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saint5221 09-10-2003 07:02 AM

WEEK 2 GAMEPLAN: Saints vs. Texans

WEEK 2 GAMEPLAN: Saints vs. Texans
By TCU Dan - Staff Writer - 5:06 pm CST

Now that Sunday’s disappointment at Seattle has passed and is hopefully all but a distant memory (at least in the minds of the players), it is time to take a look forward to next Sunday’s matchup against the Houston Texans. The Texans shocked the NFL and the world in week one by upsetting the Miami Dolphins. The Saints could regain some lost confidence within themselves and within the community if they come away with a win. Here are some keys and matchups to watch out for on September 14th.


Unlike the Dolphins, the Saints have exceptional depth at the wide receiver position. And while the wide receivers were not a sight to behold Sunday (lots of drops), they are the key to taking advantage of the Texans’ talented but thin secondary and aggressive 3-4 defense.

The Saints must establish the passing game first and foremost against the Texans’ defense. The proven approach in countering the 3-4 defense is to spread the field with three and four wide receivers and using multiple motions at the line of scrimmage. This forces the defense to either nickel up and mirror the motion or otherwise stay in the base defense and try to establish a tempo with the zone blitz (the key to a successful 3-4 scheme).

When nickeled up, the Texans seriously reduce the amount of talent on the field. They are like the Steelers in that there is a large drop-off in talent from their first and second corners to their third and fourth. Not only will the matchups be in favor of the Saints’ wide receivers, but the running lanes that will be opened for Deuce McAllister should be large and abundant.

If the Texans stay aggressive with the 3-4 and choose to rely the zone-blitz, the short to intermediate passing game should thrive. Expect to see Boo Williams and Ernie Conwell motioned and used in the H-back role for a large part of the contest. Against the zone blitzes, they can create favorable pass-blocking matchups and work the flats, opening up zones between the hashes and underneath the safeties.

Texans' starting corners Marcus Coleman and Aaron Glenn are very talented, but can be taken advantage of in certain situations. Both corners like to jump the quick slants and short to medium outs, which are both key patterns in the west coast offense. Donte Stallworth and Joe Horn can exploit this aggressive play early on in first down and short yardage situations. A slant-and-go or out-and-go/rail would be a good way to get a quick touchdown or at least put the front seven back on their heals and make way for Deuce McAllister to have a big day.

Ultimately the Saints must play aggressive football while trying to limit turnovers at the same time. Hopefully the coaching staff will mix up the play calling to prevent predictability and try to come out with an early lead, thereby establishing a tempo and breaking Houston’s spirit. Look for Deuce McAllister to have a big day running out of multiple one-back sets and working the cutback lanes.


Statistically, the Saints defense turned in an average outing against the Seahawks. While they limited Matt Hasselback to under 150 yards passing, they allowed Shaun Alexander to gain over 100 yards on the ground and completely fell apart in the second quarter.

The return of weakside linebacker Derrick Rodgers will hardly compensate for the loss of defensive end Darren Howard. That being said, Rodgers presence should dramatically improve both the run defense and the pass rush. If second year defensive end Charles Grant is in fact shifted over to the weak side, look for Rodgers to be blitzed early and often in order to disrupt that side of the offensive backfield. Rodgers is at his best when moving upfield and could allow Grant to pick and choose his lanes and angles while keeping him isolated on a single blocker.

Without Howard in the lineup for the next two to three months, the focus of many will be on the up-and-coming Grant. While Grant must remain a consistent force, the lineman who the Saints desperately need to step his game up is defensive tackle Grady Jackson. I am not that Grady had a bad game against the Seahawks. But I am suggesting that he needs to begin having excellent games from here on. If the 330-pound Jackson can consistently push the pocket and attract double teams, the entire front seven will be much more effective. No quarterback is good throwing off of his back foot, including David Carr. Multiple blitz packages and pressure up the middle could put an end to the Texans offensive fortune of last week (zero sacks allowed versus the Dolphins).

The Saints’ linebackers will have to be aggressive versus the Texans’ power running game. Having Derrick Rodgers back in the lineup should help slow a very powerful runner in Stacy Mack. While James Allen was sound in his tackling last week, he failed to be a disruptive force in the Seattle backfield. Most of Allen’s tackles were drag-downs and resulted in 3 to 7 yard gains. Rodgers' upfield, aggressive style should disrupt some runs in the backfield. The Saints’ defenders MUST hustle to the ball on every play as Mack is one of the league's more powerful runner.

Fortunately, Mack’s power dimension should work in the Saints favor. He is best when running behind a lead blocker and while he has underrated agility, he is not a cutback guy. If the Saints can shore up their tackling and the offense can sustain an early lead, look for Mack to be held to under 80 yards rushing.

In the secondary, the pressure will be on newly acquired safety Tebucky Jones. The Texans possess three young and talented wide receivers in Andre Johnson, Corey Bradford, and Jabar Gaffney. Each of these receivers are great complements to one another as each brings a different dimension to the offense.

Johnson is young and has infinite talent, but his hands are still inconsistent. Look for the Saints to try to match his physical play. When covered tightly, Johnson has trouble making the tough catches and often loses footballs off of his fingertips. In Bradford, the Saints will look to play a little bit loser and bring him down quickly after he catches the ball. The corners and safeties will have to break down and wrap up on Bradford, as he is an ace for bouncing off of armless tackles. Gaffney likes to work the deep seams and the corner routes, so look for Saints to rotate and shift their formations and zones right before the snap or blitz directly at David Carr in spread formations. Hopefully this style of defense will result in a turnover or two.

The most important factor in defending against the Houston passing attack will be Tebucky Jones’ ability to take command of the defensive backfield. He must establish his presence in the center of the field and pick and chose his shots. While big hits are effective in separating receivers from the ball, Tebucky must remember to wrap up and not always go for the highlight hit, especially when the receiver’s back is turned. To control the passing game, you must first control the middle of the field. When a defensive secondary begins to force a team to try and work the perimeter, the defense gains an edge. Not only is it a matter of time before an out route results in an interception, but it is a lot easier to push a receiver out of bounds than tackle him in the open field.


The Saints slow start on defense was to be expected, but their poor offensive performance was by far the most disappointing aspect of Sunday’s game. The Saints go into this week of practice humbled and frustrated. Next Sunday's contest is the home opener so the fans should be rowdy and loud. If the coaching staff can piece together a innovative game plan, and the offense, defense, and special teams can get back on the same page, there is no reason why the Saints should not come out with a decisive victory against a lesser Houston football team.

jm 09-10-2003 12:47 PM

WEEK 2 GAMEPLAN: Saints vs. Texans
Well Saint5221,
I\'m sorry I can\'t offer an indepth game plan as you have but all I can say is, the Saints have got to find a way to win! No excuses just a win. The only observation I can offer is for some reason this high powered offense is certainly under acheiving. I know last year is last year, but the trend started there. Against the Bengals they scored 13 points , against the Panthers they scored 6 points and now against Seattle they scored 10 points. There has got to be a reason for this and it is correctable. We have had more than our share of dropped passes for whatever reason.
I\'m not a coach and I don\'t know the answers but surely someone can fix the problem.( I hope)

[Edited on 10/9/2003 by jm]

BillyCarpenter1 09-10-2003 02:29 PM

WEEK 2 GAMEPLAN: Saints vs. Texans
The thing that has been missing from the Saints offense is Aaron running with the ball. I would like to see some plays called early in the game designed specifically for Aaron to run. I think if we can get defenses to respect Aaron\'s running ability, it would open up things for the receivers and Deuce. Aaron also needs to run for yardage when nothings open, rather than just eat the ball or throw it away.

saint5221 09-10-2003 02:36 PM

WEEK 2 GAMEPLAN: Saints vs. Texans
That\'s not my gameplan jm, it\'s from a Saints Report staff writer, the link at the top is to the original article. I just posted it for everyone to read.

lumm0x 09-10-2003 04:52 PM

WEEK 2 GAMEPLAN: Saints vs. Texans
Billy you are so right about Aaron running the ball. It changes the way the defense has to approach the Saints. Even Philly\'s offense on Monday started to move better near the end when McNabb started to tuck it away.

BillyCarpenter1 09-10-2003 05:30 PM

WEEK 2 GAMEPLAN: Saints vs. Texans
LummOx -- I noticed that about the Bucs/Eagles game also. Make ya wonder why they didn\'t do that earlier. Besides me thinking Aaron needs to run the ball, I beleive that when the Saints offense is struggling, that the play calling lacks imagination. Right now the coaches seem to be calling plays to not lose the game, rather than to win the game. The offense is clearly lacking confidence right now and I think the play calling reflects that the coahes don\'t have confidence in them either.

Confidence is a funny thing. I know when I shoot pool if I feel like I can\'t make the shot -- then I usually don\'t and the only way to get that confidence back is to sink a few balls. I rambling here but the coaches need to be more creative in the play calliing and show more faith in the offense.

lumm0x 09-10-2003 06:06 PM

WEEK 2 GAMEPLAN: Saints vs. Texans
I believe a lot of QB\'s don\'t like the \"running QB\" stigma when it\'s placed on them, but more than that, it is the offensive coordinator\'s job to design plays that force the QB to scramble. Personally I wouldn\'t care if he didn\'t want to tuck the ball away. I\'d design alot of roll outs and strict QB run plays that make him use that as a offensive play. That is not a knock against Aaron if he does feel that way, and I\'m not saying that he does. I just hear alot of comments from QB\'s that make me think they don\'t like being referred to in that way.
I also agree that alot of the play calling was conservative, and hopefully they\'ll be more apt to get creative this weekend.

BillyCarpenter1 09-10-2003 06:11 PM

WEEK 2 GAMEPLAN: Saints vs. Texans
I agree that I think Aaron might have a complex about being known as a running QB. I think Mike Vick feels like he needs to prove he\'s a passing QB.

I also wonder if McCarthy and Haz have bought into the hoopla that our receivers are so great that the offense can\'t be stopped so they just go vanilla with the play calling and dare defenses to beat us.

SugarbowlBaby 09-10-2003 06:37 PM

WEEK 2 GAMEPLAN: Saints vs. Texans
The thing that has been missing from the Saints offense is Aaron running with the ball

An excellent observation Billy. I\'m not a fan of running Q.B.s but when A.B. burns teams with his feet it opens a lot of oppurtunities for the offense. He\'s no Michael Vick but I\'ll bet he lasts a lot longer than Vic does and I think he\'ll eventually be a better QB.( if he smartens up some.)

WhoDat 09-11-2003 12:10 PM

WEEK 2 GAMEPLAN: Saints vs. Texans

I beleive that when the Saints offense is struggling, that the play calling lacks imagination. Right now the coaches seem to be calling plays to not lose the game, rather than to win the game. The offense is clearly lacking confidence right now and I think the play calling reflects that the coahes don\'t have confidence in them either.
Couldn\'t agree more with this point. Well said Billy. Still, the key differences that I need to see over last week are:
1. Stop the running game
2. Get rid of the turnovers and mental mistakes (dropping balls, missed blocks, etc.)
3. Attack - on both sides of the ball. Blitz on D, don\'t read/react. Spread the O and gun it - get Deuce outside of the tackles on something other than a cut-back once in a while.

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