||10-07-2005 03:16 PM
ESPN Insider:Scouts Inc Game Report
Reeling Packers looking for win No. 1By Scouts, Inc.
Why To Watch
The Saints have big-play threats at quarterback, receiver and running back but it's important not to overlook how well their offensive and defensive lines have played in their two wins this year. The Saints will have to win the battle in the trenches again this week, as Green Bay will be eager to get its first win of the season and should play with a lot of emotion at home. With the Packer faithful making it difficult for QB Aaron Brooks to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage, New Orleans' offensive line needs to open up seams for RB Deuce McAllister. The linemen also need to stay on the same page when Brooks drops back to pass regardless of the noise level. The defensive line needs to shut down Green Bay RB Ahman Green and force the Packers' receivers to make plays for QB Brett Favre.
It's been said that good leaders shoulder the blame when an organization is going through tough times and share the credit when things are going well. Favre certainly fits this description, but it would be foolish for fans to blame him for Green Bay's record. Until he starts getting more help from his supporting cast, the Packers will continue to struggle no matter how well Favre plays, and that includes this week.
When the Saints have the ball
Rushing: The Packers are giving up an average of just 3.2 yards per carry but they're having problems stopping teams on third down. Look for New Orleans offensive coordinator Mike Sheppard to hand the ball off to McAllister early and often. McAllister has good vision and he excels at picking up yards after contact. His ability to pick up three to four yards per carry means consistently handing him the ball should put Brooks in manageable third-down situations. That will help keep the Packers off balance, as they will frequently have to respect the run on third down.
Look for the Saints to run counters to try to help McAllister turn the corner when the Saints attack the perimeter. With the backside guard and FB Mike Karney leading the way for him, McAllister should get a seam and explode through holes. In addition, the counter action will make it easier for New Orleans blockers to get into position at the second level because the linebackers and safeties will have to hesitate for a second while reading the play. If they overreact to the initial action, they could take themselves out of the play allowing a blocker to get even deeper downfield. The only concern here is making sure the Saints seal the back side when they run right because counters take a little longer to develop than most plays and RDE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila has great closing speed.
Passing: New Orleans' offensive line is playing with excellent intensity and doing a good job of attacking blocks when Brooks drops back to pass. With his offensive linemen driving defenders inside or outside once they are in position, Brooks has had plenty of seams to exploit when he decides to scramble. However, the defense is capable of exploiting those seams as well so look for Green Bay defensive coordinator Jim Bates to run some delayed blitzes. Having a linebacker or safety hesitate before rushing the passer will give the Saints blockers time to get into position and open those gaps up. While this play takes longer to develop, the blitzing defender will have a clear path to Brooks if any of New Orleans' offensive linemen get caught out of position.
WR Joe Horn, who is the team's best vertical receiver, is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury. While there's a good chance he plays, there's reason to believe the Saints receiving corps will provide some big plays even if Horn isn't in the lineup. WR's Donte' Stallworth, Az-Zahir Hakim and Devery Henderson are dangerous open field runners that can turn a catch underneath into a long gain. They will be working against a Packers secondary that has taken poor pursuit angles and done a poor job of wrapping up at times. It's also important to note that McAllister rarely drops passes and he runs screens very well, so he could make some big plays in the passing game as well.
When the Packers have the ball
Rushing: It's clear that the offensive line isn't doing a good job of driving defenders off the ball and opening up holes for their backs. However, they aren't entirely to blame for Green Bay having the second worst rushing attack in the NFC at this point, as the backfield should shoulder some of the blame as well. FB William Henderson is a tough and powerful lead blocker but he has lost a step with age and he's having a harder time getting into position at the second level. As a result, backup Vonta Leach is seeing more playing time on running downs. While Leach has good size and quickness he isn't as fundamentally sound as Henderson so he has had problems getting into position as well. Their inability to consistently root defenders out of the hole when the Packers run inside and seal the edge when they run outside will allow the Saints' linebackers and safeties to get to the ball quicker.
RBs Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport have also struggled to hit the hole hard and haven't been finishing their runs with authority. The fact that Green, whose status for this week's game is unknown at this point, injured his knee last week makes matters worse because the injury will likely make him even more hesitant. If Green and Davenport don't start running harder, they won't be able to exploit a New Orleans back seven that doesn't always do a sound job of tackling.
Passing: Much has been said about the play of OGs Adrian Klemm and William Whitticker and rightfully so, as they have been inconsistent at best. However, it's important to note that OTs Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton aren't playing well either and they were expected to be the anchors off this offensive line. Tauscher and Clifton have to show significant improvement and start playing up to their ability this week or Favre will take some big hits. DEs Charles Grant, Darren Howard and Tony Bryant give defensive coordinator Rick Venturi four effective pass rushers that he can keep fresh with a steady rotation. Favre has already fumbled four times matching his season total from last year. New Orleans' ends do a good job of looking to knock the ball loose when they get to the quarterback. As a result, Clifton must protect Favre's blind side and Favre must cover the ball up or throw it away when he sees the pressure closing in on him.
One of the ways offensive coordinator Tom Rossley will try to help his offensive line and Favre is by running a lot of three-step drops that allow Favre to get rid of the ball quickly. This approach should be effective if the Saints corners continue to give receivers a healthy cushion in an effort to prevent the big play. DCs Mike McKenzie and Fakhir Brown need to get their hands into the frames of Green Bay's receivers because it will disrupt the rhythm of the passing game and force Favre to hold onto the ball a little longer.
Take 2: Saints vs. PackersBy Scouts, Inc.
Tuesday, our scouts filed their advance advance scouting report on this week's matchup between the Saints and Packers. Now they're back with a second look.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Brett Favre was simply outstanding in the second half against Carolina on Monday Night. Though he turns 36 on Monday, Favre is still one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. He has elite arm strength, intangibles and toughness. He is as competitive as anyone in the league and can still buy time with his feet and create plays that many others cannot.
But as great as he is, he cannot win games alone. The Packers' running game has been horrendous, so the Saints will pressure Favre relentlessly and make him throw from compromising positions to force interceptions. Favre has thrown eight TDs and made some awe-inspiring plays already this season. Unfortunately for the Packers, his greatness will not translate into wins without players around him that do their jobs.
McAllisterht> ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ The Saints should give the Packers a heavy dose of Deuce McAllister. Massive run-stuffing NT Grady Jackson isn't in top football shape and doesn't play all that many snaps. The Packers need to keep Jackson fresh in a rotation and use him exclusively on running downs to slow down McAllister. Jackson can be an immovable object that eats up a tremendous amount of space in the middle of the field. The other Packers defensive tackles are smaller and prone to be run against. If New Orleans runs the ball for a high percentage of their plays, they are bound to wear Jackson and the smaller defensive tackles out, leading to long runs and eating chunks of clock in an unfriendly stadium. Patience in their running game is key.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ It seems that everyone on Green Bay's offense is hurt or very inexperienced except for Favre and Donald Driver. Predicting which offensive linemen will play where is a crapshoot at this point, but it is very safe to say their continuity and timing will be off and at least one player -- and probably several -- will be playing a position that they are not accustomed to. Starting OC and O-line leader Mike Flanagan has already been ruled out for the game. Najeh Davenport could get the start over Ahman Green. This may be an improvement. Green has not been productive this season and isn't running with power, burst or conviction. Davenport may be able to make more yardage on his own than Green.
The Packers had only three receivers for the majority of the Monday Night game after Terrence Murphy's injury and two of them -- Robert Ferguson and Antonio Chatman -- have very little experience. TE Bubba Franks is also questionable. This offense could really use his two-way production to aid this ailing unit.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Green Bay's offensive tackles, whoever they might be with the Packers' rash of O-line injuries, are going to have their hands full with New Orleans' defensive ends. The Saints have four ends that get after the passer, and starters Darren Howard and Charles Grant are two of the best in the business. Favre has four fumbles already, and assuming he is forced to put the team on his shoulders again and throw the ball repeatedly, the Saints' ends will spend a lot of time in Green Bay's backfield. Favre feels the rush, steps up in the pocket and creates space for himself as well as anyone in the business, but he will certainly take hits if Green Bay is forced to throw on nearly every down.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Penalties could change this football game. The inconsistent Saints have greatly improved in this department of late and only had four last week vs. the Bills. Consistency has been a problem for the Saints franchise for years and firming up their mistakes would take this team much closer to realizing their potential. Green Bay's penalty issues only are getting worse and with so many backups in the lineup, it could continue to go downhill. The Packers have committed 49 penalties so far this season.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Favre must account for SS Dwight Smith on every pass play. Smith is an athletic enough cover man to play corner like he did in Tampa Bay and has the deep range for free safety where he began this season as the starter. Now he's moving to strong safety to fill in for the injured Jay Bellamy and shows toughness. Smith is a playmaker who reads the quarterback's eyes and anticipates plays very well. With Favre's pension for throwing interceptions (eight on the season), Smith is the one with the best chance to benefit and make a big play.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Pass rushing RDE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila must be able to get the better of LT Wayne Gandy on obvious passing downs. Without blitzing, the Packers defense will struggle to get pressure on Aaron Brooks unless KGB has a big game. The remainder of the Packers' D-line doesn't have any explosive pass rushers capable of creating consistent havoc against a talented Saints' O-line. Gandy is experienced and light on his feet for such a big guy and has excelled in pass protection. This matchup will go a long way in determining the Saints' offensive success on third and long.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ New Orleans has enough wide receiver talent and depth (assuming Joe Horn will play) to attack CB Ahmad Carroll on a consistent basis. Carroll has struggled mightily. He takes too many chances and is flagged for an inordinate amount of pass interference penalties. Between Horn, Donte' Stallworth and the burner Devery Henderson, Brooks should be able to pick out mismatches against Carroll for big yardage.
Rookie Terrence Murphy and RB Najeh Davenport were the Packers' starting kickoff returners, but due to injuries to Murphy (head/neck) and starting RB Ahman Green (right knee), neither may be back returning kickoffs. It is imperative for the Packers to begin drives with solid field position and this will not help the situation.
Green Bay needs at least one big play on special teams to ignite the Lambeau crowd and their own sideline. A big return, blocked punt or a forced fumble would give the Packers a much better chance at victory. The Saints must be aware of this, not take unnecessary chances, and put a premium on protecting the football in all phases.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ New Orleans WR Joe Horn or Donte' Stallworth against Green Bay CB Ahmad Carroll
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ New Orleans OC LeCharles Bentley against Green Bay NT Grady Jackson
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Green Bay RDE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila against New Orleans LT Wayne Gandy
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ New Orleans DEs against Green Bay OTs
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¢ Green Bay QB Brett Favre vs. New Orleans SS Dwight Smith
As poorly as things have gone for Green Bay so far this season, the 0-4 Packers are only one win behind the leaders in the NFC North. Though only the fifth game of the season, this is close to a must-win situation for Green Bay. The Lambeau mystique was much more prevalent when Green Bay had good players. Favre will go to battle with little support around him against a New Orleans team that is very talented on offense but still inconsistent overall. That being said, the Saints just have too many matchups in their favor and McAllister and the offensive line will wear down the Packers' defense and leave Lambeau with the victory.
Prediction: Saints 24, Packers 21
There was a graph that shows what positions we are better at, and whatthey are better at. We got the nod at RB, WR, OL, DL, DB, ST, and overall. They got the nod at QB, LB, and coach.