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Eye On: Scouting the New Orleans Saints

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New Orleans will host the Giants on Sunday in the Saints' first game at the Superdome following Hurricane Ida's hit on the Gulf Coast in early September. Here's what to expect from the Saints on Sunday.

1. No team has a higher run rate than the New Orleans Saints, who are trying to advance the ball on the ground on 57% of their plays. In the first halves of their games, their run rate leads the league at 51.1% and this is not a situation where they are running it because they have a big lead. Jameis Winston is only averaging 21 pass attempts per game.

It starts on first down where the Saints, to no one's surprise, run the ball more than any other team. Their 67.2% run rate on first down not only leads the league but it is a ridiculous 17.5% higher than the league average. This approach has not yielded a lot of yards. The Saints are averaging only 3.96 yards per first down play, which is the third-lowest in the NFL.

The Saints are ninth in the league, averaging just over 120 rushing yards per game, but they are only averaging 3.84 yards per carry. Alvin Kamara leads the Saints rushing attack, but they have three other players with between 49 and 69 rushing yards. Tony Jones is Kamara's backup with 69 rushing yards. Quarterback Jameis Winston has 60 rushing yards, while Taysom Hill has 49 rushing yards on just 10 carries.

Hill will be used in wildcat formation. They've also asked him take a few steps toward the line and fake a run out of that look before attempting a pass. The Saints can line up Hill as a tight end or receiver in the slot or out wide. He is often substituted into the game in red zone situations, where the Saints' 89% touchdown conversion rate ranks second in the NFL.

2. Jameis Winston has seven touchdown but he is only averaging 129 passing yards per game. The difference in production has a lot to do with the Saints' red zone success and being given good field position on takeaways from the defense. He has three interceptions this year and has been tracked for four turnover worthy plays by Pro Football Focus. He maintains the bad tendency of trying to complete a pass while being brought down by a defender in the backfield.

Alvin Kamara is the team's leading receiver with 10 catches for 62 yards and two touchdowns. With All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas still not healthy after last season's ankle injury, the Saints have turned to a committee approach. Marquez Callaway leads the group in targets (11), receptions (7) and is second in receiving yards (63).

Deonte Harris leads the team in receiving (thanks to a team-long 55-yard catch with 112 yards), while veteran Chris Hogan rounds out the group with two catches for 26 yards. Kenny Stills played for the first time in Week 3 and finished the game with thirty snaps and one catch for 17 yards. The Saints will use Juwan Johnson and Adam Trautman in their "12" personnel package. 

3. Winston has been sacked seven times, which might have to do with how long he is holding the ball. Winston has the second-highest average time to throw (3.18 seconds and behind Lamar Jackson) in the NFL.

The Saints also found out this week that they will be without their All-Pro left tackle Terron Armstead for the game on Sunday due to an elbow injury. Former Baltimore Raven James Hurst will get the start at left tackle. According to PFF, Andrus Peat has allowed two sacks and eight total pressures from left guard.

Former All-Pro Ryan Ramczyk starts at right tackle with 2020 undrafted free agent Calvin Throckmorton next to him at right guard. 2020 first round pick Cesar Ruiz will get the start at center, where he has allowed one sack and four quarterback hurries this season.

View photos of the New Orleans Saints likely starters ahead of the Week 4 matchup against the Giants at the Caesars Superdome.

4. The Saints defense is excellent. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has his unit playing an aggressive brand of football. They often try to pressure the quarterback in front of man-to-man defense with players constantly trying to make plays on the ball.

The Saints are missing one of their top pass rushers in defensive end Marcus Davenport, but try to generate pressure on the quarterback by blitzing and using stunts up front. Only the Rams have run more stunts than the Saints (44 times) this year. The Saints 28.2% blitz rate is the 12th-highest in the NFL. When the Saints blitz, they bring six or more players 35% of the time, which is the fourth-highest rate in the NFL.

Despite all the movement up front, the Saints have not been able to consistently generate pressure. They have only gotten pressure on the opposing quarterback in under 2.5 seconds on 13% of their snaps, which is the lowest rate in the league. Veteran Cam Jordan is still the Saints' top pass rusher and an excellent two-way player. He has a sack, five quarterback hits and 15 total pressures this season, according to PFF. At 6'4 and 287 pounds, he will line up primarily over the right tackle and likes to win with power and strength.

2021 first round pick Payton Turner has taken Davenport's spot at right end and has been productive as a pass rusher. He has a sack, quarterback hit, and seven total pressures to go with three tackles for loss, according to Pro Football Focus.

The Saints' run defense has been one of the best in the NFL. They are allowing the third-fewest rush yards per game (60.3) and the second-lowest rush yards per play (2.78) in the NFL. Middle linebacker Demario Davis is excellent against the run and has three tackles for loss this season. The cornerbacks are also very willing tacklers. They have allowed only 4.22 yards per play on first down, which is the fourth-best number in the NFL.

5. The strength of the Saints' defense is their secondary. They roll out a number of players able to play man-to-man coverage and do it on over 35% of their snaps. They run "Cover 1" (man-to-man and a single high safety) and "Cover 0" (man-to-man with no safety over the top) at the sixth-highest rate in the NFL.

Marshon Lattimore is their top cover cornerback and has played almost exclusively on the right side of the formation this season. In two games (he missed one due to injury), he has allowed six catches for 79 yards. He also has an interception and two passes defended.

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is the team's nickel cornerback. He missed the second game of the season with an injury and allowed three catches and 39 yards in each of the two games he played him. Rookie third-round pick Paulson Adebo plays left cornerback. According to PFF, in his last two games he has allowed 13 catches on 19 targets for 143 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also has an interception. Marcus Williams is the team's primary deep safety, with Malcolm Jenkins and PJ Williams seeing time in the slot or in the box. All three safeties have interceptions this year.

The Saints are tied for the league lead with six interceptions. They have gotten those interceptions in a variety of ways. The pass rush has forced poor throws, balls have hit receivers and popped in the air, and the Saints have made plays on bad throws down the field.

The Saints have not only made big plays in the secondary, but they have also prevented big plays despite playing a lot of man-to-man and single-high safety defenses. They have only allowed eight passes of 20 yards or more, which is tied for the ninth-fewest in the league. On throws that have traveled more than 20 yards in the air, opposing quarterbacks have a quarterback rating of 25, which is the lowest in the league.

The Saints' situational defense is also strong. They are the ninth-best third down defense in the league (36.% conversion rate) and are tied for the best red zone defense in the league (33.3% touchdown rate).

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