saints will turn to RB/WR Ty Montgomery or second-year RB Tony Jones for carries. Either player can be effective as a change-of-pace, with Montgomery the more versatile of the two.

Any hope the Saints have at being effective on the edge hinges on the return of Ramczyk and Armstead. They are two of the best tackles in the game. Veteran G/T James Hurst is a solid replacement at one tackle, but is better suited for guard.

Calvin Throckmorton has replaced Hurst, who replaced Peat, at left guard. He’s had a quietly good year, but second-year RG Cesar Ruiz has been one of the team’s biggest disappointments in 2021. 

Read More

Center Erik McCoy has arguably been the team's most consistent blocker and is having a Pro Bowl caliber year.

New York Run Defense

New York Jets defensive linemen Quinnen Williams (95) and John Franklin-Myers (91) celebrate a defensive stop. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

New York Jets defensive linemen Quinnen Williams (95) and John Franklin-Myers (91) celebrate a defensive stop. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets rank 30th against the run, allowing 133 yards/outing and 4.5/carry. They've given up 21 rushing touchdowns, most in the league, and have held just two opponents under 100 yards on the ground.

Veteran MLB C. J. Mosley leads the Jets with 101 tackles, but has just two of the team’s 55 stops for loss. Fellow LB Quincy Williams leads the defense with 8 tackles for loss and is second in total stops. Athletic LB Jarrad Davis and Del'Shawn Phillips man the other outside spot, but this unit has been undisciplined in the open field.

Third-year DT Quinnen Williams is rounding into the disruptive force New York expected when they made him the number 3 choice in the 2019 draft. Williams, Quincy's younger brother, heads a group of formidable defensive tackles.

Former Saint DT Sheldon Rankins is still an interior force when healthy, but has been limited by a knee injury in recent weeks. Underrated DT/DE John Franklin-Myers has been the Jets most consistent defender, while Folorunso Fatukasi is a big-bodied presence who ties up blockers.

Injuries to defensive ends Bryce Huff and Carl Lawson have forced the Jets to use Franklin-Myers at end in their base 4-3 alignment. Shaq Lawson and Ronald Blair are more effective as pass rushers, allowing opposing running games to have success on the edge.

What to Watch

New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill (7)

New Orleans Saints Taysom Hill (7) carries the ball against the New York Jets. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Most opponents have feasted on the New York defense both on the ground and through the air in 2021. The Saints haven't been effective against anyone through the air this season, especially since Winston was injured.

Expect New Orleans to come at the Jets hard on the ground, with an occasional play-action pass or downfield shot to keep the defense honest. The Jets have allowed four 100-yard rushers this season, and six opponents have gashed them for over 130 rushing yards.

New Orleans obviously must dominate the line of scrimmage for this strategy to have any success. A return of tackles Armstead and Ramczyk is crucial to both the running game and pass protection. If they both sit out again, look for the Saints to focus their off-tackle runs behind Hurst on the left side.

Taysom Hill is expected to play, even with an injured throwing hand. Hill adds a unique rushing element to the Saints attack and is most effective as a runner even when healthy.

New Orleans will often use backup lineman Will Clapp as an extra blocker. The heavy alignment should wear down the New York front if successful early; 89 of Hill’s 101 rushing yards against Dallas came in the second half.

Kamara's return would add a big-time offensive threat and versatility to the attack. If he’s out again, the Saints will need an old-school and hard-nosed effort from Mark Ingram and Taysom Hill to end their five-game skid and stay in the playoff hunt.

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