[editor's note, by River City Rage] This piece is by a new writer here at Big Cat Country! Freed will be joining us as a regular contributor. His first writing is on our upcoming opponent, the New Orleans Saints. Please welcome him to the wonderful world of non-traditional sports journalism!
After getting off to a very poor 0-4 start, the New Orleans Saints have come on strong winning their past three games. This change in their performance should not be contributed to their defense though. The Saints were outscored by two plus touchdowns in their first three games and allowed an average of 218 passing yards in all four losses. As their offense gains strength and the wins start to rack up, so do their opponents passing yards. In their past three wins, their opponents averaged 256.3 passing yards against them. If it wasn’t for their defense against the run, they would be letting up a lot more than their average of 332.6 yards of total offense per game.
The Saints have struggled against defending the pass all season long, allowing an average of 234.4 passing yards per game in which they are ranked 24th in the league. They have also allowed a wopping 12 touchdown passes to be thrown against them so far this season. Only six other teams have either let up the same amount or more touchdown passes this year. One reason the Saints opponents are having a field day throwing down the field is because the Saints have failed to pressure the opposing teams quarterback. They only have 11 sacks thus far, half of them coming from the past two weeks when they played the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers. I mean no disrespect to the Falcons or the 49ers, but their offensive lines are definitely weaker than the majority of offensive lines this year. Everyone knows what I’m going to say next. The less pressure a defense puts on a quarterback, the more accurate the quarterback will be. Therefore it is very difficult for the defense to come up with interceptions. That is why this should be no surprise to you that the Saints defense is ranked 32nd, yes dead last, in picks with a mere three interceptions. The twist is that two of those interceptions have been returned for touchdowns. If Gray calms down and focuses more on hitting tight spots than keeping the ball out of the defenses reach, the Jags should be in good hands.
Unfortunately the news isn’t as good for the Jags this week when it comes to New Orleans run defense. They have not allowed over one-hundred rushing yards since week one against the Colts when Joseph Addai ran for 118 yards and Kenton Keith tacked on another 32. The most impressive defensive shut down came on week six when the Saints held Seattle’s Shaun Alexander to an embarrassing 35 yards. In all, New Orleans is ranked 9th only letting up an average of 98.1 yards per game on the ground. They are one of only twelve teams to keep their opponents under one-hundred yards rushing. While they’re stopping the run, they have also been preventing rushing touchdowns only letting up a sheer four this season. This is quite the accomplishment as they’re tied with the New England Patriots who arguably have the best line backing core in the league. The Saints are about average when it comes to forcing fumbles. They have forced six fumbles and have recovered half of them. With Garrard on the bench again this week resting the ankle and Gray’s shaky performance, I expect the Jags to use their one two punch of Taylor and Jones-Drew which is to the Saints liking.
Roman Harper (Safety) – Leads the Saints with 34 solo tackles on the year. He is used to putting pressure on the quarterback, so don’t be surprised to see #41 coming out of the backfield to put some added pressure on Gray or the running game for that matter. Harper has two sacks this season.
Brian Young (Defensive Tackle) - The team leader in sacks with three on the year. He is probably the best pass rusher they have on the team and is also good at forcing fumbles.
Will Smith (Defensive End) - He will get to the quarterback at times, but he tends to do a better job against the run. Watch for him to try to rip loose from the blockers and close up the holes.
Charles Grant (Defensive End) – He already has 22 solo tackles and is gearing up for more. Plus he has a keen sense for the run and the pass. With two sacks placing him second on the team, watch for #94 to dictate the action and get into Gray’s face.
Even though the Saints have done a nice job playing against the run, I still encourage the Jags to use their two backs to their advantage. Jones-Drew is more explosive than Addai and Taylor makes for a better truck than Keith. With the best two-back system in the NFL, in my opinion, I think Jacksonville will be able to break through and put a little less pressure on Gray. That being said, if there is a time for Gray to unleash it’s now. Gray has some room for error this week against the Saints, so I would like to see him make those cannon throws into the bodies of his wide receivers. Lastly, the key to the Jags success is blocking. The more time Gray has in the pocket, the better the Jags will manage the game.
Keep cool Jags Fans