Know Your Enemy; Saints Matchup Vs Vikings Pt. One

September 29, 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 four the 1-2 Saints travel to London to face the 2-1 Vikings.  In part one, I compare the offensive positions groups to see who has the advantage on paper.

Evaluating The Saints And Vikings Offenses Ahead Of Week Four

Quarterback

Saints

  • Jameis Winston
  • Andy Dalton
  • Taysom Hill (emergency)

Vikings

  • Kirk Cousins
  • Nick Mullens

Last week I said the benefit of the doubt I was giving Winston was eroding. Well, it’s gone now. This version of Jameis Winston won’t cut it. I do think the injury is part of this, at times on Sunday he looked physically uncomfortable and I do think the back is affecting some of his throws. More on Winston’s injury here:

I think the bigger problem is he doesn’t seem to be seeing the field well. There plays where people are open and either Winston doesn’t see them or chooses to throw to someone else, who is definitely not as open. This is causing several missed opportunities.

Cousins hasn’t set the world on fire this season so far and did struggle mightily vs. the Eagles, but the Eagles do look like a juggernaut.

This comparison comes down to one very simple thing for me, Cousins has been putting up points before the fourth quarter and before the game is out of reach for this team. Sadly, Winston has not.

Advantage Vikings

Running Back

Saints

  • Alvin Kamara
  • Mark Ingram
  • Dwayne Washington
  • Tony Jones JR
  • Adam Prentice (Fullback)

Vikings

  • Dalvin Cook
  • Alexander Mattison
  • Kene Nwangwu
  • Ty Chandler

Here is a statement I thought I’d never make: this version of Alvin Kamara is not fun to watch, nor is he overly effective. However, I don’t think Kamara is the reason. This has been the case for a couple of seasons now. The creativity has gone from how the Saints use AK. His strengths have always been outside zone runs and getting out in space as a pass catcher.

It feels like he’s just being run up the gut and if he does run a pass route it’s usually an option route. Although they did run him on a wheel route Sunday against the Panthers, that was about as creative as it got.

For the Vikings you have Dalvin Cook, who is expected to play on Sunday despite dislocating his shoulder last week against the Lions. Cook has played well so far this year averaging 4.7 yards per carrying and per PFF, and has forced ten missed tackles, that’s tied seventh best in the league. The only question is how healthy will he be if he plays Sunday?

The primary backup for the Saints is Mark Ingram and for the Vikings, it’s Alexander Mattison. Despite being 32 years of age, which is getting on for an RB, he has looked solid. He’s averaging 5.3 yards per carrying, which is eighth best in the league. His biggest issue so far is ball security. He’s lost two fumbles, both at killer times in the games.

The Vikings went from trying to trade Mattison before the season to again making him the primary backup to Cook. PFF does an ‘Elusive rating’, The PFF “Elusive Rating” distills the success and impact of a runner with the ball independently of the blocking in front of him by looking at how hard he was to bring down.

The Formula for the score: (Missed Tackles Forced) / (Designed Run Attempts + Receptions) * (Yards After Contact Per Attempt * 100

Mattison ranks second among all RBs in this ‘Elusive rating’ the striking part of his elusiveness is? He’s forced ten missed tackles on his 17 rushes this season and 60 of his 72 rushing yards have come after contact.

With the way Kamara is being used, plus his injured ribs. Along with Ingram’s fumble problem. I’ll give the advantage here to the Vikings but, only just.

Advantage Vikings

Wide Receiver

Saints

  • Michael Thomas
  • Jarvis Landry
  • Chris Olave
  • Deonte Harty
  • Marquez Callaway
  • Tre’Quan Smith

Vikings

  • Justin Jefferson
  • Adam Thielen
  • Jalen Reagor                                                                                                                             
  • K.J. Osborn
  • Jalen Nailor

The Injury status of the Saint’s WRs makes this tricky. By the end of the Panthers game, the Saints only had two WRs left in Chris Olave and Marquez Callaway. Michael Thomas (Toe), Jarvis Landry (Foot), and Tre’Quan Smith (Concussion) all didn’t finish the game. Deonte Harty someone who the Saints expected to have active, suffered a late setback to his foot injury causing him to be inactive.

Per Ian Rapoport, neither Thomas nor Landry’s injuries are thought to be serious.

Not being serious does not mean they will be available on Sunday. More will become clear when we get the first injury report on Wednesday.

Rookie Chris Olave has been sensational, he’s averaging 89.3 yards per game and could have had more if not for a few missed deep shots by Winston. He’s getting open at all three levels of the defense and is becoming a favored target of Jameis Winston. He currently has 29 targets on the season the next closest is Thomas with 22.

If Landry and Thomas play then the New Orleans group is much better, if not It gets trickier.

Justin Jefferson came out week one looking like the best WR in the NFL, he gashed a Packers secondary that many were calling the best in the league entering Week One. Since then he has only caught nine passes for 62 yards. Darius Slay put him firmly in his pocket in Week Two and Detroit kept him very much in check last week.

Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn are very solid number two and three options. Thielen has played the Saints well in the past and has done better than most against shut-down corner Marshon Lattimore.

So, it will be interesting to see if the Saints choose for Lattimore to travel with Jefferson this week or to play sides like they did last week @ Carolina.

If health is on their side the Saints have the better group.

For now, Advantage Saints

saints

Tight End

Saints

  • Juwan Johnson
  • Adam Trautman
  • Taysom Hill
  • Nick Vannett

Vikings

  • Irv Smith Jr.
  • Johnny Mundt
  • Ben Ellefson

Both groups are fairly uninspiring, after doing this exercise for four weeks so far it feels like the whole league has uninspiring TE groups.

If Taysom plays coupled with Juwan Johnson’s added ability as a blocker giving the Saints a more complete player at TE. Then I think they have the advantage here.

There’s not a huge amount behind Irv Smith Jr. who’s looked okay so far. Johnny Mundt is the next TE who plays any serious snaps, he seems to be a solid blocker with not much else to his game currently.

Advantage Saints

Offensive Line

Saints

  • James Hurst      
  • Andrus Peat     
  • Erik McCoy       
  • Cesar Ruiz          
  • Ryan Ramczyk 
  • Landon Young
  • Calvin Throckmorton
  • Lewis Kidd
  • Wyatt Davis

Vikings

  • Christian Darrisaw                           
  • Ezra Cleveland                  
  • Garrett Bradbury             
  • Brian O’Neill      
  • Ed Ingram
  • Olisaemeka Udoh
  • Chris Reed
  • Austin Schlottmann        
  • Blake Brandel   
  • Vederian Lowe

It feels weird to say but I’m not sure if the Saint’s line is good or not. It feels like Winston is getting hit a lot, there are certainly a lot of penalties but, I don’t think everything is the o-lines fault.

Especially the issues against the blitz. Right now, that feels like the blame feels more on the coaching, QB, and RBs for struggling to identify, plan for and defend the blitz. So, despite the numbers looking bad, I do think the line is generally holding up well in that regard.

Run blocking on the other hand feels a bit more inconsistent. Sometimes they blow open massive holes and dominate the opposing front (see example against a very good Tampa d-line)

Other times they are whiffing on blocks instantly leaving the RBs nowhere to go. (see Alvin Kamara’s fumble against Carolina and this was essentially a goal line package) Alvin Kamara FUMBLES & Panthers return for six – YouTube

The Vikings they seem very strong at Tackle with Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neil. They’ve only given up ONE combined sack between them and have graded very well on PFF in the run game.

It gets a bit streakier on the interior. Ed Ingram leads the team in pressures given up with, followed by Ezra Cleveland with nine, and Garrett Bradbury with seven. The defensive interior of the Saints should have a chance to rush the passer well against them.

The interior o-line does grade out better in run defense though and ultimately that is what the Vikings want to do well.

I see some similarities between these lines, right now with the Vikings looking like the better run-blocking team and with the Saints potentially being without starting LG Andrus Peat this week after leaving Sunday’s game @ Carolina with a concussion. I’m going Vikings here.

Advantage Vikings

Conclusion

Before the season I would have put this as a clean sweep for the Saints. Despite being very high on the Vikings (I picked them to win the north).

Unfortunately, due to an injury-riddled QB, some poor coaching and execution. This version of the Saints offense isn’t good. They have the talent to right the ship but they need to do that quickly.

This is part one, later in the week, I will do the same exercise with the defense. So, keep your eyes peeled on Who Dat Hype – Unapologetically Fearless Saints Coverage and my Twitter @SaintsReportUK for part two.

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.