We know the New Orleans Saints have Drew Brees. We know the Saints and New York Giants have a history of playing high-scoring games. What else do we know? Probably not enough. To learn more, Christopher Dunnells of SB Nation’s Canal Street Chronicles answers our 5 questions about the Saints.
Ed: Obviously Drew Brees is off to a crazy start this season. Is there some type of Kryptonite that could slow him down? No one has found it yet this year.
Christopher: I would say there are three things you could try to do to slow down Brees right now:
One, put pressure in his face and force him to make poor decisions. Everyone and their momma knows that Brees is one of the shortest quarterbacks in the league. If you get edge pressure on Brees but leave a clean pocket otherwise, Brees is great at stepping forward in the pocket to leave a clear window for a pass. If you instead are able to get interior pressure on Brees, you can force Brees to rush his throws and possible force the ball into tighter windows than he’d prefer to Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. Force quick throws and poor decision making, and maybe you can capitalize on mistakes.
Another things you should do is to try to keep him off the field. Control the ball and control the clock by leading long and clock-eating drives up and down the field. It’s hard to score points when you’re sitting on the bench as a spectator.
But the third and final way to slow him down, might be a little controversial.
Force Brees to beat you deep. As best you can, eliminate all of his underneath throws and check down routes. At this point in his career, Brees’s deep ball has lost a fair amount of accuracy. He is in the bottom third in the league in average distance his passes travel in the air. Don’t look at the passing yards, as a lot of that is YAC from Thomas and Kamara. When he’s tried to drop bombs to Ted Ginn Jr. and others on deep routes, he has overthrown or underthrown the majority of those passes. Right now, Brees is finding a lot of his success in the short and intermediate passing game. If you eliminate those routes, you eliminate a large chunk of Sean Payton’s current playbook.
Ed: Yes or no. Brees gets the 419 passing yards he needs on Sunday to become the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards?
Christopher: That’s the question, isn’t it?
I’m going to say “no,” but for completely selfish reasons. I plan to be in the Super Dome for the Week 5 Monday Night Football matchup against the Washington Redskins, so I want it to happen in front of the New Orleans faithful.
That being said, I think “no” is probably the safe bet. Granted, when these two teams matched up in 2015, Brees threw for over 500 passing yards, so if that were to happen again, he might break the record in the third quarter Sunday afternoon. But Brees had an otherwise great showing against the Atlanta Falcons last week in a fairly high-scoring affair, and “only” threw for 396 yards.
Christopher: It absolutely terrifies me.
Much ado has been made about the Saints being No. 1 ranked against the rush through the season’s first three weeks. But that is primarily a result of: 1) a trio of mediocre running backs they’ve faced, and 2) opposing offenses preferring to attack the Saints through the air. This week will be the Saints first real test against an elite level running back, so if they are forced to make adjustments by putting another body in the box to defend the run, the Saints secondary could be in for an even longer day than expected.
The reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore has seemingly improved each week after an abysmal Week 1 showing, but he’s going to have his hands full with Odell Beckham Jr. Odell will still get his, but the Giant I’d be watching to have a big day is Sterling Shepard. Whoever is playing the No. 2 cornerback position opposite Lattimore has struggled mightily this season. It was Ken Crawley to start the year. Crawley was benched before Week 3 for PJ Williams, and Williams was benched midway through Week 3 to try Ken Crawley again. The loss of Robinson means the Saints are left with no choice but to start both Crawley and Williams at cornerback, with Williams lining up against the slot, but the Giants missing Evan Engram should help Williams out a little. Crawley on the outside against Shepard gives me nightmares again already.
Ed: If you could take one player off the Giants’ roster NOT NAMED Beckham or Barkley and put him in the Saints’ lineup, who would it be? Why?
Christopher: It would likely have to be Janoris Jenkins right now.
See answer to No. 3 above.
Ed: Tell me about a couple of Saints’ players we might not know much about who could impact Sunday’s game?
Christopher: Crawley and Williams are likely to make an impact on Sunday’s game, but not for any good reasons for the Saints. If you hear their name on the broadcast, it’s probably because they’re getting roasted like a Thanksgiving turkey.
But let’s go instead with Taysom Hill.
The quarterback, tight end, wide receiver, return man, holder, gunner, special teamer, disc jockey, firefighter, elementary school teacher, and tire salesman. OK, I might have gotten a little carried away there at the end, but seriously, what can’t this kid do?
In 2017, the Saints were absolutely terrible defending kickoffs. I remember hearing before a game late in the season that the Saints third-string QB was active for the game, and I was (rightfully so) incredibly confused. Lo and behold it’s Taysom Hill, he of the sub-4.4 speed and elite athleticism, and Taysom made tackle after tackle inside the opponent’s 25-yard line.
Taysom has evolved now to be a Swiss Army Knife player in the Sean Payton offense. He’s the Saints primary kickoff return specialist right now, and with his size, strength, and speed, he’s just itching to take a kick to the house. He’s also the Saints holder for field goals and the upback blocker for punts, so yo know Sean is just looking for an excuse to call a trick play. But he’s also a wildcard when he gets into the offensive huddle. I can count two separate times by two different opponents where the mere presence of Taysom Hill in the offensive formation has forced the other side to burn a time out. When Taysom is in the huddle, you have no idea where he’ll line up. He’s lined up at tight end, wide receiver, and quarterback (even with Drew Brees on the field as well). He’s run the read-option multiple times this season already, converting first downs (including one long run that could have gone all the way but for a late horse collar tackle) each time he’s carried the ball.
Is Taysom going to run the ball as a quarterback? Run a jet sweep as a receiver? Throw a pass? Catch a pass? Tuck the ball and run? Will he line up as a quarterback, half back, tight end, or wide receiver? Who knows? But when Taysom Hill runs out on the field, you can feel the entire Saints sideline hold their breath for whatever electric play is about to happen.