It’s finally here! the first NFL Sunday of the 2022-2023 NFL season is two days away. It’s time to preview the New Orleans Saints week 1 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons. I’m going to discuss 3 key matchups. A position to watch, whos playing and whos not? and of course the result.
The Saints enter week 1 as the favourite against the rival Falcons. Both teams have many new faces, most notably Tyrann Mathieu for the Saints and a new starting QB in Atlanta. Marcus Mariota succeeds franchise legend Matt Ryan after he was traded to the Colts in the offseason (much to Cam Jordan’s dismay). Mariota will give the New Orleans defense a totally different challenge compared to Ryan. Mariota is far more mobile, Arthur Smith is likely to try use this mobility by running the read-option, plenty and often. Unless the Saints show improvement at containing it. The Saints have struggled to defend this plenty over the last few seasons.
These two teams are at very different stages, the Saints with a largely veteran team, should be a playoff team this season and if things go their way, a legit Superbowl contender. Whereas the Falcons are at the start of a rather large rebuild, with very few players to build around.
One paper this should be a walk in the park for the Saints. However, this is a divisional game and one of the NFL’s more heated rivalries. Nothing can be taken for granted here, especially in week 1.
3 Key matchups/Players To Watch
Michael Thomas And The Saints New WRs
One of the primary things I will be watching, how does Michael Thomas and the 2 new Saints receivers look? We haven’t seen Thomas play since 2020 and that was at far less than 100%.
If Michael Thomas is 85% of the player he was, then that is huge for this Saints team and QB Jameis Winston. Reports from camp suggest that 85% might be a conservative number too.
Things have changed considerably since the 2020. Meaning that even Thomas at 85% will give the Saints 3 legit studs at WR, with the additions of Jarvis Landry and Rookie Chris Olave.
It will be interesting to see how Landry’s game meshes with Winston’s. Traditionally Winston prefers to through deep and outside the numbers, whereas Landry’s game has been more in-between the numbers in the short and intermediate range. All signs so far seem good but we need to see it in regular season action.
Lastly, Chris Olave. The Ohio State sensation joins a whole host of other Buckeyes on the roster. How does he match up against good NFL corners? One of the main concerns coming out of college was, if he can be physical enough against press man coverage to get open? All reports from camp have been glowing in this regard. We just need to see it in action now.
This matchup against future all-pro A.J. Terrell and excellent vet Casey Hayward should provide a good measuring stick for the Saints to see where their top 3 WRs are at.
Who Does Marshon Lattimore Match Up Against?
I’m interested to see if Marshon Lattimore will travel against Kyle Pitts. Traditionally Lattimore matches up well against bigger and more physical pass catchers. Compared to the smaller more twitchy players.
So, from a style perspective Pitts fits well for the Saints to match him up against Lattimore. It also wouldn’t hurt for the Saints to take Pitts out of the game as much a possible by having Lattimore on him.
Now, where this get interesting. What do the Saints then do with rookie Drake London? The 6ft 5 210lb first round pick out of USC, also fits the mold of a player worth putting Lattimore on.
So do the Saints just play sides? And let Lattimore lockdown one side of the field and just see who lines up opposite him?
I’m very interested to see how they decide to defends the 2 mammoth pass catchers.
Grady Jarrett Vs The Interior O-Line Especially Cesar Ruiz
Grady Jarret is a game wrecker, a star and one of the best at his position. Whether it be defending the run or rushing the passer, Jarrett can do it all.
So how does the Saints interior O-line hold up against him? I expect Erik McCoy who is a top 5 Center in the league to do just fine, he might lose a few reps but all in all hold up very well. McCoy just got a fully deserved, fat new contract. He will really earn his money against Jarrett this week.
More on McCoy’s new deal here- Saints, center Erik McCoy agree to five-year extension worth up to $63.75M (nfl.com).
The question comes when Jarrett matches up over LG Andrus Peat and RG Cesar Ruiz. Peat is coming off a season ending pec injury and can be inconsistent. This matchup will be a strong test in his first regular season game back.
RG Cesar Ruiz is in a make or break year. The former 1st round pick is going into his 3rd NFL season and there’s not been too much to celebrate from his play on the field. Reports are that he has massively improved his game this offseason. If that’s true we should find out pretty quickly here. I’m not expecting Ruiz to win every snap against Jarrett, that wouldn’t be a fair standard to set. But to see improvement would be huge for the Saints O-line.
If the Saints are going to be the team I expect them to be this season, then they really need their interior O-line to be a strong, especially in the run game. This was an area of weakness last season, compared to years past.
That’s why I think this is one of the key matchups to watch.
A Position To Watch
That position? Safety and more specifically how will the Safeties be used?
When former HC Sean Payton ‘retired’ the Saints wanted to keep continuity. Hence keeping a lot of the same staff and promoting former DC Dennis Allen to the Head Coach.
Well, continuity is not the word to use to describe the Safety position. Versatility is.
After losing starting safeties Marcus Williams in free agency and Malcolm Jenkins to retirement. The Saints added 2 new starting safeties, in Louisiana native and LSU hero Tryann Mathieu and Former Jet Marcus Maye.
Marcus Williams was an excellent safety for the Saints but, we was fairly predictable. Generally lining up as a deep safety. In Mathieu and Maye the Saints have 2 players who can line up anywhere, they can player deep as a single safety or in 2 safety looks. They can both play in the box in zone or man coverage to cover TEs/RBs. They can help in run support and be productive blitzers, they can even cover the slot.
What this means is Dennis Allen now has 2 cheese pieces that he can move around the defense all game long, to fit a certain matchup, a certain tendency, or to simply confuse. These 2 could be anywhere at any time. Causing huge amounts of confusion for the opposing Qb’s. As they will be in one position pre snap and somewhere complete different post snap.
This is going to festinating to see what how Dennis Allen and Co-Defensive Coordinators Kris Richard and Ryan Nielsen decide to deploy these 2 in their first game as New Orleans Saints.
State of the rosters
Saints Injury report:
WR- TreQuan Smith- OUT
RB- Dwayne Washington- OUT
CB- Paulson Adebo-OUT
T- Landon Young- Questionable
WR-Michael Thomas- Questionable
S- Tyrann Mathieu- Questionable
C- Erik McCoy- No designation
LB-Pete Werner- No designation
Falcons Injury report:
TE- Parker Hesse- No designation
CB- Darren Hall- Questionable
WR- Drake London- Questionable
Key Saints things to take from this? all signs seem to point to Michael Thomas playing. With Paulson Adebo out, all reports suggest that Bradley Roby will start at outside CB opposite Marshon Lattimore. With Justin Evans and/or P.J. Williams manning the slot. With no designation that means Pete Werner will play which is hugely important for the Saints run defense.
Key Falcons things to take from this? simply that rookie WR Drake London appears to be ready to make his NFL debut.
I think the Saints defense dominate and confuse Mariota. With a wide range of coverages pre and post snap and a ferocious pass rush that gives him very little time to throw.
I think the offense will be efficient in all areas, with the run game excelling.
Result- Saints Win 27-10
I will be previewing of all of the New Orleans Saints games this season on New Orleans Saints – Full10Yards
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