In what is now a must-win game for the New Orleans Saints, there are three key matchups I think the Saints need to win on Sunday, to get back to 2-3 and bring their season back from the brink.
Marshon Lattimore vs D.K. Metcalf
This was always going to be a blockbuster matchup. After last week there’s now a lot more of a spotlight on the Saints’ CB.
Lattimore has made a name for himself by shadowing the other team’s number 1 WR. For the most part, he’s done that very well. Traditionally he’s fared worse against the smaller more shift WRs (Stefon Diggs, Antonio Brown etc..) and excelled against the bigger-bodied WRs (Mike Evans, Davante Adams etc..).
Metcalf definitely falls within the bigger-bodied WR category. Therefore, this matchup should be in Lattimore’s wheelhouse.
There is a pause for concern from the Saints’ side. Lattimore did not have his best game against Justin Jefferson and gave up a huge play at the end of the game which led to the Vikings’ game-clinching field goal.
On paper, the last meeting between the Saints’ star CB and Seahawks’ star WR also, should make you pause. In week Seven of last season, the Saints squared off with Seattle @ Lumen Field. Metcalf’s final figures against Lattimore? Two receptions of 3 targets for 96 yards and a TD.
Context is required here, 84 of those yards came on one play. A play which could have been called OPI (I think it was right it wasn’t called but it was close). This play happened early in the first quarter, from then on Lattimore locked him down only allowing one reception from two targets for 12 yards.
The final nugget that makes this battle a must-watch? Shenanigans after the whistle. Last season Metcalf played the role the ‘Sean Avery’ role to perfection (if you get this reference then respect!) he wound Marshon up at every convivence, with shoves and shots. Once Lattimore retaliated that flags were thrown (flags are always thrown on the second guy, especially if they play the Saints).
Lattimore has already been thrown out of a game this season (wrongly) for unnecessary roughness. That cant happen again, the Saints need their lockdown CB on the field and Lattimore needs to try as best he can to keep his head as I’m sure Metcalf will test him early with some stuff after the whistle.
Chris Olave Vs Tariq Woolen
It’s looking unlikely that Michael Thomas will not play again this week. Jarvis Landry has struggled to get involved in the offense since his Week One heroics and sustaining a foot injury in Week Three.
That leaves rookie standout Chris Olave as the Saints’ main target at WR. Olave leads all rookie WRs in receiving yards (335) and receptions (21) Olave’s 335 receiving yards are also the eighth most in the entire NFL.
Seattle has their own impressive rookie, Tariq Woolen. His story is slightly different to Olave’s. A converted WR now 6’ 4” 205 lbs CB who ran a 4.26 40-yard dash at the combine. An athletic freak might not give his athletic profile enough credit.
He entered the NFL as a raw prospect with need or refinement after being drafted in the fifth round last May.
Well, he’s transitioned well into the NFL, he’s tied for first in the NFL with two interceptions and is only allowing a 40.4 passer rating when targeted.
It doesn’t appear that Seattle uses him to match up against the team’s best WR, its rare for a rookie to do this and traditionally how Seattle likes to play defense under Pete Carrol, even when Richard Sherman was at his height on the Legion of Boom defences, he didn’t always travel. Seattle generally prefers to put their CBs on respective sides of the field and keep them there.
However no doubt they will match up plenty and despite the good, I’ve highlighted above about Woolen’s play it does look like a matchup the Saints can still attack. Woolen has given up nine receptions for 138 yards so far, so when he does give up a catch it can be for big yardage, he’s also committed five penalties so far this season of those penalties, two have been defensive pass interference and two have been defensive holding.
With Olave’s silky route-running ability this could be a matchup, the Saints choose to attack. If they choose to they had better be careful and any sniff of a wayward pass, Woolen’s ball skills have already shown he will have no problem picking it off.
Cameron Jordan And Marcus Davenport Vs Seahawks Rookie Tackles
Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport had their best game of the season so far this week in London. They had ten total pressures including a shared sack, three other QB hits and multiple throwaways due to their pressure. This week they get an enticing matchup against two rookie tackles.
Charles Cross (the ninth overall pick from this year’s draft) is starting at LT for Seattle. With the 72nd overall pick Abraham Lucas starting at RT. Lucas has yet to allow a sack in four starts, he has allowed nine total pressures (six hurries and three QB hits per PFF). Cross on the other hand has given up three sacks and 6 further pressures.
Seattle has played two teams that you would classify as having elite pass rushes (Broncos and 49ers). Lucas held up well in pass protection in both games, and Cross held up well against the 49ers but struggled against Denver (two sacks and two hurries). Lucas held up fairly well overall.
Seahawks QB Geno Smith has been one of the surprises of the season. Keeping him under pressure is imperative to the Saints’ success. Being dominant on the edge is the path to that. As the interior d-line has not been producing so far this season from a pass rush perspective (having camp stand-out Malcolm Roach back could help this area).
The Saints need to give the rookie tackles a ‘welcome to the NFL’ game and if Jordan and Davenport play how they did in Week Four again this week, then I think they will achieve that.
For more Saints articles New Orleans Saints – Full10Yards I will have a full preview on Sunday’s game up on there on Saturday.
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