The Fleur-De-Lis Report: The Saints defense will be tested again this week against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens
The New Orleans Saints (3-5) will be featured in a primetime Monday Night Showdown against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens (5-3). The Saints are third in the NFC South following last week’s win with another opportunity this week to contend for first place. Jackson and the Ravens are currently playing at a very high level, coming into the Superdome winners of their last two games. Needless to say, this week will certainly pose another challenge for the Saints’ defense one week removed from their most dominant performance of the season.
OBSERVATIONS FROM THIS WEEK
Wide Receiver (WR) Michael Thomas’ season is likely over. Coach Dennis Allen elaborated on Thomas’ foot injury after the team placed him on Injury Reserve (IR) earlier this week. The official injury report says the All-Pro receiver is dealing with a dislocated toe. According to sources, the medical staff attempted to save Thomas’ season but realized the issue is worse than previously thought. He will need surgery.
For obvious reasons, Saints fans are frustrated. Thomas has missed 5 games this season since suffering that injury back in week 3 and a total of 31 games since 2020. Several people are even starting to question Thomas’ will to play and his future in New Orleans. Alvin Kamara came to his defense earlier this week saying “A player like that is fighting to get back, not only for the team, but for the fans and the city–nobody’s in here like ‘yeah, let me get injured and not play and just get paid.’”
The reality of Michael Thomas is that he's an aging player approaching 30 years old and now the injuries are starting to pile up. At this point, it's unlikely we’ll ever see the same player from that incredible 2019 season ever again. I do believe the criticism against him is unfair considering, as Kamara alluded to, no one wants to get hurt. But on the other hand, I understand why fans are upset. Thomas is still one of the highest paid receivers in football all for him not to be playing. It’s a disappointing situation for both sides. The only bright side to this is that despite his absence, the Saints offense has been on a roll, averaging around 30 points per game since week 4. Rookie WR Chris Olave has stepped up tremendously in the WR1 role, still leading all rookies in yards (547) and receptions (37).
Fortunately for the Saints, this week’s injury report wasn’t nearly as bad as it has been in recent weeks. Runningback (RB) Mark Ingram (knee) and cornerback (CB) Marshon Lattimore (bruised kidney) were some of the big names not present throughout the week. It’s likely Lattimore will miss his third game of the season. Other guys like Tight End (TE) Adam Trautman (ankle), Offensive Lineman (OL) Ryan Ramczyk (rest/knee), Defensive Tackle (DT) David Onyemata (thigh), and Center Erik McCoy (shoulder) all participated in a limited role. Perhaps the best news comes with the return of WR Jarvis Landry who participated this week under limited reps. It’s possible he could return to action tomorrow. Defensive Back PJ Williams also returned to practice after coming back from IR, adding a much needed boost to a depleted secondary.
Earlier this week, the team also signed veteran Quarterback (QB) Brett Hundley to the practice squad. Hundley is a former 5th round draft pick from 2015 who’s played in 18 games, including 9 starts, in his career. Since being selected by the Packers, he’s bounced around the league with stops in Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Arizona and his last appearance in an NFL game was in 2019.
PREVIEWING THE RAVENS ON MNF
Last Sunday, the Saints defense secured the franchise’s 16th shutout in over 850 regular season games in a 24-0 win against the Las Vegas Raiders. For context on just how dominant this unit was, QB Derek Carr threw for 101 yards, 1 INT, and finished with a quarterback rating of 14.0 (scale from 0-100). Davante Adams was limited to just 1 catch for 3 yards on 5 total targets, ending his 81 game streak of multiple receptions in a game. And the Raiders’ offense as a whole didn’t even cross into Saints territory until after the 3 minute mark late in the 4th quarter.
The defense’s performance was refreshing to say the least. More often than not this season, they’ve struggled to slow down opponents, ranking 31st in the league in total yards allowed. What makes last week's shutout so significant, aside from it being a shutout, was that it came against a top 5 offense in the NFL.
However, it won’t get any easier this Monday night as they face who I believe is the most dynamic player in pro football…Lamar Jackson.
Jackson is as explosive of a runner as anyone in the league, and if given the chance, he has the ability to break the game wide open. My biggest concern with this game is how will the Saints contain him? New Orleans has struggled in recent years against mobile QBs, and particularly this year, they’ve struggled against the run in general. Anyone who knows anything about the Baltimore Ravens knows they’ll want to establish the run albeit they’ve been one of the best rushing teams over the last several seasons. For the Saints, Demario Davis and Pete Werner have both been fantastic this season. Davis remains one of the highest graded linebackers in the league according to Pro Football Focus and Werner is top 3 in solo tackles (52). Nevertheless, they will be tested with Baltimore’s rushing attack. Although, teams in the past have had success beating the Ravens by exploiting Jackson’s inefficiencies throwing the football. The Saints front seven will be tasked with confining him to the pocket and forcing him to beat them through the air.
The Ravens could possibly be down their two top pass catchers in TE Mark Andrews and WR Rashod Bateman. Personally, I don’t view Baltimore’s current WR corp as a threat to beat the Saints. Rookie CB Alontae Taylor looks to be yet another amazing draft pick for this team. His performance against Davante Adams was masterful and he doesn’t seem to be short of confidence. The Ravens don’t have a ‘Davante Adams’, so we should see another standout performance from this young man.
As far as the Saints offense goes, once again, there’s not much that needs to be said. I thought last week was their second best game behind their 39-point performance against Seattle. We’ve seen how effective this offense can be when they aren’t committing costly penalties and turning the ball over. Similar to the Ravens, the team’s strength is their ability to run the ball with Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill. And right on schedule, the Ravens trade for one of the best run stopping linebackers in Roquan Smith. But even with this acquisition, I don’t fear Baltimore’s defense. I believe Smith will have an impact, but overall this is still a group who’s struggled to find any consistency all season. As long as New Orleans sticks with their gameplan and play mistake free football, they should have no trouble moving the ball against this unit.
Kickoff is tomorrow at 7:15 pm.
It doesn’t get much better than prime time Saints football inside the Superdome. It's certainly going to be a fun game to watch. On a personal level, Lamar Jackson is my favorite player currently playing because of his spectacular game breaking ability. Nonetheless, I will be rooting for the Saints to win the game and continue their quest to a division title.
The betting odds have the Ravens favored by 2 points. As I alluded to before, this game will come down to how well the Saints handle Jackson. If they play exactly how they played last week, I can see the Saints winning this game fairly easily. Unfortunately, I have yet to see any consistency from them. Keep in mind, the Saints have gone on multiple game losing streaks each time after a big win. After beating Atlanta, they lost three straight and after beating Seattle, they lost two more. So how will they respond after beating the Raiders remains to be seen.
Follow the publisher of this post on Twitter @Chris_Lunkin98 for weekly content and up to the minute updates on your New Orleans Saints.
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