Know Your Enemy; How Saints Matchup Against Falcons Pt. Two

September 7, 2022

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 one The Saints are entering as the favorite against the division rival Falcons. In part two, I compare both team’s defensive position groups.

Evaluating The Saints And Falcons Defenses Ahead Of Week One

Defensive Line (D-Line)

Saints

  • Cameron Jordan
  • David Onyemata
  • Shy Tuttle
  • Marcus Davenport
  • Payton Turner
  • Tanoh Kpassagnon
  • Kentavious Street

Falcons

  • Ta’Quon Graham                             
  • Anthony Rush   
  • Grady Jarrett                     
  • Timmy Horne
  • Abdullah Anderson
  • Vincent Taylor
  • Matt Dickerson
  • Lorenzo Carter 
  • DeAngelo Malone
  • Adetokunbo Ogundeji  
  • Arnold Ebiketie
  • Quinton Bell

I’ve tried to categorize this group with players whose primary role will be rushing the passer and not those who will be primarily playing off-ball Linebacker.

This group is the biggest boom or bust position group for New Orleans. The Saints need Davenport to stay healthy, Onyemata to be more consistent, and Payton Turner to live up to his training camp hype of the last two seasons. If that can happen, along with franchise stalwart Cam Jordan, this unit would be up there as one of the best in the league. However, that is a lot of ifs.

Grady Jarrett headlines a fairly unknown Falcons unit. Jarrett is a star though and always shows up against New Orlreans.  The main outside pass rush presence will come from second-year player Adetokunbo Ogundeji, with help from rookies DeAngelo Malone and Arnold Ebiketie. Ebiketie was a favorite of members of the draft media. Could be a big help to a fairly underwhelming group.

The Saints are a bit light at defensive tackle, I expect defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon to see plenty of looks inside. He is a player I expect to do big things in the Saints defense this year (read more about that here Three Saints Players That Could Breakout In 2022 (whodathype.com).

Despite being boom or bust, the group in black and gold has, at this stage a lot more talent and depth.

Advantage Saints

Off The Ball Linebacker (LB)

Saints

  • Demario Davis
  • Pete Werner
  • Kaden Ellis
  • Andrew Dowell
  • Zach Baun
  • Chase Hansen

Falcons

  • Rashaan Evans
  • Mykal Walker
  • Troy Andersen
  • Nick Kwiatkoski
  • Nate Landman

This is one of the weaker position groups for the Saints, but not because of the starters. Demario Davis is an absolute stud, even though he’s getting up there in age (will be 34 this season) he’s shown no signs of slowing down. Pete Werner is entering his second season and should start at the WILL, he’s already shown he is an elite run defender, just needs to stay healthy and that will give New Orleans a very impressive starting pair at LB.

When New Orleans is in their base defense, the SAM LB will be Kaden Ellis, a player that has improved every season since being drafted in the seventh round in the 2019 draft. He also impressed HC Dennis Allen throughout camp.

The Falcons have former Tennessee Titan first-round pick Rashaan Evans and their own 2020 fourth-round pick Mykal Walker are pegged to start. Both are solid, neither elite. A wildcard at this position is the ultra-athletic rookie Troy Andersen, the 6-foot-3 243-pound LB, who played both safety and quarterback in college before settling in at LB. if he can get up to speed with the intellect side of playing LB at the NFL level with those physical traits, he will be a star.

The depth behind these is shaky for both teams. Nick Kwiatkoski was a big-ticket free agent signing of the Raiders in 2020, fast forward two seasons he is now playing for vet minimum after struggling for the Raiders. Andrew Dowell, Chase Hansen, and Zach Baun are all very good special teams players but at this stage, you would not want them playing any significant snaps on defense.

The Falcons LB’s seem average, the Saints starting pair are elite, after that its a bit ugly.

Advantage Saints

Cornerback (CB)

Saints

  • Marshon Lattimore
  • Paulson Adebo
  • Bradley Roby
  • Alontae Taylor

Falcons

  • A.J. Terrell
  • Casey Hayward
  • Dee Alford
  • Darren Hall
  • Mike Ford

Now, this is interesting, both teams have two all-pro level corners. For the Saints, you have Marshon Lattimore and for the Falcons you have A.J. Terrell. Both sets of fans will debate who is better, I think both on their best days Lattimore takes the crown, on his best day Lattimore is the best CB in the league, he’s stifled the best the league has to offer. Terrell is not far behind though.

Both number two corners are plus starters, for the Saints you have the second-year pro Paulson Adebo, who has been arguably the Saints’ best defensive player in camp. If that improvement holds into game action the Saints would have two elite outside corners. In Atlanta, you have 11-year pro Casey Hayward who has been a stellar number one/two corner throughout his career. At this stage, this is probably a draw, for now.

Depth is where New Orleans pulls ahead. In Bradley Roby, the Saints have a CB who would be a plus starter for a lot of teams in the league. He can play outside and inside with inside being his more likely home for the season. Taylor looked solid in camp until an injury sidelined him, he’s an ultra-athletic and physically imposing CB, who will need time to develop.

Whereas Atlanta’s depth is not anywhere near as sturdy with Dee Alford and Darren Hall, who are both young players with little to no NFL experience.

Based on the starting outside corners this is a close call. The Saints pull away with better depth and slot cover.

Advantage Saints

saints

Safety

Saints

  • Tyrann Mathieu
  • Marcus Maye
  • Justin Evans
  • P.J. Williams
  • J.T. Gray
  • Daniel Sorensen

Falcons

  • Ritchie Grant
  • Jaylinn Hawkins
  • Erik Harris
  • Dean Marlowe

With Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye, HC Dennis Allen has what he wants two truly interchangeable safeties. Two players that can line up anywhere, in the box, deep, man the slot, blitz, or help against the run. You name it they can do it. This gives them the ability to disguise what they are doing, play lots of different coverages, and gives them incredible playmaking ability from the safety position.

detailed here about the different ways the safeties were being used in the preseason. (How the New Orleans Saints safeties are evolving through the preseason (usatoday.com)

The Falcons on the other hand have two young relatively unproven players starting. Both Ritchie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins bring flexibility, being able to play in the box or deep. The Falcons should have high hopes for second-year defender Grant, now being more comfortable in the system allowing for him to make a lot more plays as he did in college. This is both Grant and Hawkins first year as the team’s starting safeties.

Justin Evans and P.J. Williams make up the primary backup spots. Evans has been resurgent in camp after taking a season off to recover from injuries. Like the two starters both Williams and Evans provide plenty of versatility being able to line up everywhere, with both players even having success covering the slot. Willaims should also be a staple in DIME packages.

Veteran and former Saints Erik Harris should fill the primary backup role coming off his best season as a pro and should play a lot on special teams. J.T Gray and Daniel Sorensen’s roles should be primarily special teams, both are excellent players in that phase of the game, you shouldn’t see them much on defense.

Falcons have a very unproven group here, easy win for the Saints.

Advantage Saints

A clean sweep for the Saints on the defensive side of the ball. This should be no surprise as the Saints are one the best defenses in the league.

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