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Q&A with Saints Nation

UltimateNYG NY Giants blog did a Q&A Exchange with Saints Nation to preview the game this Monday night.  Their answers to our questions are linked here.   

1) How are the Saints going to win a Super Bowl when their defense is so porous?

Who said they are going to? It’s going to take a Giants beating the Patriots in the 2007 season type miracle to take out the Packers. They are clearly better than everyone else by far this season. The reality is the Saints aren’t going to fix their defense per se, but they are going to need to generate more turnovers. That’s the key, and that can be done. In that department they’ve been a little unlucky. Fumbles haven’t gone their way
and they’ve dropped an inordinate amount of interceptions. It’s sickening, really. I don’t know what the NFL record for dropped interceptions is, but get me a stat guy. The Saints have to be approaching it this season. Anyway, we’ll see, but I think the Saints and myself as a fan/blogger approach every game as “winnable” as long as Drew Brees is healthy and under center. They may not always be the favorite, but I firmly believe the Saints are good enough at their best to beat any team in the NFL on any given Sunday with the offense they have.  Once you get into the playoffs it’s all a crapshoot.

2) The Saints are 0-10 this season on coin tosses.  Has this had any effect on the team getting out slowly without an early lead on offense?

Actually they’re 0-11 if you count the overtime coin toss against the Falcons two weeks ago. It definitely sucks because most of those opening drives haven’t been three and outs, so the offense many times has gotten the ball down 3-0 with 11 minutes left in the first quarter. Sometimes down 7-0 with 8 minutes left. I read somewhere that the odds of that happening are like 0.4%. Awesome. At this point I’m not convinced they’ll win a toss all season. This is getting beyond ridiculous. It’s gotten to be a bitter/comical topic amongst fans. 

3) Do you agree with our draft analyst Wonder’s assessment that Jimmy Graham is the best receiving TE in the NFL?

Hmm, good question. He’s up there for sure but he’s still raw. What’s scary is how good he is with so little experience (he only played college ball 1 season). I think Gonzalez and Gates in their prime are better, but Graham is still getting better and those two are past their prime. It’s a close call but yeah, he’s definitely in the discussion.

4) The Secondary appears to be the weakest link on the defense.  Which player should the Giants target?

Actually their corners are probably the strongest part of the defense. Jabari Greer is one of the most underrated corners in the league and he always matches up against the opposition’s best receivers and usually does an amazing job. The only problem is these guys can’t seem to catch. Again, they have dropped a ridiculous amount of interceptions this year. The Saints go a very strong three deep at corner. Tracy Porter and Patrick Robinson are both very good as well. Malcolm Jenkins, the free safety, is a former corner as well that’s very good. Roman Harper, the strong safety, is good at playing the run, blitzing, and being in the box, but he’s the one you can definitely victimize in coverage. He’s been burned repeatedly by top notch tight ends. Teams with premiere receiving tight ends are nightmare matchups for the Saints. Lucky for them Jake Ballard is not one of those. The linebackers are somewhat poor in coverage, too, so having Bradshaw catch passes out of the backfield would hurt the Saints if he plays. 

5) Can you make up your mind who your RB is?  Is it Ingram? Thomas?  Sproles was a top signing for dollars vs impact.  What is your identity behind Brees? 

Haha, the Saints are very much a running back by committee team. That’s part of why they’ve been the #1 offense in the NFL 4 out of the last 6 years, and in the top 3 every single year since Sean Payton came on board. It’s all about exploiting matchups and giving your offense more variety to confuse the defense. It’s a brilliant scheme and there’s a reason most teams can’t stop it. Each of those guys you just mentioned are good at doing very different things so they each have their place in the system. Sproles is your change of pace speedster that must be accounted for because he’s a big time playmaker that causes nightmare matchups. He’s the guy that runs sweeps and catches flares, or matches up in the slot against a linebacker and beats him 9 times out of 10. Ingram and Ivory are your physical downhill runners, and Thomas is more of a jack of all trades that specializes in setting up his blockers, executing delays, screens and being patient with his runs.

6) The NFL is worried about Brees passing the ball.  Why should the Giants care whether or not the Saints the run the ball and fake playaction?

So you’re suggesting a good defensive strategy is to completely ignore the run and get your rushers upfield, risking gashing runs from the Saints at times? That’s actually not a bad idea. The Saints are definitely a pass first team and they set up the run with the pass, not the other way around. The one challenge Sean Payton has always struggled with is finding good balance, and at times his lack of commitment to the run in hindsight has cost them.  I definitely think there’s a very good chance that the Saints would pass even if you dared them to run all day long by using some combination of rushing four/five and dropping everyone else into coverage on very play. You might be on to something.

7) If Sproles is in the game, we think the Giants need a nickel back shadowing him instead of a LBer.  Why haven’t other teams defensed Sproles this way?

Not enough, that’s for sure, but yes, the Saints are seeing it more and more. And guess what, that’s been relatively effective at slowing him down. The only problem there is at least with LBers Sproles was never going to break a tackle. He’s small so he’s going down easily regardless, but he’s physical enough that I could see him breaking more tackles with a cover man on him. But yes, I agree, anytime he’s in the game you need to have a nickel man on him. The risk there, though, is if the Saints decide to run with Sproles. That’s one less physical LB in the game and the Saints have very big and physical receivers that block well (Colston, Henderson and Meachem) and you just made their job easier. But yes, I agree with you that’s probably the way to go. There is going to be some inherent risk in any scheme because you can’t really completely shut down this offense. You just have to maximize your chances at getting stops by focusing on their tendencies. Obviously if the Saints recognize what you’re trying to eliminate they can exploit other areas. That’s the risk you take.

8) How do you think the Saints can stop Nicks, Manningham and Cruz?

I actually don’t feel too bad about that. Greer, Porter and Robinson are all three excellent cover corners. I think this is a good matchup for the Saints in that department. Teams with explosive tight ends, big strong physical runners and/or explosive receiving backs are the offenses that tend to cause the Saints the most problems. If Bradshaw remains out I don’t really think the Giants have any of those things. I do worry about Brandon Jacobs a bit, but he’s not as good as he used to be.
9) Your prediction?

The thing I respect and fear the most about the Giants is their ability to rush the passer with 4 lineman. The Saints’ tackle play has been spotty this year. I’m terrified of sacks and/or turnovers that will hurt the Saints and severely impact the team’s chances. That’s where I think, most of all, the Saints will need to focus. Do not allow Brees to get hit where he would throw a bad pick or fumble. Fortunately no one is better at getting the ball out quicker than Brees. Saints 34 Giants 24