Know Your Enemy; Saints Matchup Vs Vikings Pt. Two

October 1, 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 two, I compare the defensive position groups to see who has the advantage on paper.

Evaluating The Saints And Vikings Defenses Ahead Of Week Four
Defensive Line (D-Line)/ Pass Rushers

Saints

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

Vikings

  • Dalvin Tomlinson
  • Harrison Phillips
  • Jonathan Bullard             
  • Danielle Hunter 
  • James Lynch      
  • Za’Darius Smith 
  • Ross Blacklock  
  • D.J. Wonnum
  • Patrick Jones II 
  • Luiji Vilain
  • Esezi Otomewo 

Currently, a very underperforming group PFF ranks the last in the league in pass rush grade. This grade isn’t just for the D-line, but it is a big reason for it. Compare that to the Vikings who rank tenth in the league. I know that these grades aren’t usually reliable and I’m not sure that they are the worst pass rush unit in the league. But they don’t look far off right now.

The staple of a good pass rush is being able to affect the QB by sending only four rushers. This Saints unit isn’t doing that right now. The Vikings on the other hand are, well HC Dennis Allen believes so. That was one of the first things talked about when asked about the Viking’s defense.

Admittedly the first two games of the season were not matchups where the Saints’ pass rush could flourish.

Through three games the Saints leader in pressures is Marcus Davenport with six. Minnesota has four players with more, with Za’Darius Smith leading the charge with 12.

Cam Jordan has started this season slow as he did last season, this season feels more concerning he has the lowest pass rush win rate on the team (6.1%). Last season the d-line was riddled with injuries and once they were all mainly back, giving less attention to Cam he exploded. This season the full complement of d-line partners is there and still not much is happening.

Now, this could be an early season blip like last year and could explode again for 12.5 sacks, but the Saints need their soon to franchise leader in sacks to get going and be the dominant force in the passing game that we know and love. Jordan still is a force in the run game, that part of his game has not changed.

Both lines looked pretty solid against the run and right now the Vikings are a better team rushing the passer.

Advantage Vikings

Off The Ball Linebacker (LB)

Saints

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

Vikings

  • Eric Kendricks    
  • Jordan Hicks      
  • Brian Asamoah II
  • Troy Dye

I don’t need to say too much here, Davis and Werner are possibly the best LB tandem in the league, and surprisingly Werner, the second-year player looks like an all-pro through two weeks.

Kaden Ellis is being deployed in an interesting way for New Orleans. 58 of his 75 snaps so far are him lined up on the line of scrimmage. The Saints seem to be using him as a matchup player. Where depended on what happens in the play, he either rushes or drops in coverage. 

The reason I say this is interesting is not that this is necessarily unusual to deploy a SAM LB this way. More that, it’s just very different from how the Saints have used Ellis previously. 

The rest of the LBs for New Orleans has played solely special teams snaps so far. The same can be said for Brian Asamoah II and Troy Dye.

That leaves the two starters for the Vikings Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks. Both have plenty of NFL experience Kendricks traditionally has been by far the better player and has been a stand-out player at the position throughout the league. 

Jordan Hicks looks to be the weak link, especially in the passing game. He’s surrendered 14 catches on 17 targets for 179 yards, 138 of those yards have come after the catch. This should be a matchup the Saints should look to exploit and could be an easy way to get Alvin Kamara going.

As long as Pete Werner and Demario Davis are starting there’s not going to be many duos better.

Saints

Advantage Saints

Cornerback (CB)

Saints

  • Marshon Lattimore
  • Paulson Adebo
  • Bradley Roby
  • Justin Evans

Vikings

  • Patrick Peterson
  • Cameron Dantzler Sr.                    
  • Chandon Sullivan             
  • Akayleb Evans
  • Andrew Booth Jr. Q        
  • Kris Boyd

This Saints CB group has been one of the better groups in the league. Led by Marshon Lattimore who has been a shutdown CB so far this season. Bradley Roby has been a very solid number two. Although we could see the Saints switch up their starting pairing outside this week.

Paulson Adebo had an impressive rookie season followed by a very impressive training camp, with many Saints beat writers naming him camp MVP. Unfortunately, he suffered an ankle sprain towards the end of camp. Adeb returned to action last week in a limited fashion.

The hope this week is for Adebo to start opposite Marshon Lattimore, allowing Bradley Roby to move into the slot.

The Slot has otherwise been manned by Justin Evans, who primarily played safety before joining the Saints, he’s done a good job overall. The vision seemed to be to have Roby starting in the slot when all the CBs were healthy, especially in a game like this, where the Vikings have a lot of good receiving options.

Patrick Peterson and Cameron Dantzler Sr. headline the top of the CB depth chart for the Vikings. Peterson a long-time all-pro in the league may have lost a step from those heights but is still a more than good number one CB.

Dantzler has struggled so far this season allowing 81% of passes thrown his way to be caught, yielding a 123-passer rating when thrown his way. That’s worse than any of the starting CBs for either team.

Chandon Sullivan is the starting slot cornerback for the Vikings.

Starting CB’S coverage stats (per PFF)

Marshon Lattimore– Seven targets, three receptions for 23 yards. Passer rating against 51.5.

Bradley Roby– 22 targets, ten receptions for 121 yards. Passer rating against 62.9

Justin Evans– 14 targets, 9 receptions for 96 yards. Passer rating against 84.2

Patrick Peterson– 14 targets, 6 receptions for 87 yards. Passer rating against 63.7

Cameron Dantzler Sr.– 21 targets, 17 receptions for 204 yards. Passer rating 123.0

Chandon Sullivan- 15 targets, 13 receptions for 149 yards. Passer rating against 130.3

https://www.pff.com/

It certainly looks like the Saints have some matchups they could exploit, opposite and inside of Patrick Peterson. Could be another strong game for Chris Olave if the attention from Peterson goes elsewhere.

The Vikings could have rookie Andrew Booth Jr. available for the first time this. This was a player the Saints were rumored to have liked in the pre-draft process. I’m interested to see if he works his way into the rotation this week.

With Adebo back the Saints have four viable pieces that can move around and be very effective.

Advantage Saints 

Safety

Saints

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

Vikings 

  • Harrison Smith  
  • Camryn Bynum 
  • Josh Metellus    
  • Lewis Cine

The Saints hoped to have Marcus Maye back after missing last week’s game with the Panthers unfortunately he’s OUT for Sunday. They like to mix up their coverages and where their safeties line up. They can do that with P.J. Williams, but Maye does it much better. Williams is far more suited to his DIME backer role.

Tyrann Mathieu has been solid and that’s it. Other than a bad missed tackle last week you don’t see him making many mistakes but, you certainly aren’t seeing the playmaking that most Saints fans expected so far through three games. Fingers crossed with more time in the system after missing a large chunk of time over the summer, those big plays start to come.

The Vikings are expected to have all-pro safety Harrison Smith back which is huge for the defense, although backup Josh Metellus did fill in excellently in Smith’s absence with an interception against the Lions.  

Surprisingly, Vikings first-round Lewis Cine has only played one defensive snap so far and the Vikings look to find a long-term replacement for Smith. It seems the rookie is taking a bit of time to get acclimated into the NFL.

With Marcus Maye OUT, I think that tilts the advantage to the Vikings.

Advantage Vikings

Conclusion

The Saints and Vikings come out even with two position groups apiece.

The Vikings do currently have the better group in I think the most key area. The pass rush. If they can affect the Saints QB (looking like Andy Dalton) and the offense like others have the first three weeks, then I think this is going to be another long day for New Orleans across the pond

The Saints need to make the most of this excellent secondary and start to cause turnovers, I think that’s key for the Saints to win on Sunday.

So far, the Saints are last in the league in the league in turnover differential (-6) and have yet to record an interception despite playing excellent coverage for the first three weeks. That has to change on Sunday.   

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. 

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