Know Your Enemy – Insight into the Saints By Lance Zierlein very good breakdown http://blog.chron.com/fantasyfootball/2011/09/know-your-enemy-insight-into-the-saints/ The Saints – more physical than finesse. When you think of the Saints, you probably think of wide open football, but Sean Payton wants to run the ball and be physical about it. The Saints were known around the league as a finesse team, but that all changed back in 2009. The Saints have a couple of brutes at guard in Carl Nicks and Jhari Evans and they will cause major problems for the Texans up the middle. The Saints averaged almost 50 yards less per game on the ground last year than in their Super Bowl year and they are looking to get the ground game back on track this year. Drew Brees is great, but he’s not Peyton or Brady. There is no denying that the Saints emergence as an NFC power has coincided with their signing of Drew Brees back in 2006. Brees has posted some phenomenal numbers and, more importantly, been the unquestioned leader of the Saints. I have tremendous respect for Brees, but I do think he’s more “beatable” than both Manning and Brady. While Brees doesn’t lack the confidence of either QB, I have seen defenses confuse and rattle Brees from time to time which is why he’s thrown 79 interceptions in 81 games as a Saint including seasons with 22, 18 and 17. Granted, Brees throws more passes than your average QB, I’m just saying that the Texans have a better chance of shaking him than you might think. The Saints receivers are an army of many. When Marques Colston went down, I don’t think too many people around the league thought the Saints were doomed considering the targets Brees still has at his disposal. Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson, Lance Moore, Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham give Brees a plethora of targets to throw to, but more importantly, they give Sean Payton and Brees a ton of opportunities to isolate the defense’s weakest players in coverage and exploit them. Sproles in the slot is trouble. In their matchup with the Bears, one of the things that really stuck out to me was that when Sproles played in the slot, the Saints found ways to get him the ball. In space, Sproles is a very tough problem for defenses so the Texans had better have the tackling gloves on. Gregg Williams cranks up the blitzes, but is he a great defensive coordinator? I know Williams is one of the most visible coordinators in football and he’s certainly memorable since he is so blitz-happy, but blitzing doesn’t equal greatness. I think Williams is a good coordinator, but I also think his blitzing ways are a must with the Saints because it helps to cover up coverage issues and run defense issues they have. Against the Bears, Williams brought wave after wave of blitzes against Jay Cutler with great success. He used both safeties, two different corners and four different linebackers with his blitzes. However, with the way the Texans prefer to attack teams through play-action, I think we’ll see less blitzing from Williams and a greater focus on slowing down the running game. Roman Harper (#41) and Jonathan Casillas (#52) are both a strength and weakness of the team. Harper blitzed the Bears NINE TIMES from his strong safety position and lived near the line of scrimmage. While Harper is an effective blitzer, he’s only average in coverage and can be exploited. Pay close attention to how often he is lined up on or near the line of scrimmage. Casillas had an awful game against the Texans in the preseason, but he’s incredible quick and tough to block when he blitzes. Against the run, he’s a weak link, but when he’s in the game, Gregg Williams loves to use him to get after the QB. The Saints will bring as many as 7 and as few as 3. While the Saints will show teams a few all-out blitzes during the game, they also ran a 3-man pass rush at least three times where they lined up four but dropped one lineman into coverage with no blitz behind it. Dropping a lineman and blitzing with another player is called a zone blitz or “zone-dogging”, but the Saints tried to confuse Cutler by disguising their desire to drop 8 into coverage. For the record, Cutler actually had some success against the Saints when they did this. Mark Ingram has been quiet so far, but might get noisy on Sunday. The Saints have been fairly slow to work rookie RB Mark Ingram into the mix, but I’m anticipating an attempt at smash-mouth running on Sunday and my guess is that Ingram might get more work this Sunday than what we’ve seen over the first two games. • • • While watching the Saints vs. Bears in preparation for the Saints/Texans, I came across a Saints blitz that was one of the most unique blitzes I had ever seen. I called my dad to see if he had ever heard of the blitz package that I’m about to show you and he said he hasn’t seen it before either. Without further adieu, here is an example of an “exotic” blitz from Saints defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams. 1. What caught my eye right off the bat was that Casillas (52) and Vilma (51) were lined up right over the “A” gaps (between center and guard) and were threatening blitz. The Saints certainly aren’t the only team to use this blitz, but what made this blitz unique was what both LBs did after the snap. More about that in a second. 2. Take a look at the “game” that the DT and DE engage in on the right. That is a called a “T/E” which means the defensive tackle crashed down on the offensive tackle in an attempt to basically take out the tackle and hopefully the guard who he wants to follow him. While the defensive tackle is doing that, the defense end loops underneath hoping to have a free run at the quarterback if the guard vacates his area and continues to try and block the defensive tackle. 3. Roman Harper (41) is running your standard blitz off the edge. 4. The defensive end on the left side of the defense (from this vantage point) is split out wide and takes a wide angle towards the QB while the defensive tackle on the same side tries to shoot the gap between the guard and tackle in an attempt to occupy both blockers. 5. The defensive end previously mentioned above is taking the wide angle because he is trying to create a rushing lane for Casillas (52). Now, let’s get to those linebackers. 6. What is most unusual about this blitz is that Casillas and Vilma both show blitz inside, but instead, loop all the way outside around either end of the offensive line. So while Williams was showing a blitz that could potentially occupy the guards and center, he has instead rerouted the focus of the blitz to the exterior of the offensive line creating overwhelming numbers on off the edge that ended up favoring the Saints. 7. The cornerbacks played man to man, press coverage and kept a single-high safety back in case Cutler and the Bears hit a quick strike against the blitz.