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 three the 1-1 Saints travel to Charlotte to face the 0-2 Panthers. In part two, I compare the defensive positions groups to see who has the advantage on paper.
Evaluating The Saints And Panthers Defenses Ahead Of Week Three
Defensive Line (D-Line)
- Cameron Jordan
- David Onyemata
- Shy Tuttle
- Marcus Davenport
- Carl Granderson
- Payton Turner
- Tanoh Kpassagnon
- Kentavious Street
- Marquis Haynes Sr.
- Bravvion Roy
- Marquan McCall
- Phil Hoskins
- Amare Barno
It’s been a poor two weeks from a sack and pressure standpoint for the Saints d-line. They only have one sack, one quarterback hit, and eight hurries so far this season (per PFF). If you compare that to the Panthers’ numbers, three sacks, seven QB hits, and 21 hurries, that’s pretty poor production.
On pure numbers, the Panthers line has been better so far this year. However, context is needed here.
Both Saints games have not been games where the pass rush can flourish. In Week One against the Falcons, the game plan was to keep contain and not rush up field, this allowing easy running lanes for a very mobile Marcus Mariota. In Week Two per Nick Underhill, Brady got the ball out on average in 2.2/2.3 seconds which is way too quick to allow any kind of rush to get home.
This week for me though, is a put up or shut up game. Jordan, Davenport, and Onyemata need to show why they are Stars (Jordan) and budding stars (Davenport and Onyemata) and dominate this game. Davenport was the lone bright spark last week and he needs to show out this week against a struggling rookie left tackle.
The Saints’ d-line massively improved against the run last week, showing again why they are one of the premier run-stopping teams in the league. DT Shy Tuttle especially had a great game with nine total tackles. PFF had him listed as having five defensive stops (a stop means- tackles that constitute a “failure” for the offense) also.
Carolina has a solid top four with Brian Burns, being the star of the bunch, Derrick Brown, Matt Ioannidis, and Yetur Gross-Matos. Burns has played well Vs the Saints previously, the Saints at times have shown a weakness to speed on the edge.
The Panthers put on a blitzing clinic in Week Two last season against the Saints and New Orleans has struggled this year at identifying and defending blitzes. I suspect there will be plenty of stunts and creative rush plans for the Panther d-line this weekend to test if the Saints have shored up this weakness.
I would give the advantage to the Panthers on the interior in this game with starters Derrick Brown and Matt Ioannidis starting the season well.
Like the Saints, they like to rotate on the d-line so there should be a good amount of Haynes, Anderson, and Roy mixed in.
This is a tough choice at this stage I still believe the Saints’ d-line can be a top ten unit in the league and I think this is my last week relying on that theory, they need to show it here.
Off The Ball Linebacker (LB)
- Demario Davis
- Pete Werner
- Kaden Ellis
- Andrew Dowell
- Zach Baun
- Chase Hansen
- Shaq Thompson
- Frankie Luvu
- Damien Wilson
- Cory Littleton
- Brandon Smith
This is an easy one for me Demario Davis and Pete Werner might be the best linebacking tandem in the league, they are both excellent three down Linebackers, Werner has occasionally been beaten in coverage but those have generally been when the team has put him in the wrong matchups against slot receivers.
Otherwise, they are always where they are supposed to be, very reliable tacklers and ++ run defenders.
Due to the matchups so far, we haven’t seen Davis blitz much yet and that is one of his best assets, I think we’ll seen him blitzing early and often in this matchup to help frazzle Baker Mayfield.
The Panthers do have a solid unit, led by Shaq Thompson, who I would expect to see around Alvin Kamara a lot this game (if he plays) run or pass. But the star power is not equal in this one.
- Marshon Lattimore
- Paulson Adebo
- Bradley Roby
- Alontae Taylor
- Donte Jackson
- Jaycee Horn
- Myles Hartsfield
- CJ Henderson
- Keith Taylor Jr
- Stantley Thomas-Oliver lll
These two CB groups are close and for me it comes down to one player, Paulson Adebo. If he plays, I think the Saints have the better group if not I would lean towards the Panthers.
Lattimore has been lights out this season and again dominated his matchup with Mike Evans last week. He only allowed one catch for seven yards on two targets. Roby on the other hand has struggled somewhat. If Adebo doesn’t play, then I’d like to see rookie Alontae Taylor start on the outside and move Roby into the slot.
Taylor played well in his 19 snaps after Lattimore was ejected last week, breaking up the only pass thrown his way. Roby was expected to start in the slot this season, but Adebo’s injury forced a move back outside.
The top four corners for the Panthers have started the season well and are a talented bunch on paper. The Panthers have two former top ten draft picks, in Jaycee Horn and C.J. Henderson. But Donte Jackson has started opposite Horn so far. Jackson did leave last week’s game early with a hamstring issue, he’s considered day-to-day so could be less than 100% or may not suit up at all for the game.
Myles Hartsfield should man the slot for Carolina this year and played well. He’s been targeted four times and only given up one reception for nine yards. He will have his toughest test against a mixture of Jarvis Landry, Michael Thomas, and Chris Olave this week. They have all played plenty of snaps out of the slot so far this year.
If Adebo plays Advantage Saints if he doesn’t Advantage Panthers.
- Tyrann Mathieu
- Marcus Maye
- Justin Evans
- P.J. Williams
- J.T. Gray
- Daniel Sorensen
- Jeremy Chinn
- Xavier Woods
- Sean Chandler
- Sam Franklin Jr.
Both teams use their starting safeties very fluidly. Per PFF Marcus Maye has played 94 slots at FS and 22 in the box, his snaps in the box have been good he’s looked solid against the run. Tyrann Mathieu has played 61 snaps at FS and 57 in the box.
For Carolina Jeremy Chinn has played 73 snaps at FS and 43 in the box with his safety partner Xavier Woods played 70 at FS and 50 in the box.
Without even breaking down the coverages and different responsibilities for these players on those plays, you can see the versatility and how these teams like to be fluid where their safeties line up.
Justin Evans is listed as a safety but has generally played slot, not sure if this will continue once Paulson Adebo returns. He played very well in Week One versus Atlanta but got picked on a bit last week, Tampa ran a lot of rub routes which Evans struggled to defend.
P.J. Williams’ role should be as the dime backer, with injuries he’s been forced into other roles that have not been advantageous for him. Such as outside corner on Brady’s 28-yard touchdown pass to Perriman last week. With a healthier secondary he should be able to go back to the role that he has excelled in over the last couple of years.
The final two safeties for the Panthers have only played special teams snaps, so a lot is riding on the two starters.
I think the Saints have a deeper and stronger group here.
I think the Panthers’ defense is an underrated group that could cause the Saints issues on Sunday. New Orleans must execute well on offense otherwise the Panthers’ defense could cause problems.
The Saints’ defense should cause the Panthers big problems, the secondary should be able to lock up and confuse Mayfield. This needs to be a big get-right game for the pash rush, after two tricky matchups, if they don’t show much this week it could be time to start worrying.
Score prediction- 28-18 Saints win.
I will complete this exercise every week for each of the Saints matchups, throughout the season. So, keep your eyes peeled on Who Dat Hype – Unapologetically Fearless Saints Coverage and my twitter @SaintsReportUK for those.
Please do follow me on Twitter @SaintsReportUK for more Saints content, and retweet the article if you enjoyed it! And let me know your feedback.