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Saints film room: Michael Thomas, Cam Jordan get star treatment in win over Giants

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Old 10-04-2018, 11:18 PM   #1
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Old 10-04-2018, 11:18 PM   #2
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Re: Saints film room: Michael Thomas, Cam Jordan get star treatment in win over Giants

BY NICK UNDERHILL | nunderhill@theadvocate.com Oct 2, 2018 - 4:08 pm

It is always interesting to see how opposing teams decide to approach star players.

Last year, the Carolina Panthers decided they weren’t going to get beat by New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, so they decided to make Drew Brees beat them. It backfired, and the Saints won.

On Sunday, the Giants decided they had to try to stop wide receiver Michael Thomas and defensive end Cam Jordan. They failed on many accounts during the Saints' 31-18 win, but it illustrated the issues teams have when facing New Orleans. Do you stop Brees, Kamara or Thomas?

There still doesn’t appear to be a right answer, but the Saints were happy to learn they can win a game without Thomas racking up 100 yards or Brees throwing a touchdown pass.

“It’s good to know we can do that; it’s good to know we can win like that,” Thomas said. “At the end of the day, we’re trying to win as many games as possible here, play for a championship.”

The first step to slowing down Thomas — who has reached the level where four catches for 47 yards is considered a slow day — was to have cornerback Janoris Jenkins shadow him. Jenkins isn’t what you would call a lockdown cornerback, but he is one of the better players in the NFL. He held opposing quarterbacks to a 65.2 passer rating when they targeting him in 2016 and 81.1 last year, according to Pro Football Focus.

Jenkins followed Thomas around the field and was in coverage for all four of his receptions. But it took more than that. On the second play of the game, a New York safety got caught looking just long enough for Ted Ginn to get targeted deep on an incomplete pass against one-on-one coverage. And Thomas later drew triple coverage on a dig route which opened up Cam Meredith for a gain of 20 on a crossing route against single coverage.

“They were doubling and bringing pressure, playing defense,” Thomas said. “We watched the film last week when they played Houston ad they kind of did the same thing with DeAndre Hopkins and (Will) Fuller got open.”

But the bulk of the attention came in the red zone. Thomas was bracketed by a cornerback and safety on five consecutive plays down there, including one in which he drew the attention of four men on a crossing route near the goal line. The Saints didn't capitalize on all the attention paid to Thomas because the pass to Ginn fell incomplete.

From here on, Thomas should expect opponents to pay a similar level of attention (OK, maybe not quadruple coverage). He will likely see more and more No. 1 cornerbacks follow him around the field, and the Saints should probably expect to see multiple players thrown his way in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

Thomas has become the most automatic receiver in the league by catching 42 of 44 passes thrown his direction this season. What the Saints need is for some of their other players to step up and make plays in critical situations.

With all the attention on Thomas in the red zone, the Saints only converted on 2 of 6 trips inside the 20. When one player has four defenders around him, someone else needs to take advantage of the favorable coverage elsewhere on the field.

On defense, Jordan got similar attention throughout the game, and it was one of the reasons the Saints' defense struggled to get pressure during the first half, though the gates opened up a little after halftime as Jordan finished with five pressures.

“We wanted to have a presence on No. 94,” Giants coach Pat Shurmur said. “So, that’s partly why we (used heavy formations), and it worked initially.”

There were multiple plays on which Jordan had a tight end running at him or chipping, and he often had to fight his way out of double teams. On one play, which resulted in an incomplete pass to Odell Beckham Jr., Jordan was blocked by three players.

These things happen to Jordan on a weekly basis. It’s what teams do the best pass rushers in the NFL — but the attention they paid to Jordan on some snaps seemed above and beyond.

The good news is that players like Sheldon Rankins, who also played well the previous week in the Saints' 43-37 overtime win against the Falcons, are also stepping up and getting after the quarterbacks. And while it has been a slow start for defensive end Alex Okafor, rookie Marcus Davenport appears to be taking strides each week.

This is how it is going to look for the Saints each week. This is what happens when you have a lot of talent on your roster.

Coverage revisited: The Saints' pass coverage looked about the same on review as it did live. Some things still need to be better, but it was a step in the right direction after the Saints had multiple things go wrong the first three weeks of the season.

The main thing that stood out was how organized the unit was. The Saints correctly defended a pick play (and got beat on one) and made switches a few other times without issue.

One of those came during the first half near the goal line, where Beckham ran through multiple zones without anyone getting caught up in the wash. The pass fell incomplete. It felt like the kind of coverage the Saints would have busted a week ago.

Ken Crawley and P.J. Williams both did what they needed to do. The two surrendered 10 combined catches, but only surrendered 42 total yards. They kept everything in front of them and quickly made tackles. It won’t get anyone on a highlight reel, but they got the job done.

Crawley had an opportunity at an interception and squandered it. He needs to start converting on those and turning them into something. That has been the one knock on him each year since he entered the league.

As far as the matchup between Marshon Lattimore and Beckham, it still looks the same as it did after the game in the light of day. Lattimore put together a solid performance against him.

He also often made an effort to keep Beckham in front of him and didn’t allow him many opportunities to do much. There was a reason the ball wasn’t going his direction. The Saints also smartly mixed in zone coverages to keep him contained.

While Lattimore only surrendered 49 yards to Beckham (including 27 on a soft coverage late in the game), it is only fair to point out the Giants receiver missed out on about 30 yards due to bad throws by Manning.

On one of those missed throws, Manning had Sterling Shepard streaking behind the defense and never saw him.

One other thing to note: Vonn Bell has been pretty good this season. The Saints are only using him in nickel packages with Kurt Coleman playing the base downs, but Bell has done well in those situations. One of them showed up when he broke up what would have touchdown pass during the second half.

Win the line: The New Orleans defensive line didn’t get much going during the first half but broke through with a good amount of pressure during the second half.

Rankins, who had three pressures, is starting to flash consistently. He had four pressures last week and came back with three against the Giants. Rankins showed an impressive spin move a few times. Jordan also performed well.

The team did an excellent job in run defense. Taylor Stallworth has played very well at nose tackle. The team surrendered runs of 28 and 10 yards. However, that also means New York had 27 yards on its 15 other runs.

“Your best?!? Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home (with) the prom queen.” - Sean Connery in The Rock
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Old 10-05-2018, 01:24 AM   #3
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Re: Saints film room: Michael Thomas, Cam Jordan get star treatment in win over Giants

All the Puzzle pieces are in place.
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Old 10-05-2018, 11:33 AM   #4
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Re: Saints film room: Michael Thomas, Cam Jordan get star treatment in win over Giants

Payton still should've done more to get Thomas the ball - don't like players who are red hot being used to that degree as a decoy - feed 'em, Sean!
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Old 10-05-2018, 11:45 AM   #5
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Re: Saints film room: Michael Thomas, Cam Jordan get star treatment in win over Giants

Ken Crawley and P.J. Williams both did what they needed to do. The two surrendered 10 combined catches, but only surrendered 42 total yards. They kept everything in front of them and quickly made tackles. It won’t get anyone on a highlight reel, but they got the job done.


This ^^^ is encouraging. Alex Smith is on tap.

Keep grinding.
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Old 10-05-2018, 12:08 PM   #6
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Re: Saints film room: Michael Thomas, Cam Jordan get star treatment in win over Giants

Originally Posted by K Major View Post
Ken Crawley and P.J. Williams both did what they needed to do. The two surrendered 10 combined catches, but only surrendered 42 total yards. They kept everything in front of them and quickly made tackles. It won’t get anyone on a highlight reel, but they got the job done.


This ^^^ is encouraging. Alex Smith is on tap.

Keep grinding.
Don't underestimate Smith...
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