The Know Your Enemy series will be weekly series breaking down who has the advantage at each position group in all the Saints matchups this season. In week two, the 1-0 Saints have their home opener against a divisional foe and also 1-0 Bucs. In part two, I compare how the two team’s defensive position groups matchup on paper.
Note- this comparison is based on players who are likely available for the game. For example, reports are that Chris Godwin is going to be out for a few weeks, therefore he will not be included. Whereas Donavon Smith could play so I will include him.
Evaluating The Saints And Buccaneers Defenses Ahead Of Week Two
Defensive Line (D-Line)
- Cameron Jordan
- David Onyemata
- Shy Tuttle
- Marcus Davenport
- Payton Turner
- Carl Granderson
- Tanoh Kpassagnon
- Kentavious Street
- Shaquil Barrett
- Akiem Hicks
- Vita Vea
- William Gholston
- Joe-Tryon Shoyinka
- Logan Hall
- Carl Nassib
- Anthony Nelsom
- Rakeem Nunez-Roches
- Patrick O’Connor
I’ve tried to categorize this with players whose primary role will be rushing the passer and not playing off-ball Linebacker.
The D-line is an interesting comparison, based on the interior alone. The Bucs easily come out on top. Hicks and Vea are beasts, especially against the run. The Bucs aren’t as strong on the outside, but it is still a solid rotation. Led by Shaq Barrett, with Joe-Tyron Shoyinka, William Gholston, Carl Nassib, and Rookie Logan Hall behind him.
The Bucs need Tyron Shoyinka to push on this season, after a four-sack season where he was featured in all 17 games but only started six of them. This would give the Bucs a longer-term running mate for Barrett who will be turning 30 during this season.
The Bucs also drafted Logan Hall in the second round of this year’s draft. A player I liked and saw some potential in as a versatile DE/DT hybrid. I’m interested to see how he turns out.
Leading the way for the Saints is the ever-present Cam Jordan and the enigma that is Marcus Davenport. Jordan has played Tristan Wirfs better than most and played this matchup well last season with three sacks in the two meetings.
Marcus Davenport as always is the x-factor here if he’s on his game and healthy, he’s unplayable. Top-tier Davenport alone pushes the advantage for this position group over to the Saints, that’s how good he can be in my opinion. He missed effectively the whole offseason program and may be trying to knock off some rust, so will that player show up?
New Orleans also has their second-year pass rusher who needs to step up. Payton Turner, in both offseason programs he’s been a part of Turner, has flashed a lot. In-game action though is when he has gone off the boil and he’s struggled to stay healthy. If the Saints can get the Turner that shows up in training camp, then the DE group of the Saints suddenly looks a lot stronger.
The New Orleans interior D-line is not as strong and struggled against the run last week against the Falcons. An area they will need to improve on this week. David Onyemata has flashed throughout his career but at this stage doesn’t seem to be able to put it together for a consistent stretch of play.
Based on the beasts that the Bucs have on the interior and the overall inconsistency of the Saints line, I’m going Bucs here. Although I could see the Saints line having a big game, especially Marcus Davenport.
Off The Ball Linebacker (LB)
- Demario Davis
- Pete Werner
- Kaden Ellis
- Andrew Dowell
- Zach Baun
- Chase Hansen
- Devin White
- Lavonte David
- K.J. Britt
- Olakunle Fatukasi
The Saints possess the best single LB out of the two teams in Demario Davis and Pete Werner has shown promise so far in his short NFL career, especially as an elite run defender, and had a great start in Week One Vs Atlanta (13 total tackles, one tackle for loss and one forced fumble). Kaden Ellis is classed as the final ‘starter’ when the team roll out their base defense, which seemed to be about 38% of the time in week one as they struggled to stop the Falcons’ ground attack.
The pairing of Devin White and Lavonte David may at this stage even be the better pairing at LB. But it’s very very close.
The depth LBs Dowell, Baun, and Hansen played solely special teams snaps in week 1, I’d expect this to continue unless anything goes wrong with the top two. Britt and Fatukasi were the same for the Bucs. Tampa seemed to only deploy two LBs in week one vs Dallas.
The toughest choice I’ve had to make so far in this series. Can I call it a draw? I won’t.
Based on slightly larger sample size, I’ll give the edge to the Bucs.
- Marshon Lattimore
- Paulson Adebo
- Bradley Roby
- Alontae Taylor
- Carlton Davis lll
- Jamel Dean
- Sean Murphy-Bunting
- Zyon McCollum
- Dee Delaney
I’m basing this comparison on Paulson Adebo being available, as it appeared he was close to playing last week and it seems like it could have been precautionary that he didn’t play Week One Vs Atlanta. It will be clearer after the first couple of Injury reports this week.
The starting pair of Lattimore and Adebo is better than the starting pair of Davis lll and Dean. Add In Roby as a quality depth, slot, and DIME player. That only adds to the Saints’ advantage here.
There are two juices CB-WR matchups here. Lattimore Vs Mike Evans and Davis lll Vs Michael Thomas. Lattimore has generally dominated the matchup against Evans, especially in recent meetings. Davis has fared well Vs Thomas as well. More on these matchups are below.
Week 2 shadow report: Key WR/CB matchups
As far as the advantage for this matchup, I think it’s the Saints with a very strong top 3.
- Tyrann Mathieu
- Marcus Maye
- Justin Evans
- P.J. Williams
- J.T. Gray
- Daniel Sorensen
- Antione Winfield Jr.
- Mike Edwards
- Logan Ryan
- Keanu Neal
The safety position is a bit different in the NFL than it might have been 10 years ago. A lot more LB/Safety/ Slot hybrid players. That is 100% the case for these two teams.
Mathieu and Maye line up everywhere for the Saints, deep and in the box, as split or single high safeties. Justin Evans is listed as a safety for the Saints but covered the slot, in Week One and played well.
Ross Jackson on Twitter: “According to PFF, #Saints safety Justin Evans forced the 2nd lowest passer rating (39.6) when targeted in slot coverage of all defensive backs with at least 10 slot snaps. That, despite being the amongst those being fourth-most targeted. Allowed only 1 catch for 5 yards.” / Twitter
P.J. Williams has done alright against the Bucs in recent memory I’d say as well.
PJ Williams all but seals it with the pick-6 off Tom Brady | Saints-Bucs Highlights (neworleanssaints.com)
Mike Edwards and Antione Winfield move around a lot as well. Logan Ryan is listed as the Bucs slot defender, from watching some snaps from the Bucs/Cowboys game. It appeared Winfield also covered the slot as well at times. With Ryan dropping deep. So, plenty of position versatility for both teams.
2022 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Depth Chart | Ourlads.com
Former Falcon, Keanu Neal, played a solely special teams’ role in Week One, as did J.T. Gray and Daniel Sorensen for the Saints.
I’m a big fan of Antoine Winfield Jnr but I think the Saints have too much talent and versatility in this position. The Saints have effectively built the identity of the 2022-2023 season defense around this position group.
So, the defensive position groups come out all square two apiece. With the Bucs coming out on top in the front seven and the Saints winning in the secondary.
This is certainly an interesting matchup both on paper and on the field. The matchup comes down to a few x-factor spots:
- Can the Saints get after Brady with four rushers as they have in the past?
- Will the new faces in the secondary communicate well enough to make Brady pause with their coverages?
- Was the Saints’ poor run defense in Week One, a blip?
- Which Brady turns up?
Score-prediction- Saints win 28-26
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