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New Orleans Saints defense creates pressure, confusion in dominant performance: Film study

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; The New Orleans Saints blitzed Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn so relentlessly during the first half of Friday night's preseason slaughter that his feelings were probably as hurt as his body. But it wasn't just the blitzing that allowed the ...

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Old 08-19-2013, 06:32 AM   #1
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The New Orleans Saints blitzed Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn so relentlessly during the first half of Friday night's preseason slaughter that his feelings were probably as hurt as his body. But it wasn't just the blitzing that allowed the Saints defense to rack up five first-half sacks as they built a 23-0 lead.

We also saw the confusion that the Saints' new 3-4 scheme is designed to create.

Saints coaches and players have explained that one of the key features of the 3-4 defensive front is that it's harder for opposing offenses to identify where the pressure will be coming from. And that was repeatedly the case against an overwhelmed Raiders front line on Friday:

- The best example came on the Saints' first sack in the first quarter. The Saints sent a total of five pass rushers, but they dropped outside linebacker Will Smith into coverage on the right side of their defense and sent inside linebacker Ramon Humber on a blitz to the left.

As a result, the Raiders double-teamed Saints right end Cameron Jordan - and nobody accounted for Humber, who cruised inside for a 9-yard sack.

Jordan sacks Flynn: Oakland Raiders vs. New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) sacks Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn (15) during the preseason game between the Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints at the Superdome on Friday, August 16, 2013. (Michael DeMocker, Nola.com / The Times-Picayune)
- The Saints' second sack, two plays later, wasn't about scheme as much as it was just a dominant play by Jordan, who beat left tackle Alex Barron for a 9-yard sack on third-and-7. After reviewing the TV replay of Friday's game, I'd say Jordan was the Saints' defensive player of the game, repeatedly wreaking havoc up front - though there were a number of worthy candidates.

- In the second quarter, the Saints defense burned Oakland's offensive line on three straight plays.

On the first one, the Saints lined up seven potential pass rushers near the line of scrimmage and sent six of them. This time, outside linebacker Jay Richardson dropped into coverage on the left side, while Smith took one step back then turned and rushed through a big hole in the middle of the offensive line. Smith hit Flynn seven yards behind the line of scrimmage, but Flynn escaped and lunged forward for a 1-yard loss instead.

- On the next play, the Saints had only two down linemen and sent only four rushers. But one of them was safety Roman Harper, who came untouched on a delayed blitz after the Raiders double-teamed both Smith and end Akiem Hicks.

- Then on the next play, the Saints again showed only two down linemen and rushed only three. But the Raiders actually triple-teamed Hicks. And Jordan won his one-on-one battle against right tackle Khalif Barnes, who was flagged for holding.

- Finally, later in the second quarter, the Saints sent seven pass rushers, and Smith flew in untouched for a five-yard sack.

There were several other occasions where blitz pressure forced Flynn into incomplete passes or quick, short completions - including the very first play of the game, where the Saints sent six rushers and dropped Richardson into coverage.

The blitz didn't always work, though. The Saints sent six rushers when Flynn threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to receiver Denarius Moore before halftime after Moore burned cornerback Keenan Lewis in coverage. And the Saints got lucky when Flynn missed a wide-open receiver while under pressure on the opening drive.

But for the most part, the secondary held up well in deep coverage for the second straight week.

Obviously the Saints' dominant defensive performance needs to be taken with a grain of salt, since it was only the preseason and since the Raiders might have the worst offensive line in the NFL right now.

Still, Friday night's game was a good example of how both the new 3-4 scheme and new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's aggressiveness can lead to an improved front.

I won't produce a full-scale Film Study until the regular season. But here are some more observations that stood out to me after reviewing the TV replay of Friday's first half:

- The Saints' defensive play of the night came against the run, not the pass, when they stuffed tailback Darren McFadden for no gain on fourth-an-1 on the opening drive. The Raiders' linemen went left, trying to clear out traffic for McFadden to run right. But the Saints' Smith made a great effort, holding strong against both tight end Jeron Mastrud and pulling guard Lucas Nix to clog a hole. And Saints linebackers Ramon Humber and David Hawthorne both flew in unblocked to stuff McFadden for no gain.

- The Saints' run game was much improved from Week 1, though still hit or miss at times. Their first run play of the night was a 4-yard loss by tailback Darren Sproles out wide to the left. The offensive line appeared to do its job, but receivers Lance Moore and Kenny Stills both missed their blocks.

Ingram touchdown: Oakland Raiders vs. New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) scores on a 2-yard run during the preseason game between the Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints at the Superdome on Friday, August 16, 2013. (Michael DeMocker, Nola.com / The Times-Picayune)
Later, tight end Ben Watson had a great block while lining up as the fullback on Mark Ingram's 2-yard touchdown run. And the Saints' run game got into a great rhythm in the second quarter, both inside and outside with Ingram and Sproles. Guard Jahri Evans had some monster blocks. And the Saints used Sproles as an inside runner a couple times - something they'd like to get back to doing this year.

However, the Saints did have another 3-yard loss on a delayed draw by Sproles that killed a drive in the red zone in the second quarter. It looked like Sproles and left tackle Charles Brown weren't on the same page when Brown shoved a defender inside and Sproles ran right toward him.

- The Saints' pass protection was even better than the run blocking - though it could be argued that the Raiders' pass rush was even worse than the Raiders' offensive line play.

I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like Drew Brees' 16-yard touchdown pass to receiver Kenny Stills in the first quarter. Brees held the ball for 9.5 seconds (I timed it with a stopwatch) before running to his left and firing a terrific pass to an outstretched Stills at the sideline, allowing Stills to make an even more terrific catch with his toes staying in bounds.

The Raiders only rushed three defenders on that play, and perhaps they were concerned about containing Brees from running free down the field (though he's not exactly Robert Griffin III). At one point, Brown was holding defensive tackle Stacy McGee at bay with just his left arm for two full seconds.

Jahri Evans: Oakland Raiders vs. New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints guard Jahri Evans (73) blocks for quarterback Drew Brees (9) during the preseason game between the Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints at the Superdome on Friday, August 16, 2013. (Michael DeMocker, Nola.com / The Times-Picayune)
It wasn't a perfect night for the Saints' pass protection (Brown was later flagged for holding after Brees was forced to hold the ball for a long time on a third-and-10 play; and blitz pressure forced Brees to throw incomplete to Graham on a third-and-8 play). But it was awfully good.

- We already gave receiver Nick Toon tons of well-deserved credit for his 56-yard catch in the first quarter. But Brees deserves just as much. Not only was it a gorgeous pass, deep down the field and perfectly in stride. But Brees threw it just before getting clobbered by defensive end Jason Hunter. ... The Saints' line held up well on the play, with Evans actually getting his hands on three different defenders. But tight end Jimmy Graham eventually lost his block on Hunter.

- The Saints' special teams were clearly the most improved unit from Week 1, with consistently solid coverage. The best individual effort I saw was an outstanding tackle by fullback Austin Johnson on a second quarter kickoff return. Johnson shed his blocker then slammed returner Josh Cribbs to the turf. ... Rafael Bush also had a nice solo tackle on a kickoff return in the first quarter. And rookie linebacker Kevin Reddick appeared to be flying toward the ball a few times, among others.

As rookie color analyst (and former Saints offensive tackle) Jon Stinchcomb said on the broadcast, the Saints' special teamers clearly got the memo after last week's struggles. By the way, I also thought Stinchcomb was impressive in his new role.

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Old 08-19-2013, 11:30 AM   #2
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Re: New Orleans Saints defense creates pressure, confusion in dominant performance: Film study

Good read!!
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Old 08-19-2013, 01:49 PM   #3
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Re: New Orleans Saints defense creates pressure, confusion in dominant performance: Film study

Our defense will surprise a few people early on.
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Old 08-19-2013, 05:18 PM   #4
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Re: New Orleans Saints defense creates pressure, confusion in dominant performance: Film study

Triplet is normally a good read. I did not know about Stinchcomb. That is cool
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