3TFO: Saints @ Packers, Week 4
Can Clay Keep it up?
After a ‘down’ year in which he recorded only six sacks (with plenty of QB disruptions), Clay Matthews is back in the spotlight. He has already surpassed his 2011 sack total and currently leads all edge rushers in our Pass Rush Productivity Signature Stat. His PRP of 19.4 this year would easily have been good enough for the top spot in 2011. All of this comes in spite of a change of sides for Matthews; roughly 90% of his rush snaps have come from the defensive right, as compared to just 10% last season.
Holding off Matthews will be the primary responsibility of Jermon Bushrod. Bushrod had a great 2011 campaign, in which he gave up only two sacks while playing more snaps than any other tackle. This year, however, he has already allowed 20 pressures, compared to the 43 he gave up all of last season. This doesn’t bode well for Brees, whose QB rating drops from 95.5 with no pressure to just 40.5 when under duress. If Bushrod can prove that this season has been an anomaly so far, the Packers may not be able to consistently disrupt Brees. If not, expect New Orleans to struggle through the air.
From Worst to First?
One of the biggest disappointments for the Packers in 2011 was the play of the defense. Coming off a 2010 year that saw the defense rank in the Top 5 in most objective categories, 2011 was a complete reversal, as the Green Bay defense surrendered more yards through the air than any defense in NFL history. This year they appear to have fixed whatever broke down last season and now lead the league in pass defense. While the ball-hawking Charles Woodson is putting in a fine year, it’s been young players that have made the biggest impact. Rookie Jerron McMillian leads all safeties with a +5.0 coverage grade. Though he’s been targeted only twice, he broke up one pass and intercepted another, and if not for a roughing the passer penalty would have had another pick last week. Fellow rookie Casey Hayward and third-year corner Sam Shields have put in an impressive start to the season as well, giving up less than 50 yards together.
The Packers’ secondary will face its toughest test this week with the Saints’ receiving corps. When these teams met in the season opener last year, Brees put up 419 yards on the porous Packer defense. His favorite target in that game was Marques Colston, who caught six balls in the coverage of five different Packers. Brees netted a QB rating of 132.4 when throwing in Colston’s direction last year. As the most targeted tight end so far this year, Jimmy Graham will be involved heavily in the passing game. Graham’s speed and size make him extremely difficult to cover down the field. He was nearly unstoppable last year on deep throws, catching all 13 passes thrown his way for 388 yards. In fact, the biggest threat to the Saints’ receiving corps may be themselves, as they’ve dropped 12 passes through only three weeks. Eliminating the drops may allow Brees to put up another huge game against Green Bay.
Stopping the Run
Former Defensive Coordinator Greg Williams is gone, and the impact on the defense has been immediate. The Saints have given up 34 points per game, which must improve if they want to get their season back on track. They were burned the last two weeks to the tune of 496 yards. The defensive line is getting good push, with run stuffers like Broderick Bunkley (+5.8 run defense) and Cameron Jordan (+8.5 run defense), but there is little resistance to runners who make it past the line. Curtis Lofton has proven to be an upgrade on last year’s linebacker group, but the rest of the unit fails to impress.
Having said that, the Saints are much less likely to be burned on long runs in this game than in previous weeks. Green Bay free agent signing Cedric Benson has yet to break off a run of over 15 yards. With James Starks still uncertain to play on Sunday, the Packers don’t have much else to turn to in the run game. It’s telling that the Packers’ second leading rusher this year is wide receiver Randall Cobb, who has 48 yards on two carries. Unlike last season, Green Bay has struggled this year when forced to be one-dimensional, so shutting down Benson early needs to be a top priority for New Orleans.
3TFO: Saints @ Packers, Week 4
Saints/Pack - Three to focus on...
Re: 3TFO: Saints @ Packers, Week 4
I'd love for our team to come out firing and CONTINUE to all through the game
This may be a trap game for the packers seen as our team hasn't looked how we all envisioned it would
Cam Jordan is by far our best defensive player, the article just proves it
Bushrod and Strief need to pull their head our their you know what, or chase daniel will be called in
Brees needs to limit the dumb decisions, throwing into coverage trying to make a superhuman play
As difficult as we've made it look, the biggest key to our success is getting pressure on aaron rodgers, i'm not that sure our pass rush will even show up, i just know thats what we need to do to win, Seattle proved that in the first half, ofcourse even though green bay's O line is very very poor, our D line is worse
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