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Scouting Report: Breaking down the Saints



Playmakers on Saints first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike

The Giants will travel to a city that has not been kind to them during their last few visits when they face the Saints Sunday in New Orleans.

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Their last victory in the Crescent City was in 1993. Since then, they're 0-4 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, including losses in 2009 and 2011 by a combined 97-51. The Giants are 3-7 in the Superdome since it opened in 1975. But they did defeat the Saints in their most recent meeting, 52-27, on Dec. 9, 2012 in MetLife Stadium. The Giants lead the overall series, 15-12.

This season, the Giants are 4-3, and the Saints are 3-4 with victories in three of their last four games after starting 0-3. New Orleans is 1-1 against the NFC East, defeating Dallas and losing to Philadelphia. The victory over the Cowboys snapped a six-game losing streak in the dome. Last week, New Orleans defeated Indianapolis, 27-21, and rushed for a season-high 183 yards.



The Saints' offense uses a high volume of formations and personnel groups. The unit is ranked sixth in the NFL, averaging 395.9 yards a game. The Saints are 22nd in rushing yards (98.7 yards a game) and third in passing (297.1). New Orleans is 16th in scoring, with an average of 23 points a game. The Saints lead the NFL with 32 plays over 20 yards, and those plays have gained an average of 29.9 yards. They are fourth in the NFL with a 45.9 percent third-down conversion rate (50 of 109).

New Orleans had a lot of roster turnover in the offseason, including the departures of tight end Jimmy Graham and seven defensive starters. The Saints have 11 rookies on their roster, plus standout first-year cornerback Delvin Breaux.

One vital holdover on the Saints' roster is quarterback Drew Brees, who has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 42 consecutive games. Brees is a master at dissecting defenses. He plays with poise, has a quick release, and has outstanding accuracy and touch. Brees is particularly adept at executing play action. His backups are Luke McCown (who played the entire game when the Saints lost at Carolina in Week 3) and rookie Garrett Grayson.

The Saints line up with three productive running backs in Mark Ingram, Khiry Robinson and C.J. Spiller. New Orleans had three rushing touchdowns last week in Indianapolis and has 10 for the season. Ingram leads the team with 450 yards, a 4.4-yard average and five touchdowns. He is a punishing downhill runner who has quick feet at the line of scrimmage and competes to the end of every play. He also has 29 receptions. Robinson is a hard-nosed runner who seeks contact. He gets most of his touches on first and second down. Spiller lines up all over and hits top speed quickly with the ball in his hands. He is a dual threat with 179 career catches. Fullback Austin Johnson has blocking, receiving and short-yardage run skills.

Brandin Cooks has emerged as the Saints' leading receiver, with 35 catches for 444 yards. He has vertical speed (six catches of more than 20 yards) and solid hands. Willie Snead is one of Brees' favorite targets. He is a good route runner and is a strong runner after catching the ball. Snead has a team-high 15.9-yard average. Slot receiver Marques Colston is a reliable target who excels at creating separation and makes his living over the middle. Backup Brandon Coleman, a 6-6 and 225-pounder, builds speed with a gliding stride.

Benjamin Watson is a savvy tight end with quick feet who runs solid routes, and has good hands. He had a 25-yard reception on a fake field goal last week. Watson is an effective positional blocker. Josh Hill has a nice blend of receiving and blocking skills. Michael Hoomanawanui was acquired in a trade with New England on Sept. 30. He is a veteran tight end/H-back who is a good outlet receiver.

The Saints' very good offensive line was beset with injuries earlier on the season, but will be intact for the Giants for the first time since Week 2. Left tackle Terron Armstead is an agile and steady player who displays good competitiveness. On the right side is 6-7, 320-pound Zach Strief, who, not surprisingly, gets good push in the run game. He is a patient blocker in pass protection. Tim Lelito is a first-year starter at left guard who has a thick, square build and big hands. Right guard Jahri Evans is strong in the run game, and a stout pass protection anchor. The center is Max Unger, who has a strong upper body and point of attack push. Backup tackle Andrus Peat, the Saints' first-round draft choice this year, is sidelined with sprained knee. The other reserves are Mike McGlynn, Senio Kelemete and Tony Hills.



New Orleans' defense is ranked 30th in the NFL, allowing 404.9 yards a game. The Saints are 28th stopping the run (129.1 yards a game), 26th vs. the pass (275.7). New Orleans has allowed more than 100 rushing yards in every game but last week's win at Indianapolis. They are 25th in scoring defense, giving up an average of 26.4 points per game, and at least 20 in every game. Like the offense, the Saints' defense is third in the NFL on third down; their opponents have succeeded on just 33.7 percent of their opportunities (28 of 83).

The Saints infused their defense with youth this season, and the result is seven new starters, including three rookies – left end Bobby Richardson and linebackers Stephone Anthony and Hau'oli Kikaha, plus Breaux, who didn't play college football (after suffering a serious neck injury in high school) but now routinely covers the opposition's best receiver. It's a hybrid defense with multiple packages, though coordinator Rob Ryan has been very selective in calling blitzes.

New Orleans frequently rotates its defensive linemen, a group that includes five rookies. The best player is right end Cameron Jordan, who leads the team with 6.0 sacks, including 3.0 when the Saints handed Atlanta its first loss of the season. Though blessed without outstanding speed, he is a power player against both the run and pass. Jordan has a good pass rush plan and physical hands. The other end is Richardson, who has a strong upper body and long arms, and plays with high energy. Tackle Kevin Williams is a 13-year veteran who is very smart and instinctive, and remains productive. Nose tackle John Jenkins is big, thick and strong. Backup end Kasim Edebali gets about 20 snaps and game, and is an active player with edge ability. The other reserves are rookies: Tavaris Barnes, who has good size and a high motor; Tyeler Davison, a nose tackle who flashes power in the pass rush; Kaleb Eulls, a gap charger with quickness; and Obum Gwacham, a raw sixth-round draft choice with upfield explosion.

The middle linebacker is Anthony, the Saints' second 2015 first-round draft choice. He has good physical tools, and leads the team with 45 tackles (32 solo). Yet another first-year player, Anthony is a disruptive high-energy player who does his best work on the pass rush. Dannell Ellerbe has been hampered by a hip injury. He is aggressive vs. the run and an excellent blitzer. Backup David Hawthorne is a former six-year starter who is a reliable wrap tackler. Michael Mauti and Ramon Humber are the other reserves.

Breaux has been a starter at left corner his entire debut season. A bump-and-run corner, he leads the team with 10 passes defensed. On the right side is Brandon Browner, who at 6-4 is exceptionally tall for a cornerback. He is a physical press corner with good ball awareness and unusual length to contest throws. Kenny Vaccaro is an active box safety who is instinctive vs. the run and solid when covering tight ends. Free safety Jairus Byrd has impressive anticipation and the ability to read a quarterback's eyes. Nickel back Damian Swann missed two games with a concussion and was replaced by Kyle Wilson. But Swann has practiced fully this week. The other secondary reserves are Keenan Lewis, Jamarca Sanford and Brian Dixon.



Kicker Kai Forbath, who formerly played in Washington, signed with the Saints on Oct. 19, when Zach Hocker was released. He has made 87 percent (60 of 69) of his career field goal attempts. Thomas Morstead is a strong-legged punter who normally handles kickoff duties (though Forbath kicked off last week). He has a 41.0-yard net average on 377 career punts. Yet another rookie, Marcus Murphy, has return averages of 9.7 yards on punts and 24.4 yards on kickoffs.

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