Mike D’s Keys to a Win..
We are finally out of September, and despite head coach Sean Payton talking in volumes about getting off to a fast start. No season is the same as the season previously-the Saints again have gotten out of the football blocks slowly and are (1-2) entering the Detroit Lions game.
They are playing without six starters in wide receiver Michael Thomas, tight end Jared Cook, offensive guard Andrus Peat, defensive end Marcus Davenport and their two starting cornerbacks in Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins.
While history rarely repeats itself, many times have the same ring to a story.
October has been a great month for the Saints, and over the past five seasons, the Saints under Payton has been (17-2), and like a track sprinter, they have hit full stride in October.
Run the Ball More….
Sean Payton, Drew Brees, and Michael Thomas have set record after record together, but with a team, without three offensive starters, including Thomas, the Saints need to show more patience with their rushing attack.
Under Payton, we have seen that sometimes he will get impatient with the running attack and unplug it-even when it is working, like what happened last week vs. the Green Bay Packers.
The Saints under Payton have had over 75 games in which they have rushed the ball 30 times or more in a game and won 95% of those games.
Today the Saints need to control the tempo of the game with a strong rushing attack. They rely on that excellent offensive line that you have spent considerable money to keep intact and early-round draft choices and the rushing duo of Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray.
The Lions defense gives up 5.7 yards per rush. New Orleans should take advantage of that weakness upfront, play some old school football against them, and run the ball more.
It is not what the Saints have been noted for, but the rushing game has been effective and a winning formula for the Black and Gold when patient.
Making a Play on Defense…
The most disappointing part of the 2020 season for the New Orleans Saints has been on the defensive side of the ball.
The Saints have given up 94 points, have failed to get off the field in critical spots in each of their two losses this year, and committed 27 penalties, and 9 of them defensive pass interference calls.
Now, this weekend they go up against one of the league’s best gunslinger quarterbacks in Matt Stafford, without their starting two cornerbacks in Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins and Patrick Robinson and P.J. Williams take their starting spots. Expect Justin Hardee to see action also at the cornerback spot this weekend versus the Lions.
Stafford can flat out spin the rock, and he has excellent targets in one of the most underrated offensive players in the game in wide receiver Kenny Golladay. Golladay missed the first two games of the 2020 season due to a hamstring injury, but he returned to the lineup last week and caught 6 passes for 57 yards and one touchdown.
Last season the fleet-footed Golladay caught 65 passes for 1,190 yards, averaged 18.3 yards per catch and 11 touchdowns.
And the Lions have one of the most promising young pass-catching tight ends in the league in former Iowa standout T.J. Hockenson.
The Saints have to get a good pass rush on a team that has struggled to protect Stafford well and have given up 9 QB sacks this season. Stopping the run is always a top priority for the Saints defense, and they have done a solid job in that category this season. Still, the big plays, penalties, mental mistakes, and not making a play to get off the field has really put a dent in this Saints defense early on in 2020.
But I am concerned with all these pass interference calls that the Saints become a reputation team on defense and officials on a 50/50 balls throw the pass interference flag on the Black and Gold.
Can’t Lose Special Teams…
The Saints special teams have been a strong point for the Black and Gold in 2020, and it has to play a huge part Sunday if the Saints put a “W” on the board vs. the Detroit Lions.
Normally early in the season, when special teams are just starting to work together as a unit and injuries come into play, that unit is super important to putting wins on the board and setting up field position.
The Lions have a very good and experienced place-kicker in Matt Prater-who is 7 for 9 on field goals and his two misses were from over 50 yards. Prater is 36 years old, but he has connected 83.8% of his field-goal attempts during his long NFL career.
The Lions also have one of the most promising young punters in the game in Jack Fox. The former Rice place-kicker and punter originally was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Kansas City Chiefs before he sustained an injury and was waived off their practice squad. The Lions signed Fox to their practice squad, and he became their punter in 2020. All he has done is average 53.1 yards per punt and put 7 of his 13 punts inside the 20-yard line. He was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for September.
And they have one of the most dangerous return men in the NFL in Jamal Agnew. Agnew was a 5th round pick in the 2017 NFL draft out of the San Diego and he has been dynamite in the return game.
Agnew has averaged 26.7 yards per kickoff return and 27 yards per kickoff return in 2018 and 2019. This season the speedy Agnew is averaging 28.2 yards per kickoff return.
Agnew averaged 9.2 yards per punt return in 2019, and in 2020 Agnew is averaging 17.5 yards per punt return.
The Saints have to win the special teams part of the game Sunday with Thomas Morstead, Wil Lutz, Deonte Harris, and the coverage units against one of the league's better units.
Getting Trautman more Involved…
Drew Brees has always been a guy that loves to throw to the tight end. Go back to his San Diego Charger days, and he looked for Antonio Gates, and with the Saints he has pumped the ball to Jeremy Shockey, David Thomas, Jimmy Graham, Ben Watson, and Jared Cook.
With Cook out of the lineup, the opportunity opens up for rookie tight end Adam Trautman - who has drawn excellent reviews from the Saints coaching staff.
The 6-5, 255 pound Trautman from Dayton has started to build a comfort level with Drew Brees, and he knows what to do when the ball is in his area.
Trautman caught 178 passes for 2,295 yards and scored 31 TD’s at Dayton and expect Drew Brees to look to him much more vs. the Detroit Lions.
I don’t believe in this stuff about “Next Man Up,” but I do believe in taking advantage of opportunities, and Adam Trautman has that opportunity this weekend.