Mike D's Keys to Victory for Saints over the Raiders
Saints News Network's Mike Detillier gives six keys to victory for the New Orleans Saints over the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football.
Managing the Game without “Can’t Guard Mike"...
Late in the week, reports were encouraging about star wide receiver Michael Thomas’ rehab on his injured ankle. I know there was a strong chance Thomas would not play versus the Raiders.
The Saints were well aware of Thomas’ threshold for pain and his toughness, but an ankle injury is something that lingers with you if it doesn’t properly heal. The ankle's strain to get off the line of scrimmage quickly and get into and out of cuts and breaks is enormous.
The Saints were cautious with Thomas and realized they want him healthy in December and January.
New Orleans has other offensive weapons to ease Thomas' loss. But realistically, it is hard to replace the production of a player in one game that in 4 years has caught 473 passes for 5,529 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Yet, they have one of the top ball distributors in the game in Drew Brees.
Because Thomas will not be in the lineup, look for Drew Brees to target his most trusted and the players he has worked with longer, and that would be tight end Jared Cook and halfback Alvin Kamara.
Cook caught five passes for 80 yards last week versus the Buccaneers, and Kamara caught five passes for 51 yards.
I also look for Taysom Hill, well Taysom Hill. He will be an even bigger part of the offense in his designated role as a runner, receiver, and “Wildcat” quarterback.
The “X’ factor is veteran wide receiver, Emmanuel Sanders. With Thomas likely out of the lineup, look for the Raiders to rotate coverage to Sanders’ side of the field. Still, the crafty veteran knows how to set up defenders to gain separation downfield, and he got into Brees’ sights late in the contest versus the Buccaneers. The ability to successfully work the short to intermediate areas of the game is a strong point for Emmanuel Sanders.
Last week the Raiders didn’t get a whole lot of pressure on former Saints QB, Teddy Bridgewater. They recorded only 1 QB sack and we have seen if you give Drew Brees time to throw the ball, he will carve up a defense.
Containing Josh Jacobs...
I have to admit I am a big fan of Raiders halfback Josh Jacobs. He is a rugged, tough, a hard-charging back who runs with power, and he has great leg drive after the first contact.
And for the current Las Vegas Raiders, Josh Jacobs is the straw that turns the offensive football drink.
As a rookie, the halfback from the University of Alabama rushed for 1,150 yards on 242 carries, averaged a strong 4.8 yards per carry, and scored 7 touchdowns in 2019.
This off-season, Jacobs talked about working on his pass-catching skills.
In Week #1 versus the Carolina Panthers, the workhorse runner rushed for 93 yards on 25 carries, scored 3 touchdowns and he also caught 4 passes for 46 yards coming out of the backfield.
Henry Ruggs III has a chance to be a big-time player for the Raiders on offense (Sean Payton thought very highly of Ruggs in the 2020 NFL draft) as a new age version of Cliff Branch at wide receiver for Las Vegas. Still, for now, Jacobs is the key offensive player for the Saints defense to stop Monday Night.
Put early heat on Quarterback Derek Carr...
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is a talented passer, and he is a tough guy out on the field hanging in the pocket to make a throw. But the book on Carr is that if you rattle him with pressure and knockdowns early in a game, he will put the ball up for grabs a few times, and it affects his play throughout the game.
The three-time Pro Bowler is a dangerous down-the-field passer, but he has thrown 62 pass interceptions to his 144 touchdown passes throughout his career.
The Raiders have had problems at times keeping him clean in the pocket, and Carr has shown a tendency to try and force the ball in tight spots when pressure is applied.
A longtime NFL scout told me this about Carr before the 2020 season, “Derek is a really good player, tough, smart, a flame-thrower type passer and all quarterbacks get rattled with pressure, but Carr really gets rattled, and it stays in his head. If I’m scheming up against him, I am aggressive and get after him and throw him off rhythm. Get in his head early with pressure and hits. If you try and play coverage against him, he will carve you up. And I don’t think his offensive line is really top-flight either, especially at the tackle spots.”
Former Raiders general manager/owner the late Al Davis had a saying that “the quarterback must go down early and he must go down hard.”
That applies to current Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
Getting a chance to make a Defensive mark...
With Saints starting defensive end Marcus Davenport still nursing an elbow injury, pressure off the edge opposite Cam Jordan is placed in the talents of Trey Hendrickson and 2nd-year defensive end Carl Granderson.
Last week versus the Buccaneers, Hendrickson had a strong game totaling 4 tackles and 1 quarterback sack and consistent pressure off the edge. Trey is a relentless athlete with very good closing speed, and he has really upgraded his pass-rush techniques, but he makes a lot of plays on hustle and smarts out on the field.
Carl Granderson also got strong praise, like Hendrickson did from Saints head coach Sean Payton, for his overall player versus the Buccaneers and he totaled 2 tackles, 1 quarterback sack, and he forced one fumble.
But it was a comment on the “Saints Coaches Show” Monday Night on WWL Radio that really was intriguing about the tall, lanky pass rusher from the University of Wyoming.
Former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert questioned Payton about Granderson's progress and gave him high praise and an even higher comparison point.
That comment brought to mind a conversation former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka had with former WWL-Radio host Buddy Diliberto and I about Dent when he was the head coach of the New Orleans Saints.
Remember that Granderson played most of his college career at Wyoming around 245-255 pounds, and now he is in the high 270’s. Granderson’s growth is something to watch throughout the season.
Getting Off to a Fast Start...
Sean Payton had spoken about how important it is to get off to a hot start early on in a season and how it affects the overall season. Payton and the Saints emphasis improving their defense via free agency, and the NFL draft, along with a greater emphasis on special teams play, has shown up throughout the season the past few years. However, getting off to a fast start is a high priority for the Black and Gold.
With a win over the Raiders in Las Vegas Monday night, the Saints would get off to a (2-0) start for the first time since 2013.
The Saints have gotten off to a (2-0) start 4 times during the Payton-era in New Orleans. The Saints went (2-0) in 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2013 and made the playoffs all 4 times, made the NFC Championship game in 2006 and 2009 and won the Super Bowl title in 2009.
Getting out of the blocks early on in a season has mattered in New Orleans for Payton and the Saints.
It's Monday Night Football...
The Saints are opening up the new stadium for the Raiders in Las Vegas Monday night, but it is also the 50th anniversary of Monday Night Football.
I’m showing a little age here, but I remember as a youngster watching the New York Jets play the Cleveland Browns September 21, 1970.
It was Joe Namath and the Jets playing, and Namath was a bigger than life figure after having led the Jets to a win in Super Bowl III versus the Baltimore Colts for the 1968 season and “Broadway Joe” was the biggest star in the game. And the Browns won that night with a late-game interception thrown by Namath to Cleveland Browns linebacker Billy Andrews-a Louisiana guy- who played his college ball at Southeastern Louisiana- to seal the 31-21 victory.
When we had just a handful of channels playing, pro football was a huge treat to watch, and it was "a happening" when the Monday Night crew came rolling into your town.
But it became even bigger because of the collection of personalities in the booth with Howard Cosell, “Dandy Don” Meredith, and Frank Gifford-after he replaced Keith Jackson in the booth in 1971.
Keith Jackson became the “Voice of College Football,” and the threesome of Cosell, Meredith, and Gifford became television stars. If your team wasn’t playing on Monday Night Football, you watched the halftime coverage of games by Cosell to see if your favorite team would be featured.
Monday Night Football changed the way we watched pro football and how it became bigger than the usual game because all of Football America was watching. It was a real happening in the 1970s.
50 years later, it is still a big thing to play Monday Night Football, and the Saints have done really well when the hot spotlight of Monday Night has shown on them. Since 2006 Payton and the Saints have been (16-7) on Monday Night games (11-5) on Monday Night Football since 2010, and they have won the last four contests. They have outscored their opponents (119-63) in their previous four Monday Night games.