The Fleur-De-Lis Report: Saints may have finally found an offensive identity behind Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill
The New Orleans Saints (2-3) welcome Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals (2-3) for a highly anticipated week 6 game inside the Superdome. Last week, the Saints escaped with a much-needed win against the Seahawks thanks to Taysom Hill's and Alvin Kamara's incredible performances. Now, they look to extend that momentum this week perhaps around a new offensive identity that prioritizes running the football.
OBSERVATIONS FROM THIS WEEK
Monday, the team placed rookie wide receiver (WR) Chris Olave into concussion protocol. Olave suffered the concussion on his lone touchdown catch after being slung to the ground and hitting his head on the turf. It's a sight the league doesn’t want to see, especially after the incident with Dolphins quarterback (QB) Tua Tagovailoa. Head Coach Dennis Allen told the media the rookie wideout is in good spirits but there is no timetable for his return. Olave was able to practice this week after clearing all stages in concussion protocol.
Cornerback (CB) Marshon Lattimore also evaluated for a bruised kidney after leaving Sunday’s game early. Allen says he expects Lattimore to be okay but is ruled out for today’s game.
Wednesday’s practice featured seven players listed as non-participants. Aside from Lattimore and Olave, Deonte Harty (foot), Jarvis Landry (ankle), Michael Thomas (foot), Calvin Throckmorton (hip), and Payton Turner (chest) were also not present during the first day of practice. Thomas, Landry, Harty, Lattimore, and Turner would not participate at all this week and are all ruled out for today. Throckmorton and Olave did return for Thursday’s and Friday’s sessions, though sources say Olave will not be able to play today.
Other guys worked to get healthy in limited practice throughout the week. Taysom Hill (rib) was limited Wednesday coming off his best game in a Saints uniform but practiced fully both Thursday and Friday. It doesn’t seem like his rib injury is bothering him that much and the team is just making sure he's recovering properly. Paulson Adebo was limited all week with a knee injury and is considered ‘questionable’ to play. Adebo says he’s fine and ready to go which is good news considering he’ll be expected to take on Ja'Marr Chase. Other guys like Marcus Maye (rib), JT Gray (foot), and Malcolm Roach (ankle) were all present and practicing this week. Gray is considered a full go while Maye and Roach are ‘questionable’. Roach is recently coming off injury reserve while Maye has missed the last two games.
One of the biggest developments this week is the return of QB Jameis Winston. Winston practiced all week long in a limited role as he recovers from a back and ankle injury. Dennis Allen called Winston’s return a “step in the right direction” despite announcing on Friday the team plans to stick with Andy Dalton for the third straight week. Winston is still listed as 'questionable' and will likely serve as the emergency QB.
Also this week, the Saints also added some depth to the runningback (RB) room, signing free agents Jordan Howard and Jake Funk to the practice squad. And Taysom Hill was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week after his monster performance against Seattle that helped end the Saints three game losing streak. Truly a well-deserved honor for such a special player.
We also got a major update in the legal situation surrounding All-Pro Alvin Kamara. The lawsuit against Kamara was filed Friday stemming from his alleged assault and battery case during last year’s pro bowl. Sources say the lawsuit seeks both compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $10 million. The league doesn’t plan to discipline Kamara until a verdict is reached in court.
PREVIEWING THE BENGALS
There’s a lot of hype surrounding this game because of the return of LSU legends Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase. But make no mistake about it, the Saints aren’t concerned about a couple of local icons. Dennis Allen said it best…”We’re in the NFL now and they’re [Burrow and Chase] part of the enemy.” New Orleans understands how important it is to get back to an even .500 record.
Last week, we saw this offense take a major step forward after struggling for much of the season. The Saints have actually been a top 10 rushing team in the NFL but penalties and costly turnovers have led to the rushing attack being phased out during the course of games. Against Seattle, the Saints offense were able to stay in more favorable situations and allow Taysom Hill and Alvin Kamara to take off. They are ranked 10th in rush yards with 681 and 6th in rushing TDs with 7. That’s a recipe for success that perhaps they can build their identity around.
The Bengals defense will be a challenge as they’ve had some success at stopping the run. Cincinnati ranks 6th in rush yards allowed, giving up just under 500 yards total this season. They’ve also only allowed one rushing TD this year.
Without Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry, and Chris Olave, I’m concerned about the Saints passing attack against Cincinnati’s secondary. Safety Jessie Bates is one of the best playmaking safeties in the league and the Saints are familiar with Vonn Bell who is also capable of making big plays.
For the Saints defense, today should be a Cam Jordan game. Jordan has been outstanding yet again for this team, logging 3.5 sacks so far this season. The pass rush as a whole started the year off slow but has greatly picked up production the last two weeks. The Bengals offensive line has struggled to protect Joe Burrow all season long which has directly contributed to their 2-3 start. Jordan and the Saints front will be asked to take advantage of the Bengals’ poor offensive line to help compensate for the loss of Lattimore in the back end. I’m not as confident that Adebo can hold a guy like Ja'Marr Chase, so it’s important Burrow doesn’t have time to get the ball out.
Kickoff is at noon from the Superdome. The Saints will then have a short turnaround as they take on the Cardinals next week for Thursday Night Football. Next week’s ‘Fleur-De-Lis Report’ will have a full post-game analysis.
Last game showed me what the Saints can be if they just play relatively clean football. New Orleans is one of the most penalized teams in the NFL along with having a negative turnover differential. But despite all that, I mentioned how well they’ve run the ball this season. The offensive inefficiencies throughout the first four weeks limited the effectiveness of the ground game because it kept the Saints in situations that made running the ball obsolete. But perhaps after two weeks of decent offensive production, the Saints are ready to take off with Kamara and Hill leading the way. The duo combined for 215 rushing yards against Seattle and what makes Kamara and Hill especially unique are their secondary skills. Between Kamara’s ability as a pass catcher and Hill’s ability to be a threat throwing the ball, I believe the Saints may have finally unlocked a winning offensive formula.
The betting odds favor Cincinnati by 3 points which I believe is fitting. There’s too much uncertainty around who Andy Dalton will be throwing passes to. Potentially being down all three starters at the WR position might be too much for the offense to overcome against a fairly solid secondary.
Furthermore, the Bengals have arguably one of the best WR corps along with a top notch QB that will be looking to put a lot of pressure on this banged up secondary. I think the loss of Marshon Lattimore will make it entirely too challenging for Paulson Adebo, who’s struggled these last couple weeks in coverage, now tasked with covering Ja'Marr Chase.
I have the Saints falling in a close game, 20-17.
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