Eye On the New Orleans Saints: Scouting Report

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants will attempt to even their record at 2-2 and win at home for the first time this season when they host the New Orleans Saints Sunday in MetLife Stadium. Both teams won on the road last week; the Giants defeated the Texans in Houston, 27-22, while the Saints earned a 43-37 overtime triumph in Atlanta to move to 2-1. The Giants won the previous two meetings here, in 2012 and 2016, and lead the series, 16-13.

What is the Saints’ biggest strength?

Offense, offense, offense. Coach Sean Payton, a former Giants offensive coordinator, and quarterback Drew Brees have formed one of the most prolific partnerships in NFL history. In 2017, New Orleans’ offense was ranked second overall (391.2 yards a game), fifth in both rushing (129.4) and passing (314.3) yardage and fourth in points (28 a game), and the Saints won the NFC South title with an 11-5 record. Ten starters return from that unit, which is playing as if it didn’t have a nine-month break. New Orleans is fourth in total yards (428.0), third in passing yards (345.3) and second in points (104).

Which player is key to the Saints’ offense?

New Orleans has several worthy candidates here, but Brees brings it all together and makes it all go. Now 39 and in his 18th season in the NFL and 13th with the Saints, he is as productive as ever. In 2017, he set an NFL record by completing 72% of his passes. This season, he has completed 80.6% (!!) - 104 of 129 - and thrown eight touchdown passes without an interception. Brees’ 39 completions last week against the Falcons increased his career total to an NFL-record 6,326; Brett Favre previously held the mark with 6,300. Brees is extremely smart and has run Payton’s system so well for so long, he knows where to go with the ball and how to attack any coverage. He releases the ball quickly and is deadly accurate. Brees is a potential nightmare for any defense.

What is the strength of the Saints’ offense?

The tandem of second-year running back Alvin Kamara and third-year wide receiver Michael Thomas. They have accounted for a league-high 58% of the Saints’ offensive touches and for 60% of the targets in New Orleans’ passing game through the first three weeks. Kamara was the 2017 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after producing 1,554 yards from scrimmage and averaging 6.1 yards per carry. He has unusual athletic ability and body control, and has excellent feel as a receiver underneath. Kamara creates matchup problems and is particularly dangerous on option routes. Thomas, who has both size and quickness, caught 196 passes in 2016-17, the highest total by a player in his first two seasons in NFL history. He currently leads the league with 38 receptions.

View the Saints starters for this weeks game at MetLife Stadium

Which player is key to the Saints’ defense?

Defensive end Cameron Jordan, who is ted for the NFL lead with 4.0 sacks. He is a big, powerful, physical and productive player with good quickness. In 2017, the Pro Bowler was fourth in the NFL in sacks (13.0), third in quarterback hits (28) and fifth in pressures (63). As those numbers indicate, Jordan has a diverse pass rush repertoire. Last week, new Giants right tackle Chad Wheeler was tested by Houston’s J.J. Watt, the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Jordan will present another formidable challenge for him.

What is the strength of the Saints’ defense?

The front seven, where Jordan has plenty of talented teammates around him. The Saints are allowing a league-low 3.0 yards per rushing attempt and just 82.7 yards a game. Demario Davis, the free agent acquisition who has become New Orleans’s best linebacker, has 25 tackles, or 11 more than anyone else on the team. Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins is a stout defender in the middle of the line, and end Marcus Davenport, the Saints’ first-round draft choice this year, played 34 snaps last week and continues to improve. The top performer in the secondary is cornerback Marcus Lattimore, the 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Based on the scouting report, what must the Giants do to win the game?

Slow down Brees and his potent passing attack. In 2015 in New Orleans, he threw for 505 yards and seven touchdowns, and the Giants lost by three despite scoring 49 points. Two years ago here, Brees passed for 263 yards and one score, and the Giants won, 16-13. When Brees posts big numbers, the Saints are very difficult to beat.

Statistics you should know:

*In seven career games vs. the Giants, Brees had completed 173 of 259 passes (66.8%) for 2,177 yards, 20 touchdowns and four interceptions for a 112.1 passer rating, the highest for any quarterback vs. the Giants in the Super Bowl era (minimum 100 attempts).

*Kamara leads the NFL with 430 yards from scrimmage (141 rushing, 289 yards receiving). Thomas is third with 398 (all receiving).

*Kamara’s 30 receptions are the most by a running back in the first three games of a season in the Super Bowl era.

*Last week in Atlanta, Kamara and Thomas were targeted a combined 30 times by Brees. They caught 25 passes. Kamara had 15 receptions for 124 yards, and Thomas 10 for 129. Neither player scored a touchdown.

*Since 2009, the Saints are tied with Green Bay for the NFL’s fourth-best road record at 39-34.

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