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Rookies of the Preseason

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With the preseason now over, it’s time to introduce my new format for the rookie articles going forward. Rather than focusing in-depth on just three, I’m going to choose a top seven and post a shorter review, allowing for an easier-to-digest look at the rookies making their mark. So with that, let’s crown the seven rookies of the preseason!

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Aidan O’Connell, Quarterback – Las Vegas Raiders

A solid showing, playing in all three games and finishing with 43 completions on 62 attempts for 482 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. He was rewarded for his outstanding preseason with a spot on the 53 man roster.

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Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Quarterback – Cleveland Browns

An impressive 37 completions on 58 attempts, 440 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Couple that with 96 yards and a rushing touchdown on five rushing attempts, and you see why DTR has jumped up from fourth on the depth chart to backup QB.

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Emanuel Wilson, Running Back – Green Bay Packers

An undrafted free agent topping the preseason rushing charts? Yep, that’s what happened with Wilson, who finished with 223 yards and two touchdowns on 38 carries. The 24-year-old made his case for a roster spot and got his wish on Tuesday.

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T.J. Bass, Offensive Guard – Dallas Cowboys

Another free agent who had a solid showing in his three games Bass played 130 snaps, allowing 0 pressures and 0 penalties across 80 pass-blocking snaps. That showing took him from buried on the depth chart to on the 53 man roster

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Nick Herbig, Outside Linebacker – Pittsburgh Steelers

Herbig had the NFL’s leading pass rush win rate in the preseason, as well as 3.5 sacks, eight stops, and one forced fumble. With T.J. Watt ahead on the depth chart, he’ll likely be a rotational option, but his speed and versatility will see him have opportunities this season.

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Steven Gilmore, Cornerback – Detroit Lions

You already have enough pressure when you are an undrafted rookie, but when your brother is Stephon Gilmore, you’ll get comparisons too. Luckily, Steven balled out! 131 snaps, two interceptions, four pass breakups, eight tackles, and a passer rating of 37.0 allowed. All stats that helped him get that roster spot

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Blake Grupe, Kicker – New Orleans Saints

Grupe, who has battled for the kicking job against Will Lutz, can hold his head high. One conversion from one attempt on extra points and five from six on field goals, with his only miss being a wide right on a 60-yarder He obviously impressed the Saints enough as Lutz was traded meaning Grupe is the new kicker.

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Most Crucial Matchups As The Saints Take On The Chargers

The Saints have joint practices with the Los Angeles Chargers this week, followed by a preseason game on Sunday. There are likely to be more important things to take from the practices than the game itself. As HC Dennis Allen has already stated he feels the joint practices are where they get their best work during training camp.

So what matchups are to most important to monitor? I’ve got 5 here that I think will tell us a lot regarding the development of some of the players most linked to the Saints success this season.

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Trevor Penning Vs Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa

Trevor Penning has been developing nicely so far this off-season, Hes only missed 1 practice so far after missing all of OTAs and minicamp recovering from the foot injury he sustained at the end of last season, and he saw extended snaps in the preseason opener. Per PFF Penning saw 23 snaps in the opener 11 as a run blocker and 12 as a pass blocker giving up zero pressures on those 12 pass blocking snaps.

He will have a stiffer test on his hands this week though, with Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack. Both rush from both sides of the line so Penning should see a lot of both players. Both are skilled, athletic and powerful rushers who have dominated the NFL in a multitude of ways for a number of years. They will give Penning a real test and it will be a good gauge of where Penning is with his development.

We do need to temper expectations on this. Penning is likely to take his lumps over the coming days against Mack and Bosa and the sign that he is developing is not that he wins every rep but that he holds his own in pass protection and gets some wins, at this stage Penning just needs reps and reps against this level of competition will only work in his favour.

Juwan Johnson Vs Derwin James

Derwin James is the Taysom Hill of defense, in 2022 he took snaps at FS, SS, Slot Cornerback, Outside Cornerback, Linebacker and as a pass rusher. Except he is slightly different to Taysom in that he might be elite at every single one of these spots. He is a matchup player in Brandon Staley’s defense and is used a lot due to his size to match up with athletic TEs.

Cometh Juwan Johnson who is soaring right now towards a pro bowl calibre season. He’s been excellent in camp and his chemistry with Carr looked to be fermenting along nicely, on the first drive vs the Chiefs on Sunday.  For him to continue this momentum and meet these lofty expectations that I and many other Saints fans are setting for him, he needs to be able to win these kinds of matchups. 

At times last season as a relatively unknown player, it felt like Johnson was a player the defense forgot, that will not be the case this season with more tape for teams to watch and the fact that teams (especially the Chargers) know that Derek Carr loves to throw to the TE.  Every opposing defense will be prepared for Johnson to be a focal point of the Saints’ attack and will plan for that accordingly. 

Carl Granderson/ Payton Turner Vs Rashawn Slater

Carl Granderson and Payton Turner have both had really strong training camps and have given media and fans hope that finally, the DE position opposite Cam Jordan will be in good hands. Both were solid in the preseason opener, especially Turner who hit a filthy spin move to clatter poor old Blaine Gabbert on Sunday.

This week though they will be facing a different animal in Rashawn Slater, who was a second-team all-pro as a rookie which is incredibly hard to do as usually O-linemen are not recognised that early in their careers. He missed most of last season with a triceps injury and has been reportedly dominating camp so far. 

If Granderson and Turner manage to have some success against Slater this week then that is an accurate indication that they are for real and that the Saints pass rush will be a force once again. If they are stonewalled it doesn’t necessarily mean that the promising camp has been a lie but it would just mean we need to bring our expectations back down a little.

Mike Thomas Vs Everyone 

This will be the first time we will see Mike Thomas for extended snaps against anyone other than the Saints CBs, specifically Marshon Lattimore.  Yes, Thomas played in the preseason opener but only 12 snaps, of those 12 snaps only 8 were passing plays. So an extended look at Thomas against a solid but not elite secondary like he’s been used to facing in Saints camp.

Thomas has had plenty of time to ramp up and build chemistry with Carr. now so it’s important that we start to see some results. There’s a lot riding on Thomas this year as the depth is quite behind him and doesn’t appear as strong as we suspected it would be. Shaheed’s injury and the other vets not really stepping up does put a bit more pressure on Thomas to be at least part of the player he used to be, if he’s going to be this week would be a great time to show it.

Adebo and Taylor Vs Chargers WRs

Paulson Adebo and Alontae Taylor are still in a close battle for CB2 spot opposite Marshon Lattimore. the next test comes in the shape of a pretty loaded Chargers WR room, led by Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, with 1st round rookie Quentin Johnston and Josh Palmer as explosive 3rd and 4th options. 

Adebo is still out in front currently but Taylor who was the pre-camp favourite has started to claw his way back in the race, some might look at his spotty performance against the Chiefs as a factor in this race but the only part that mattered was Taylor’s play on the outside (he tipped the pass that resulted in the interception whilst playing outside CB) the fact that he played poor in the slot does not factor in this battle.

Another reason it’s a bit week for this battle? quite often joint practices bring out the officials. This will help to decide if Adebo is being too physical and winning reps where in a game he would have been called for a hold.

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What I’ll Be Watching In The Saints Preseason Opener

Finally, we have Saints football to watch as the Saints open the preseason against the defending SuperBowl champion Chiefs. Yes, it’s the pre-season but there is still plenty we can take from the action. These are the 5 things ill be keenly watching this Sunday. 

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How Does The First String Offense Look

Dennis Allen has already confirmed that we will see the starters on Sunday Vs the Chiefs, Jeff Duncan from, tweeted that he’s hearing the starters will play around 15 snaps. 

Jeff Duncan on Twitter: “Sounds like the plan is for the Saints’ starters to play about 15 snaps in the preseason opener vs. K.C. on Sunday, with the 2s getting roughly 25 snaps and the 3s finishing out the game.” / X

That means we get to see Derek Carr for the first time in a Saints jersey and would be nice to see an efficient and effective display (similar to Winston against the Jags last pre-season). We should also see Mike Thomas back in game action, Thomas hasn’t been his usual dominant self so far in camp, game action against CBs other than Marshon Lattimore will be a good gauge of where Thomas is at. It goes without saying the ceiling of this team is a lot higher if Thomas is on form, if not I do have concerns about the depth at WR.

Part of the starting offense should be LT Trevor Penning another player who lifts the ceiling of this team considerably. He’s had two significant foot injuries one on each foot meaning he missed a lot of his rookie season. Time on task is the order of the off-season for Penning as mental reps will only get him so far. It sounds like the Chiefs will also play their starters to begin the game, so should be a good test for Penning, especially in pass protection which so far, he requires more work on compared to his already dominant run blocking. 

Along with Penning the overall play of the starting O-line is really something to monitor, the reports from camp are that the D-line has dominated, this game should give us some idea of if the D-line is just that good or the O-line is something we should be concerned about.

Finally, Chris Olave and Alvin Kamara have both had dominant training camps per reports, Olave has gained weight to be stronger in contested catch situations and Kamara has a new trainer who has reportedly brought back his infamous burst, again would be nice to see these results in a game.

The CB2 battle

Entering the off-season, I expected this battle to already be over, after Alontae Taylor’s impressive rookie season and Paulson Adebo’s sophomore slump the CB2 spot looked to be Taylor’s to lose. So far in camp, Taylor looks to have done just that, Adebo a camp star a year ago has again been excellent and Taylor has started slow, but has improved in recent practices, but overall Adebo is ahead.

Game action is important in this battle as Adebo is notoriously physical in practice which means at times he wins reps in a dominant fashion which makes him standout. Without refs present it’s hard to tell if his physicality is just enough or a bit too much. If, as the pre-season goes along Adebo is walking the line to closing leading to flags that would change the complexion of this battle in Taylor’s favour. Sunday is the start of a long road ahead to decide who CB2 opposite Marshon Lattimore will be.

The Backup Safety Battle

The top of the depth chart is set with Tyrann Mathieu, Marcus Maye and special teams star J.T. Gray. Behind them, 5th-round rookie Jordan Howden seems to be locked in too. Howden has received first-team reps at both Safety spots when Mathieu and Maye have been absent and has also been the first-choice DIME DB throughout the summer.

That makes 4, leaving most likely 2, maybe 3 roster spots up for grabs, the amount the Saints keep will depend on A). how they plan to run their special teams this year (i.e. more LBs or more DBs) and B). if Marcus Maye ends up being suspended.

Leaving, Lonnie Johnson Jr., Jonathan Abram, Ugo Amadi and Smoke Monday to fight for those spots and all three have had bright moments in camp. All 4 should feature on special teams and all 4 bring very different skill sets. I had Johnson Jr and Amadi making the initial 53 in my most recent projection (link to that here to see my reasons

However, since I wrote this Monday has been on a tear. So it’s really turning into one of the most interesting and unpredictable positions groups on the team, where it’s likely only game action will be able to give us a clearer picture. With Mathieu and Maye both getting up there in age and both with only 2 years left on their deals, it doesn’t hurt to have one eye on the future here too to see if the Saints may have a succession plan for one or both already on the roster.

The New Look D-Line

The Saints drafted Bryan Bresee and Isiah Foskey with their first two picks in this year’s draft and added Nathan Shepherd and Khalen Saunders in FA but that’s the only reason I’ve labelled the D-line as ‘new look’. 

Mike Triplett wrote an article for explaining that HC Dennis Allen alongside new D-line coach Todd Grantham wanted to defensive front to be more attacking and aggressive. DA has also commented that he thinks they had gone a little overboard with their weight expectations, meaning that players met with Matt Rhea the Saints Director of sports science to work out the player’s ideal playing weight with many players losing around 8 lbs.

This means the D-line should have more burst and athleticism whilst still being a bigger line than most. Of the new faces, I am most excited to see first-round pick Bryan Bresee, who by all accounts has transitioned well so far to the NFL world. He’s got an ELITE first step which I think is going to produce some wow plays this season, Sunday against possibly 3rd/4th string lineman? look out!

Finally, are Granderson and Turner for real? both have had really good camps so far, Granderson especially. Similar to my question earlier regarding the O-line is this true growth at a position the Saints really need or is this a product of poor O-line play?

Quick Hitters

LB Depth- Has Baun finally developed? (although we’ve been fooled by his preseason play before) who’s ahead? Nephi Sewell or D’Marco Jackson? as the man backup behind Demarion Davis and Pete Werner.

Jake Haener – One of ‘My Guys’ leading up to the draft has been excellent in camp so far, does that continue in-game action? this might be the most excited I’ve been to watch 3/4th stringers because of solely Haener.

Kendre Miller– I think a lot of people on the national stage are going to be talking about him once they see him play.

Who the hell is WR5/6??– I thought this might finally have been the year Tre’Quan Smith was knocked off the roster, that doesn’t appear to be the case and Smith seems locked in as the WR4 but who is going to grab the bull by the horns and take the last 1 or 2 spots? prime candidates, A.T. Perry, Keith Kirkwood, Bryan Edwards and James Washington.

Is Jimmy Graham making this team?- It sounds like Graham could have a specialised role on this team (RedZone, 3rd downs etc…) but as a 36-year-old TE who didn’t play last season is not usually a recipe for success.

People kicking the ball- There is an open competition at both Kicker and Punter with both of the vets currently out in front but will game action change that? or further cement their lead?

Who’s returning kicks?- With Rashid Shaheed injured, do the Saints have anyone who could earn a roster spot as a returner?

i think ill leave my ramblings there, as you can probably tell I’m way excited about this preseason game.

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5 Key Storylines To Watch At Saints Training Camp

Whether you’ve kept yourself plugged in this offseason or you’re just now returning to the NFL media cycle this article has you covered with all the key storylines I’ll be watching (and you should be too) when the full Saints roster finally returns to the field on Wednesday 26th July.

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Is Michael Thomas Finally Healthy?

No, you have not transported back in time, sadly we are still talking about Michael Thomas’ health rather than his pure dominance on the field. At one point early this offseason I didn’t think I would be writing about Michael Thomas in Saints uniform again. With a hefty cap hit and still health in question it looked like Thomas’ time in New Orleans was over but, the arrival of Derek Carr (more on him shortly) and Thomas’ under-reported thirst to still play in the black and gold brought him back on a re-done incentive ladened 1-year contract. 

Meaning here we are again, with the question on the tip of everyone’s tongue is he healthy and back to his dominant best? Well, all signs are positive on that front Thomas unexpectedly was on the field during OTAs giving all Saints fans hope that he is finally back and can put together a full complement of offseason practices for the first time since before the 2020 season. 

Now let’s be measured with our expectations, does he need to be full go on day one? Ideally yes that would be great but we’ve seen what happens when Thomas has been rushed back on the field too soon before, he was lost for the whole 2021 season, so there’s no harm in the Saints bringing Thomas along slowly and if they do there shouldn’t be a huge amount of concern. However, if there isn’t positive progress being made throughout the first week it will feel a little too familiar for Saints fans.

Of course, him being on the field is huge for the Saints with no other true X WR on the roster. His Rapport with Carr already seems strong, according to multiple Saints media outlets he was working off to the side with Carr for a good deal of OTAs but we are yet to see him run full-speed routes against CBs. Therefore the enticing prospect of a three-receiver set of Thomas, Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed is just that, a prospect, thats why this is the first storyline i will be watching in the first week of camp.

How does Derek Carr look?

The Saints did the right thing in my opinion making the first splash signing of the 2023 season by signing Carr to a 4 year deal, which I think was a really good deal for not only Carr but the Saints as well. He fits the Saints system perfectly as the Saints system shares a lot of DNA with Jon Gruden’s and Carr had some of the best years of his career during Gruden’s tenure as the Raiders HC.

Now we know the theory of the signing was good, now we need to see the results on the field. The early reports were great in OTAs, Carr was showing good command of the offense already making checks at the line of scrimmage to get the offense into more advantageous plays, which is something I’m sure will continue with more time to gel with the playbook, OC Pete Carmichael Jr AKA Sneaky Pete and the weaponry around him. 

It goes without saying how important Carr is to the success of the Saints season so it’s crucial that he gets off to a good start in training camp.

Is The D-Line Back?

Since 2017 we have become used to seeing the Saints dominate upfront, getting pressure regularly only sending four rushers and stifling run defense. Unfortunately, this changed in 2022. With no meaningful push from the d-line outside of Cam Jordan, the Saints relied mainly on their creative use of LBs Kaden Elliss and Demario Davis and other blitzers to get pressure and unusually struggled against the run. The former is no longer on the team and is playing for some team with a disgusting bird logo and the latter is the same as Cam is 34 years old. Meaning the Saints need to see significant improvements from the rest of the line.

The Saints clearly saw the drop in play too and made a concerted effort this offseason to bring in new faces. The Saints added DTs Khalen Saunders and Nathan Shepherd in free agency after losing both David Onyemata and Shy Tuttle to division rivals. Saunders has shown promise as a pass rusher but should fit more as the dominant run stuffer that the Saints have missed since Malcom Brown left a couple of seasons ago. Shepherd is more of an unknown and has looked really good for stretches, especially as a pass rusher but has only been a part-time player for most of his career so far.

These moves were followed up with the additions of DT Bryan Bresee and DE Isiah Foskey with their first two picks in this year’s draft. Add those to DE Carl Granderson who really came on strong to end the 2022 season and is pencilled in as the current starter opposite Jordan. Former 1st round pick Payton Turner who is nose-diving towards bust status but has shown a couple of flashes to keep you hoping. That gives puts this position group high on the list of things to keep an eye on during camp as this unit could easily end up being the Achilles heel that derails the Saints high hopes for the 2023 season.

The Health Of The O-Line

Speaking of Achilles heels, sadly the o-line also falls into this category too. However, unlike the D-line the question mark isn’t talent but health. Starting RG Cesar Ruiz has been present but has not yet participated in any of the Saints offseason programme neither has starting LT Trevor Penning after both suffered late season-ending foot injuries. 

Both are vital to the Saints success up front this season, Ruiz showed great promise last season and was really starting to live up to his first-round pick status. As for Penning he showed signs of dominance as a run blocker last season but work was still required as a pass blocker and without the time already missed this offseason that area of his game is unlikely to have improved so getting on the field and staying there throughout camp and the season is a must. Penning starting at LT would give the Saints such an upgrade in athleticism over last year’s starter James Hurst, which would immensely help the weirdly nonexistent screen game and outside runs.

All of this is without mentioning that Alll-Pro RT Ryan Ramczyk is playing with a degenerative knee condition and Andrus Peat is generally good for missed time. So this unit getting on the field together early and most importantly often to gel with new starting QB Derek Carr is without question something to monitor.

 Will The Saints Finally Just Use Taysom Hill Everywhere?

This maybe more of a personal key storyline but have the Saint finally worked out how to deploy Taysom Hill? And will they build on it to make him even harder to defend? Last season we finally saw them lean into the fact that nobody can stop Taysom running the ball ( at least not consistently). This in fact still wasn’t even done enough in my opinion, The Saints successfully sprinkled in the right amount of Hill passing to keep defenses honest, but now like with anything in the NFL what’s the next step? How does this evolve before finally the rest of the league catches up? That’s what I personally want to know.

Hill is, when used correctly my favourite Saints player to watch a ‘Quarterback’ with his size and speed barreling over linebackers and defenceless DBs will never get old for me. However, it’s time for Hill’s role to finally evolve. In my opinion, he should very rarely come off the field. His threat to run, pass and catch passes is a massive headache for defences to account for, so why make it easy for them by taking him off the field? I personally don’t know, thats a question for Pete Carmichael and the rest of the Saints offensive staff.

All of the offseason talk has been encouraging, Hill and the Saints staff have spoken about wanting his role to evolve especially as a pass catcher which is great but we’ve heard this before, with similar reports about Hill’s move to TE all of last offseason. Now is the time, to make all of the football nerds head’s explode every Sunday on Twitter. Hill should be everywhere, outside, in the slot, at QB and in the backfield. With the latter in my opinion being his most effective alignment, where he would be a threat to run, pass, catch passes and even block (just to add another layer of complexity for opposing defenses to work through). 

So please Saints you have one of, if not the most versatile offensive weapons in the league, if only for me bring out every trick you can think of and give this Taysom Hill fan a season to remember. For that to be possible the Saints have to got to start the work when camp opens on Wednesday, so at the very least I will be keeping a keen and close eye on any report I see on Taysom Hill’s usage and you should too!

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2023 New Orleans Saints 7 Round Mock Draft

The New Orleans Saints are one of the most unpredictable teams when it comes to working out who they will draft. Their thirst for trading up, strict prototypes and penchant for hulking small school DEs (said half in jest) makes it very difficult to pin down where they will go. Add to that, this year is not the same Saints squad we have become used to in the last 5 years, gone is the roster with very few holes and great depth. Now the Saints have an ageing roster with several holes to fill both as starters and key depth pieces.

You could make a case for the Saints to draft almost every position except Center (unless they are moving McCoy to Guard), Tackle (however if they do that shows that Ryan Ramczyk’s Knee is far worse than they are letting on, in which case a Tackle would make sense) and outside Corner, which I believe is the deepest position on the team.

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Using information picked up along the way from the media, looking at information on the draft prospects and keeping in mind the Saints prototypes at different positions this is my best guess and who the Saints will pick in this year’s draft.

Round 1 Pick 29

Players I see being available and being in the Saints cloud at pick 29 in no particular order:

Defensive options:

DE Myles Murphy, DE Lukas Van Ness, DT Bryan Bresee, DT Calijah Kancey, DT Mazi Smith, CB Cam Smith, LB Jack Campbell, LB Drew Sanders.

Offensive Options:

OG Steve Avila, TE Darnell Washington, TE Michael Mayer, WR Quinten Johnson, WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, RB Jahmyr Gibbs.


There are likely to be several quality options at positions of need available when the Saints pick at 29. All the signs point to the Saints addressing the trenches either on the D-line or the O-line and only if the right options aren’t available when they are on the clock do I see them going elsewhere.

I’ve only included Murphy and Van Ness in the cloud as I see them as trade-up options rather than players who will be available at 29. However, if they start to slide to the late teens/early 20s I could totally see the Saints moving up for either. As I’m not going to be predicting any trades in this mock those players are now out of contention.

That leaves me with 4 options Bresee, Kancey, Smith and Avila. I’ve gone back and forth countless times, I’ve been set on Bresee being to pick here, but then I started to see Smith as a really viable option. Some news has come out over the last week or so that the Saints have been ‘burning the phonelines’ getting info on Kancey and they’ve also been listed as a team who loves Avila.

I struggle to see the Saints breaking their prototype enough for Kancey, the height and weight aren’t really the reasons in my opinion, I think it’s the arm length (30 5/8’’) there is barely anyone at this position in the NFL that have even made an NFL roster, let alone been successful (if you don’t believe me check for yourself). He is exactly the type of player they need ( a penetrating, 3-tech with elite pass-rushing skills) so if they went that way I could see the reasons why but I struggle to put him as the pick here.

Smith is a massive DT with freak athleticism which would put him firmly on the Saints radar, however, there is not a huge amount of pass rush production in college, but there is a belief that he can develop that part of his game once he gets with NFL coaches, but I feel like the Saints will want more proven pass rush skills at this point in the draft.

That leaves me with Bresee and Avila, Bresee fits the Saints 3 Tech DT prototype almost perfectly he would just need to add about 5-10 lbs of weight which with his 6ft 5″ frame wouldn’t be a problem. He struggled in his college career with injury (torn ACL)/ illness and a tragic off-the-field situation where his sister died of Cancer at the age of 15. This meant the former number 1 recruit in the country coming out of high school did not live up to that hype in college. However, he has all the moldable tools that the Saints would love at the position and it would fill a massive need on the roster.

Finally Avila, a rock-solid, scheme versatile mammoth at Guard that performed really well at the senior bowl ( which we know the Saints love) very athletic for his size and fits the Saints guard prototype from a physical standpoint. The Saints don’t necessarily have a crying need at OG currently with starting guards Andrus Peat and Cesar Ruiz both on the roster. However Peat is injury prone and a free agent after this season and Ruiz is coming off a season-ending foot injury and currently is also a free agent after this season (unless they pick up his 5th-year option, which seems unlikely due to 14mill price tag).

I’ve toiled over this choice a lot but I’m going with Bryan Bresee here I think the upside at a crying position of need will be too much for the Saints to ignore.

The pick- DT Bryan Bresee

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Round 2 Pick 40

Players I could see being available and in the Saints cloud at pick 40 in no particular order, also depending on who they go at 29.

Defensive options:

DT Calijah Kancey, DT Mazi Smith, DT/DE Adetomiwa Adebawore, DE/DT Keion White, DE Isaiah Foskey, CB Cam Smith, LB Jack Campbell, LB Drew Sanders

Offensive Options:

OG Steve Avila, TE Darnell Washington, TE Michael Mayer, TE Sam LaPorta, TE Tucker Kraft, RB Jahmyr Gibbs, WR Jonathan Mingo, WR Cedric Tillman


The Saints next pick is only 11 picks later, meaning a lot of the players in their cloud in round 1 are likely to still be there at pick 40. The rumours around what the Saints want to achieve early in this draft are varied, some have said they want to target the trenches early and others have said they are prioritising another weapon in the passing game (WR or TE).

Also, this seems like a spot value-wise to add at LB, the Saints need another player there with father time surely catching up with Demario Davis soon, Pete Werner’s injury history and losing Kaden Elliss in free agency, this could be the right time to add another LB with one eye on the future and one eye on the potential depth issues for this current year. If they were to add there Jack Campbell and Drew Sanders make a lot of sense. Campbell is a perfect long-term option to replace Davis, whereas Sanders has high upside as a pass rusher so could fill the Kaden Elliss role this year while he develops into an every-down LB.

As an Alvin Kamara clone Gibbs would make a lot of sense here as some who can start this year while Kamara is likely suspended and then he could replace Kamara in the long term, but I’m just not confident enough that they will spend this high of a pick in class with great depth at RB where you could find + starters in possibly the 4th or 5th round and the Saints signed Jamaal Williams in FA which also gives me pause at this stage.

I’d love the Saints to go DE (my pick would be Isaiah Foskey) early, unfortunately, I don’t think they will. Earlier in the off-season Nick Underhill ( a very trusted source on the Saints) mentioned on his podcast on a couple of occasions that he’s heard the Saints like their DEs and if anything they just want to add depth that makes me believe the Saints won’t go DE early unless someone they love falls unexpectedly.

Now for TE/WR, there could be some really good options here the Saints have been vocal about wanting to add players with contested catch ability and about wanting to add at TE. So players like Washington, Mayer (if still available) Kraft and LaPorta make a tonne of sense as big physical TEs with great pass-catching ability and value as blockers ( Washington, Mayer and Kraft more so than LaPorta in that area). Add to that two prototype X WRs in Tillman and Mingo both who are big and athletic who would provide great short-term and long-term Michael Thomas insurance. Pass catcher is definitely an avenue I could see them going here.

Finally, the elephant in the room, Steve Avila, a player I thought could easily be the pick at 29, if the Saints don’t pick him in the first there is a more reasonable chance that he could still be there only 11 picks later ( or they could even trade up to secure him) if they do like him how its been reported.

I’ve changed this pick several times, for a long time I was going Darnell Washington, then Jack Campbell, then a player like Mingo or Tillman made a lot of sense but finally I’ve settled on known of these players. The Saints love for the trenches is strong and the path for a long-term answer at OG with short-term depth upside made me finally settle on Steve Avila.

The pick- OG Steve Avila

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Round 3 Pick 71

Players I could see being available and in the Saints cloud at pick 71 in no particular order, also depending on who they go at 29 and 40.

Defensive Options

DT Gervon Dexter, DT Zacch Pickens, DE Isaiah McGuire, DE Zach Harrison, Safety/ Slot CB Jartavius Martin, LB DeMarvion Overshown, LB Yasir Abdullah, LB Nick Herbig, CB Cory Trice Jr,

Offensive Options:

WR A.T. Perry, WR Rashee Rice, WR Michael Wilson, TE Tucker Kraft, TE Luke Schoonmaker, TE Brenton Strange, RB Zach Charbonnet, RB Devon Achane, RB Tyjae Spears, RB Roschon Johnson, RB DeWayne McBride, RB Kendre Miller, OG Chandler Zavala, OG Anthony Bradford and OG Braeden Daniels.


I like some of DE options here, especially Zach Harrison (He’s so Saints it hurts with 36 1/4’’ arms) but after addressing the trenches twice already I don’t think the Saints will go D-line here.

Jartavius Martin is still available not only would I love the pick but it’s also a pick I think the Saints would make. He’s met with the Saint during the pre-draft process, and he fits their Slot prototype perfectly from a size and weight perspective perfectly, he’s played a lot at both safeties spots, outside corner and in the slot. Plus, currently, the starting slot CB on the roster is Bradley Roby who is 30 years old (will be 31 on May 1st) and is a free agent after this season. However, I just have a feeling he won’t be there by the time they pick in the third.

Despite nearly taking a LB earlier I don’t think the value would match at this stage of the draft with a fairly thin class at LB I think this is a position they wait on to add now.

Therefore, I think this pick goes on offense either RB or WR/TE and there are some great options here for the Saints to choose from. A.T. Perry and Rashee Rice would make total sense as big, athletic contested catch WRs. TE’s Kraft, Schoonmaker and Strange also make sense as freaky athletic TEs with blocking ability, giving the Saints the perfect compliment to Juwan Johnson, if Kraft were to be available I would pick him in a heartbeat as he’s one of my favourite players in the draft, but I think the Saints would need to trade up from 71 to secure Kraft.

I just have a feeling the Saints want to add an RB early having met with all of the RBs listed above and media reporting the Saints wanted to add an RB in the draft the past two years in the draft, I don’t think the Saints let the opportunity slip this time. Of all of the options I think Charbonnet fits the Saints the best my only worry is he may not be there at 71, Achane is too small for the Saints to take a risk on this early. Nick Underhill of also mentioned earlier in the off-season on one of the podcasts that he had texted scouts on the thoughts between Miller and Spears as prospects the scouts came back with Miller being the one to go for over Spears due to cleaner medicals, I really like Spears as a prospect and would be a huge fan of the pick but if there are concerns about his medical situation I don’t think the Saints go for him at 71.

I think 71 is too early for McBride given his limitations in the passing game. So that leaves Charbonnet and Miller, I’m going swing that Charbonnet is still there at 71 and the Saints jump at the chance. Charbonnet would give the Saints another powerful runner, is a more proven receiver and blocker than Miller and Charbonnet hardly ever fumbles (only 2 fumbles on 565 career carries) which is another quality the Saints love.

The pick- RB Zach Charbonnet

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Round 4 Pick 115

Let’s fire through the day three selections, frankly, I would be guessing who would be in the Saints cloud at this stage of a very unpredictable draft. So I’m just going to throw a few players in the mix that I think the Saints might like at this stage.

This feels like a prime trade-up spot for one of the WRs if they are still there towards the end of round three same goes for the TEs. The Saints have 5 day three selections which if history is anything to go by is far too many for them to remain patient with. LB could start to make more sense here with players like DeMarvion Overshown, Yasir Abdullah, and Nick Herbig likely to still be on the board but I think some of those will still be there when the Saints pick again in the 5th. Possibly DE as well especially if Zach Harrison or Isaiah McGuire are still available.

I think the Saints go offense again here and take advantage of a very deep TE class, I’m almost 100% sure Kraft will not still be here and if he were I would sprint in the card. That leaves Strange and Schoonmaker both again may not be there but I’m relying on the depth of this historic TE class to push some players down.

I think Strange is more likely to be available at this stage than Schoonmaker, so I’m going Strange here. This pick would give the Saints an ascending TE prospect with + blocking ability and underrated pass-catching skills to play the perfect complimentary role to Juwan Johnson and be the long-term replacement for Adam Trautman.

The Pick- TE Brenton Strange

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Round 5 Pick 146

For me the biggest remaining needs for the Saints if the draft plays out this way DE, LB, WR, Safety and slot CB.

The Fifth round now brings some value at DE, WR and Safety that wasn’t there with some of the earlier selections. Players like DE Tavius Robinson and Ya Ya Diaby jump out as long and super athletic projects at DE that the Saints would usually go for. WRs Andrei Iosivas, Matt Landers, Xavier Hutchinson (the Saints were at his pro-day) and Bryce Ford-Wheaton are all height/weight/speed players they could take a stab at in this range.

I’m going LB here though and one player that jumps out is Nick Herbig, a name I haven’t heard much hype about during the pre-draft process who I think would make a lot of sense for what the Saints need. Herbig strikes a scary resemblance to, don’t shoot me, Zack Baun (not just because they both played at Wisconsin) but because they both showed great abilities to rush the passer. Herbig had 21 sacks and 36 TFLs in three seasons playing as an outside LB in a 3-4 scheme, which would project nicely into the SAM LB spot in the Saints base 4-3 defense and he would be the perfect player for the Saints put into the role they used Kaden Elliss in last season.

The pick- LB Nick Herbig

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Round 5 Pick 165

The pick the Saints got from the infamous Chauncey Gardner-Johnson trade with the Eagles. DE,WR and Safety are the most logical positions left for the Saints to target at this stage. I think DE is a prime post-draft veteran signing for the Saints (I wouldn’t be surprised if one were already in the pipeline similar to the Tyrann Mathieu signing a year ago) thus I think the Saints are going to wait on DE if they are going to draft one.

That leaves me with the WRs I mentioned in the last pick and a safety, Jason Taylor II the Saints have met with Taylor and he looks to fit their mould, having played all across the secondary (with 234 box snaps, 193 in the slot and 433 at FS), fits the size they look for when drafting the position. Jeff Ireland and Dennis Allen love adding to the secondary so adding a versatile Safety to an ageing position group makes a lot of sense here.

The pick- Safety Jason Taylor II

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Round 7 Pick 227

Your guess is as good as mine at this stage or the draft, but one thing is for sure the Saints love adding return specialists late in the draft or as UDFAs ( See Rashid Shaheed and Deonte Harty). Look no further than Kansas State WR Malik Knowles, he averaged 27.7 yards per kick return with 3 touchdowns. He didn’t test during the pre-draft process due to a knee injury but looks to have home run speed and upside as a receiver. This move would also allow Saints weapon Rashid Shaheed to focus more on his WR duties and take him out of harm’s way on punt and kick return duties.

The pick- WR/Returner Malik Knowles

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Round 7 Pick 257

With the Saints last pick I’m going with LSU DE Ali Gaye, a player the Saints have met with during the pre-draft process. At 6ft 6″ 263lbs and around 34″ arms, Gaye is a raw but physically gifted player that the Saints can try and develop. Gaye finished his career at LSU with 7 sacks and 18 TFLs in 27 games (26 starts) for the Tigers.

The pick- DE Ali Gaye

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Round 1- DT Bryan Bresee

Round 2- OG Steve Avila

Round 3- RB Zach Charbonnet

Round 4- TE Brenton Strange

Round 5- LB Nick Herbig

Round 5- Safety Jason Taylor II

Round 7- WR/Returner Malik Knowles

Round 7- DE Ali Gaye

That was my best effort at trying to work out what the Saints will do in the 2023 NFL draft, I’m sure this will all be wrong halfway through the first night of the draft when the Saints trade up into the teens for a small school DE. Let me know what you think! Also, follow me on Twitter and Instagram @saintsreportuk for more Saints discussion and news.

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There Is Only One Takeaway; The New Orleans Saints Season Is Over

There are plenty of things I could talk about from an analysis perspective from this game, about what went well and what clearly didn’t. How this team could be much better after their bye week as they will be getting more key players back. 

Honestly, none of it matters, the false hope of winning the putrid NFC South is now gone; the only thing left for this team is to try and win as many games as possible so the pick they gave to the Eagles is as far down the draft as possible.

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Overall Thoughts From Saints @ Bucs (and other ramblings)

In many ways, this was one of the Saints best games of the season. For 54 minutes of the game, the Saints looked in control and looked like they would win the game and go into the bye week with real hope of turning their season around.

Until an almighty collapse reminiscent of another NFC South rival. That’s right in a season that didn’t feel like it could get much worse, the Saints did what all us fans mock our division rival for doing, impossibly giving up a massive lead in the fourth quarter and losing a game that should have comfortably been a win. The collapse seemed almost impossible with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Until one crucial play, which switched a lot of jaded fans from hope to the realization despair was likely coming.

Mark Ingram had enough room to easily get the first down with six minutes left in the fourth quarter, all he needed to do was put the ball in his other hand and extend the ball past the marker. I would have been first and ten at the Tampa 43, instead Ingram, who had been injured a few minutes prior stepped one yard short of the first down because he re-aggravated the injury from a few minutes prior and couldn’t finish the play. This left third and one which the Saints couldn’t convert, sparking the Bucs comeback.

That play shouldn’t have cost the Saints the game. After the punt, the Bucs needed to go 91 yards to reduce the deficit to six points. As the defense had been dominating Brady and the Bucs again throughout the game to minimal gains, 91 yards should have taken the Bucs so long that a second scoring drive should have been out of the realms of possibility. Have you noticed I’m using the word should a lot here? That’s because the Saints defense crumbled at the worst time possible, aided by a massive DPI penalty on Paulson Adebo the Bucs went 91 yards in ten plays in only two minutes and 21 seconds.

From this point on the loss felt inevitable the Saints despite wanting to be a run-first offense have proven incapable of being able to sustain drives to ice a game and that’s exactly what happened, immediately going three and out, even this drive had a chance for the Saints to pull off a remarkable game-saving play, facing third and 17 Andy Dalton delivered one of the most perfect passes downfield to Taysom Hill you will see, Hill caught it but couldn’t hold on to it after a hard hit, this play perfectly sums up the Saints season, plenty of chances to win but ultimately shooting themselves in the foot.

The Saints punted, giving the Bucs plenty of time to go down the field and win. It feels harsh to blame the defense holding Tom Brady to three points until deep in the third quarter and forcing two turnovers should be more than good enough but this team has no margin for error, especially as the offense struggles to score many touchdowns.

So that surely means the offense was the issue? It was but not how many might expect. Usually, when an offense only scores 16 and can’t close out a game in the fourth quarter it’s the QBs fault, again similar to last week against the 49ers I truly don’t believe that to be the case here. 

This was arguably Andy Dalton’s best game as a Saint, he made some incredible throws in big moments but his receivers couldn’t make the plays. Dalton finished 20 of 28 with three of those incompletions being drops from his receivers, the Hill drop I mentioned earlier. Olave dropped one in the second quarter on third down which would have put the Saints near the Bucs RedZone. Conservatively this took three points off the board possibly more. Jarvis Landry dropped a pass in the RedZone that would have been a touchdown, granted it was a tough catch but it’s a catch a player of his calibre needs to make.

There were plays in this game that if they were made and they should have been and the Saints would have been home and dry. Unfrotunelty this has been the case in several games this year (Vikings, Bengals, 49ers) there’s a clear path despite the mountain of significant injuries this team has dealt with that they could easily be leading the division if everything went their way they would be sitting pretty at 8-5. 

Ultimately they are not and now they are left with many more questions than answers about the team’s future. No first-round pick, no future at QB, no salary cap space to work with, ageing stars, and the most pressingly massive questions at HC and OC.

There’s no question in many Saints fan’s minds that Dennis Allen should not be the HC next season, I’ve not been so quick to jump to that conclusion to justify some of the results and games this season with what I’ve spoken about above. But my hesitancy is long gone, as an HC during his tenure with the Raiders and now the Saints have the second worse winning percentage all time out of the 17 coaches to have coached between 48 and 50 games. At some point, excuses can’t come into it anymore and you need to look at the simple facts that Dennis Allen-led teams don’t win football games,  it’s that simple.

OC Pete Carmichael Jr. should not be far behind Allen, on his way out the door. Carmichael has proven to be a very good offensive game planner, but as a full-time OC without Drew Brees at QB he’s looked out of his depth on gamedays. Showing a lack of imagination through countless second and ten runs or in big moments calling plays to the wrong people. An easy example in this game is on the Saints penultimate offensive drive the Saints had second and ten, Carmichael called a pass play where his only WR on the field was Kirk Merritt, a practice squad WR that was playing his first regular-season NFL game. Where was Jarvis Landry or Chris Olave, where was Rashid Shaheed? The play ended in a seven yards sack.  Carmichael has served the Saints well for many years but his time as OC should not extend past this season.

Thankfully the Saints now go into their bye week, which means Saints fans can have a much-needed detox from this exhausting and infuriating season and the team can try to use the time to work out the future of this season and beyond. 

As for me, all that is left to care about in this season are two things:

Sweeping the Falcons and giving the Eagles as bad of a pick as possible.

Enjoy the bye week Saints fans! We need it.

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Three Takeaways From A Gruesome New Orleans Saints Shutout Defeat

The Saints had not been shoutout in a game since week 17 of the 2001 season against none other than the San Franciso 49ers. 332 games have passed since then, which was the longest streak in the NFL. Yesterday, that streak ended as the Saints lost 13-0. Again they were buried by self-inflicted wounds. Without them, in true Saints fashion, the result of this game is totally different.

Three things stood out to me from truly one of the most frustrating Saints games I’ve had the displeasure of watching.

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Andy Dalton Was Not The Problem

As the game progressed, Saints Twitter was lighting up with comments about how enough is enough with Andy Dalton and how Jameis Winston should start going forward. Honestly, I don’t see how Andy Dalton was the problem in this game and how Winston would have done anything different to change the result.

Dalton moved the ball well and did more than enough for the Saints to win this game. The key to victory throughout Dalton’s run as the starter has been the running game, and when that hasn’t worked, he’s crumbled. I don’t think he crumbled yesterday. The offense around him did.

Of course, it’s reasonable when an offense scores zero points that some of the blame has to fall on the QB, and in other games where an offense is shutout, the blame would fall solely on the QB. Dalton did all he could, and there’s a clear path to where his play leads the Saints to multiple touchdowns and possibly a season-changing win.

The Saints moved the ball really well against one of the best defenses in the league. They were inside the 49ers ten-yard line twice and drove to the edge of the RedZone on another occasion. The result of those drives? A missed 48-yard field goal after veteran tackle Ryan Ramczyk’s false start pushed them back. An Alvin Kamara fumble at the one-yard line (the Saints had driven 87 yards in 12 plays)  and a turnover on downs after four pass attempts inside the five.

On the final drive, Dalton threw two balls that hit Juwan Johnson and Taysom Hill in the hands/face, but they couldn’t make the play. Both plays would have resulted in a touchdown. If the two earlier drives had gone differently, it would have been a 10-10 game on the Saints final offensive position, and instead of a turnover on downs, they could have kicked a chip-shot field goal to tie the game at 13. Giving the 49ers the ball back with six minutes left and a chance to win.

Was Dalton perfect? No, he wasn’t. He didn’t see Kamara on at least two plays where he looked to be wide open, where he would have walked in for a TD, but pressure forced Dalton to look to the other side of the field. He also threw Kamara into trouble on a few other plays that could have gotten the star RB hurt. However, is Winston perfect? At this stage, we know he is not, and one of Winston’s fatal flaws in the Saints offense is missed checkdown options to Kamara, so would he have seen him? It’s reasonable to think he wouldn’t have.

I understand the fans who think at this stage, with the Saints sitting 4-8, does it hurt to see what Winston is once and for all in this offense, given he’s the only QB under contract after this year? For what it’s worth, I agree with this argument. What I don’t agree with is those saying that because of this game, Dalton’s performance was so poor that he should be benched for Winston. I just don’t see that from what we saw yesterday.

This Might Have Been The Defense’s Best Game Of The Season

What’s even more frustrating about the Saints inability to score points yesterday was that the defense showed up in a big way. They tackled well and pressured Garoppolo constantly. They held the 49ers to three points on two drives where they were inside the Saints 10-yard line. One of those being a goal line stand turning over the 49ers at the one-yard line. For the most part, they shut down, on paper, an offense that does everything the Saints haven’t been able to defend all year.

The linebacker play was excellent. Kaden Ellis was great again and led the team with 14 tackles. He also forced a holding call rushing the passer. Ellis is starting to really look like the real deal. He wasn’t alone. Zack Baun had probably his best game as a Saint (outside of preseason games). He was involved in multiple positive plays in the run game and showed good ability as a Blitzer with a QB hit, which should have been a sack if not for Jimmy G’s quick trigger.

The secondary was excellent (except for one player more on him in a minute), especially Paulson Adebo, who had two PBUs on the day,(three if you count a play that was called back by penalty) and was sticky in coverage all day. Alontae Taylor should have had his first NFL interception, which again would have changed the game in the Saints favor if not for said player, and the safeties looked solid and did what they needed to do to limit a challenging 49ers offense.

Enough positivity. I’ve mentioned a player twice above who frankly cost the Saints dearly in this game and who should not have been in the game. Veteran CB Chris Harris. Harris has filled in admirably whilst the Saints dealt with a huge number of injuries at CB in recent weeks, considering he is one of the oldest starting DBs in the league. 

Yesterday there was no reason for him to be on the field. On the 49ers TD drive, he committed a ridiculous personal foul penalty for a late hit out of bounds, which was completely unnecessary, and gifted the 49ers first and goal at five. Frankly, he should not have been in the game after that, but of course, Dennis Allen left him in because he left him in. He then committed the illegal contact penalty that cost the Saints the turnover they desperately needed when Alontae Taylor picked off Jimmy G and returned it to the 49ers eight-yard line. 

With the Saints expected to get Marshon Lattimore back this week and Roby returning in this game, Harris should not be on the field anymore, and if he does, it is coaching malpractice.

What Is A Catch In The NFL?

The Saints took over on the 49ers 38, down three, with a real chance to change the game’s momentum. Taysom Hill threw a dart to Chris Olave for 30 yards, setting them up with first and goal at the 49ers eight-yard line. Or so we thought. Olave caught the ball, took two steps, hit the ground, and the ball came out.

The 49ers challenged much to Twitter’s confusion. Nobody that I saw could understand why Olave clearly secured the ball, completed a football move ( two steps after securing possession), and then his knee hit the ground, he still had possession, and then the ball came out. The ground can’t cause a fumble; therefore, this was a pointless challenge, and the Saints should have had first and goal. Wrong for some reason, none that are clear to me or anyone else ( apart from FOX NFL rules analyst Dean Blandino). The refs overturned the call to an incomplete pass.

The drive ended in a punt. This was another point of frustration in this game. The Saints likely score at least three points here, changing the whole complexion of those late-game drives. Maybe they even score a TD, which would have really given the Saints the momentum. Maybe the Saints completely balls it up and don’t score at all, but we should be able to speak in definitives because we should have been able to see how it played out because there’s no way it should have been ruled how it was.

This isn’t news to anyone, but the NFL has a huge officiating issue that needs to be addressed because I’m getting sick of it, and fans will start to switch off the way this is going.

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Key Matchups For The New Orleans Saints Vs. The Goliath 49ers

A matchup that has previously brought some incredibly close offensive shootouts. Now looks like a real David vs. Goliath situation for the Saints to overcome. For them to do so, they need to find a way not to get dominated in these three matchups.

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Saints Tackles Vs Nick Bosa

The Saints should be back to full strength on the o-line minus starting center Erik McCoy who is still on IR. After starting a completely makeshift left side of the line against the Rams.  With the makeshift line, the Saints proved they could scheme a great game plan to stop one of the league’s best, Aaron Donald.

They need to do the same this week against a ferocious 49ers pass rush, led again but one of the best in the league Nick Bosa. Bosa has rushed the passer 279 times which ranks as only the 46th most in the league, but he is still ranked tied for third in the league with 50 QB pressures per PFF. for perspective, his 50 QB pressures is more than the Saints leading pass rushers combined, Cam Jordan (24) and Marcus Davenport (23).

Those stats should illustrate Bosa’s sheer dominance against the pass, and he can be just a disruptive against the run, which does not bode well for the Saints offense. The game plan and execution of the offense is going to need to be perfect this week for the Saints to have the success required to win this game.

Saints Defense Vs YAC

Anyone who’s been watching the Saints defense this year knows that one of the biggest problems with this unit is missed tackles. The Saints defense, per PFF, has missed a massive 99 tackles so far this season. For comparison, the Saints defense a year ago missed 133 tackles. Extrapolate the 99 missed tackles so far over 17 games would equal  153 missed tackles on the year. 

I highlight these missed tackles so significantly because if they can’t tackle well in this game, the 49ers’ offense will punish that more than other teams might. San Fran’s strength in the passing game is yards after the catch (YAC). See the YAC stats for the 49ers top five reception leaders.

  • Brandon Aiyuk; 46 receptions, averaging 5.3 YAC per reception. 
  • Deebo Samuel; 40 receptions, averaging 8.9 YAC per reception (wow).
  • George Kittle; 33 receptions, averaging 6.8 YAC per reception.
  • Christian McCaffrey; 21 receptions, averaging 8.7 YAC per reception.
  • Jauan Jennings; 18 receptions, averaging 6.3 YAC per reception.

It’s not unusual for stud pass-catching backs to have high YAC numbers, but for players like Deebo and Kittle to be averaging what they are is flat-out scary for this Saints defense.  For context of how good these numbers are. Here are the Saints three leaders in receptions outside of RBs. (Chris Olave,  Juwan Johnson, and Jarvis Landry) YAC per reception. 

  • Chris Olave; 51 receptions, averaging 2.7 YAC per reception.
  • Juwan Johnson; 31 receptions, averaging 3.6 YAC per reception.
  • Jarvis Landry; 21 receptions, averaging 2.3 YAC per reception.

The 49ers offense is built around this ability and is part of the reason they acquire certain players to fit this kind of passing offense. Deebo Samuel alone nearly gets an extra first down’s worth of yardage per catch.

The Saints improved slightly last week but still missed far too many tackles, and if that continues this week, then it’s likely to be a long day for the Saints.

Taysom Hill Vs The 49ers Stingy Defense 

The 49ers have the best defense in the league; if they aren’t first, it’s pretty close. They have allowed the fewest rushing yards and allowed the lowest yards per carry in the league. They rank seventh in the league in passing yards allowed.

I already detailed Nick Bosa’s dominance earlier. Unfortunately for the Saints he’s not alone. The 49ers boast one of the best pass rushes in the league, have two excellent linebackers ( Warner and Greenlaw), and a stellar secondary led by standout CB Charvarius Ward who’s played at a pro-bowl level, so far this year and second-year breakout safety Talanoa Hufanga.

The 49ers have all the tools to make it very difficult for the Saints to use the ‘Taysom Hill’ package effectively. For the Saints to have a chance to win this game, that package needs to be effective, and Taysom needs to be on the field making plays.

I discussed the link between Hill’s success and the Saints in my recap of the Saints win Vs. the Rams.

So I won’t rehash that here, but in essence, the Saints are 3-1 in games where Hill has had 10+ snaps at QB and 3-0 when he’s had nine or more rushing attempts in the game. So Hill’s success/usage this season is directly linked to how the Saints perform.

Therefore, the Saints have to make sure not to abandon plays with Taysom if they fall behind like we’ve seen plenty of times this season, and make sure to have a varied and creative gameplan in place to keep the defense from loading the box as soon as Taysom is in at QB because that will not result in success for the Saints against a defense as talented as the 49ers.

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Week 10 and 11: Rookie Standouts

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It’s been two weeks since one of my rookie roundups, thanks to a lovely bout of flu and sinusitis, and a lot has changed in that time. Firstly, I’m going to give a brief rundown of who would have made my week 10 rookies, and then let’s focus on week 11’s before our lineup of Thanksgiving football feasts later on.

Week 10 Standout Rookies 

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Christian Watson, Wide Receiver – Green Bay Packers 

8 targets, 4 receptions, 107 yards, 3 touchdowns. Nuff said 

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Myjai Sanders, Edge – Arizona Cardinals 

A breakout game against the leagues worst OL. Two pressures including a sack-fumble and three run stops. 

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Charles Cross, Tackle – Seattle Seahawks 

0 pressures from 42 pass blocking snaps makes this his best performance of the season. 

Right, let’s move on to the rookies that stood out in week 11. 

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Tyler Linderbaum, Center – Baltimore Ravens 

It’s very difficult sometimes to fully appreciate how important it is to have a solid, reliable center. They don’t play a flashy position, and they rarely show up on the stat sheets despite having to both initiate each play and manipulate the defensive front depending on the play call. Despite this, I thought it was about time we spoke about the standout centre from this year’s rookie class, Tyler Linderbaum.

Linderbaum, despite experiencing some early teething problems, has improved week after week to quickly become a dominant force for the Ravens, especially on rushing plays. Baltimore averages 162.8 rushing yards per game, and Linderbaum has an impressive 77.6 PFF rating in run blocking, including a 74.1 rating this past week against the Carolina Panthers.

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Chris Olave, Wide Receiver – New Orleans Saints 

On draft night, the Saints knew they needed a wide receiver, and Olave was clearly their guy as they traded up five spots to select the Ohio State alumni, giving up their own 16th pick as well as picks 98 and 120. I think it’s fair to now say that they have been able to ratify their decision as Olave continues to be a standout player on their offense. 

After finishing week 11 with five receptions for 102 yards (an average of 20.4 yards per reception) and a touchdown, the Saints rookie is now ranked in the top 15 in most of the major receiving statistics. He’s tied for 15th in receptions with 51, tied for 12th in first down conversions with 34, and is 10th in receiving yards with 760. A lot of his extra targets can likely be attributed to the injuries suffered by Thomas and Landry, but at least the Saints know they have a more than competent number one going forward.

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Aidan Hutchinson, Edge – Detroit Lions 

The Lions completely dominated the Giants this past week (much to the annoyance of this writer), but credit where credit is due, it was fully deserved. Defensively, the Lions stifled everything that the Giants had to offer outside of a few chunk plays that came after the Lions were already almost out of reach, and one huge contributor to that was Aidan Hutchinson. 

Hutchinson, who has since been crowned NFC defensive player of the week, has already made this rookie standout list before and week by week is proving his credentials in the race for defensive rookie of the season. Against the Giants, he finished the game with a pass defense, three tackles, a fumble recovery, and an interception. The interception was his second of the season, making him the second player in NFL history with two interceptions and five or more sacks in his first 10 career games 

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Four Takeaways From A Much-Needed New Orleans Saints Victory Vs. The Rams

Does this victory turn around the Saints Season? Sadly, I don’t think so, but crucially it stopped the bleeding for now. However, one thing is for sure. It was just nice to see some positive plays and the Saints winning a game, especially against the Rams.

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Andy Dalton’s Best Game As A Saint?

This is the game the Saints want to see from Dalton every week; no, he’s not going to complete 84% of his passes every week whilst averaging 10.4 yards per attempt. But playing turnover-free football, getting the ball out quickly, taking what the defense gives you, with the odd big play sprinkled in, is exactly what the Saints want from their QB.

Speaking of getting the ball out quickly, Dalton’s time to throw (TTT) in this game per Next Gen Stats was 2.16 seconds. To put that into perspective, that was the third-quickest TTT any QB has had all season. Ironically four of the top five in that category have been against the Rams. Clearly, there is a blueprint out for the Rams’ defense. It’s also not a surprise Dalton resorted to this plan with the Saints down three of their starting five o-lineman.

Dalton has played mistake-free football in other games since taking over as the Saints starting QB, so what makes this game his best so far? There wasn’t even a sniff of a turnover. In other games, he’s gotten away with a throw that should have been picked off. In this game, there was none of that. Dalton operated with pinpoint accuracy and found his playmakers in key moments. 

He also probably made his best throw as a Saint, on third and nine, with Aaron Donald bearing down on him. He uncorked a beautiful deep ball to Chris Olave, who had flown past all-pro CB Jalen Ramsey resulting in a 53-yard touchdown. This came at a crucial time in the game after momentum could have easily been shifting back to the Rams. A failed trick play by New Orleans on first down resulted in a 17-yard sack. Dalton got all of that yardage back with a nice throw to Juwan Johnson on second down, and then that throw capped it off to give the Saints back the lead.

Does this performance mean Dalton will be the starter for the rest of the year? Normally you’d think yes, but the Saints are still 4-7. I really think it’s still a week-to-week situation for Dalton. Remember, Winston is the only QB under contract after this year, and you have to think the Saints want to see what he looks like in this offense. Now he’s back close to full health. So they can make a concrete decision on his future with the team.

When Taysom Hill Is Successful, So Are The Saints

Hill didn’t light up the stat sheet as he has in previous games this season:

  • 42% of offensive snaps played, 17 snaps at QB ( previous high was 11, in weeks five, six, and eight)
  • One completed pass on three attempts for 14 yards.
  • Nine rushes for 52 yards (5.8 average), zero TDs.
  • One reception for 8 yards on one target.

There’s nothing crazy about these stats; however, it does provide the Saints with consistent production and a way to keep the defense guessing.

With a deeper look at these stats, you can see a pattern emerging. In games where Taysom has taken ten+ snaps at QB, the Saints are 3-1. In games this season where Hill has nine or more rushing attempts, the Saints are 3-0.

Does that mean the Saints just need to give Taysom those snaps and make sure he rushes that many times and they will win? No, unfortunately not, but what it does mean is the Saints need to make sure they continue to find ways to keep Hill involved and make sure they are consistently evolving the plays they used with him to keep this Hill package from becoming stale, predictable, and easy to defend.

Is Kaden Ellis The Best Defensive Player In The League?

Sorry to get your hopes up, but no, he isn’t. Not yet, anyway. However, if Ellis kept up his level of play from the last two weeks for the rest of the season, he would be right up there with the best defensive players in the league.

That’s how good Ellis played yesterday and against the Steelers a week ago. Ellis was everywhere again yesterday. He excelled rusher the passer with 1.5 sacks and four total QB pressures. He led the Saints defense in tackles with 11. Is that it? No, he was also a beast in run defense, with six defensive stops, which was the most in the game for either side.

This is all very impressive. However, the area of Ellis’ game that might be the biggest surprise and strength? His skills in coverage. Ellis was targeted three times, giving up two receptions for 22 yards, both to Tyler Higbee is one of the better receiving TEs around. On his other target, Ellis nearly made an incredible play for an interception but couldn’t quite make the catch.

The play that was most impressive, though, didn’t show up on the stat sheet. Ellis was playing what looked like zone coverage in the middle of the field. He noticed a crossing route behind him, helped cover it, and took the route out of the play. This is particularly important as this is a route the Saints have traditionally struggled with. Ellis also did the same against a similar-looking play against the Steelers.

The Saints Throwback Uniforms Might Be Their Best Look 

Did you click on this article for pure football takes? Sorry to disappoint, but there is a clear takeaway from yesterday’s game, the Saints throwback uniforms and helmets are beautiful and should be in rotation every year. 

Quick Hits

  • Olave was great again today and is the best rookie WR from this year’s draft.
  • Juwan Johnson is really emerging at TE, especially in the Redzone ( five TDs in his last five games)
  • Landry also had his best game as a Saints since week 1
  • Carl Granderson really stepped up with all the injuries on D-line, 1.5 sacks, and multiple plays in the run game.
  • Paulson Adedo had his best game of the season, and rookie Alontae Taylor looked good again.
  • Punter Blake Gillikin has strung together to great games after a rough start to the season.
  • Chris Harris had a rough game not just because of the Tutu Atwell deep bomb ( i think that was as much the safeties fault as Harris) he got picked on all day.
  • The tackling on defense was still a problem but improved over recent weeks.
  • Only two penalties for the Saints

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