What Happened To The Saints Defense To Allow Big Plays

October 13, 2022

The Saints’ defense is supposed to be the anchor that keeps this team steady. Sunday’s win over the Seahawks was a close game because of the big plays the defense let up downfield. So what exactly happened in those plays?

The film on this game is very different than the film that was put out the first four weeks. For once it was the offense showing their identity and relying upon their playmakers while the defense struggled. The Seahawks had eight plays of 15 yards or more with six of them being over 30 yards. Not ideal for a team that needs to rely on the defense to win games.

Granted the game against the Seahawks, the Saints were without Marcus Maye and P.J. Williams. That left J.T. Gray, a special teams player, to get snaps at safety as well as Justin Evans. Both were out of place and looked like fish out of water at the safety position. This was a big reason why the team gave up so many shots downfield.

This was a game where the team could’ve used Marcus Williams’ range. Tyrann Mathieu can only do so much with his supporting cast at safety. That doesn’t mean he played perfectly and Marcus Maye is the guy who would be in probably preventing those big plays downfield.

Saints’ Second Year Corner Struggles

There’s no doubt that second-year cornerback Paulson Adebo is having a rough start to his sophomore season. Since missing the first two weeks of the season, Adebo has been targeted 22 times and has given up 18 receptions in three games. The yardage given up on those receptions has totaled up to 284 yards which comes out to an average of 15.8 yards per reception. Four of those 18 receptions have been touchdowns, three of which came against Seattle. Not good.

It’s fair to say that the 2022 training camp MVP is not living up to the hype. Especially after having a standout rookie campaign as a third-round draft pick. For reference, Adebo gave up five touchdowns all of last season. He simply isn’t playing well and is coming off the worst game of his young NFL career, which is why he’s one of the three players trending down.

On Seattle’s opening drive quarterback, Geno Smith found DK Metcalf for a 50-yard touchdown. It was frustrating. Why wasn’t Lattimore on Seattle’s number-one receiver? Even if we got the matchup we want, I’m not sure if he could’ve prevented the 50-yard touchdown. Metcalf’s actual route is to run ten yards across the middle and stop, like a post and curl.

The pressure on Smith causes the play to break down and he steps up into the pocket. When plays break down, receivers are taught to follow the quarterback and run into open space. Right, when Adebo gets into position to cover the initial route, the play breaks down and Metcalf gets open. Back deep at safety Tyrann has to cover the wide-open receiver on the opposite side of the field. This leaves the left side of the field (top of the screen) wide open for a touchdown.

Let’s fast-forward to Seattle’s final drive before halftime. The Saints are up 17-13 and due to an Alvin Kamara fumble, Seattle has the ball. The Saints go into a cover two-man defense meaning that two safeties are back deep while everyone else in coverage is manned up. Due to the injuries, special teams captain J.T. Gray was in at safety on the right side of the field.

Saints

Tyler Lockett runs a deep corner-post route concept. It’s the safety’s job to not let up leverage too much inside or outside. The lack of experience Gray at safety causes a huge opening deep down the middle for Lockett to take advantage of. The hips of Gray get turned outside towards the sideline which is when Lockett and Smith knew a touchdown was in the air.

While the safeties didn’t help Adebo out on the play, he was still three yards behind Lockett. There’s a tendency here for Adebo. In press man coverage he struggles, that is the coverage he was in on this play. The corner also tends to struggle with speedy/quicker receivers which Lockett is. The matchup was set for the Seahawks to have a big game over him.

The final play we’re gonna look at is the third touchdown Adebo gave up. Very similar to the play that we just looked at which took play before the half. Looks like it’s cover three, could be cover four but Adebo is manned up. Back deep at safety are Tyrann Mathieu and Justin Evans, who deserve some of the blame for this play.

Adebo gets beat inside which is where he needs safety help. Tyrann Mathieu doesn’t keep his feet moving throughout the play and looks stiff. Once Lockett is level with him he’s burnt. Mathieu’s hips open up inside preventing him from having the range to run back deep. As he opens his hips he begins to drift outside keeping him out of the play. This opens up the middle and it results in a touchdown.

It’s worth noting that Just Evans also can make a play on the ball. Unfortunately, Evans keeps his eye on the ball the whole time making him do a complete 360 rather than a 180. If he turns right instead of left I think Evans gets an interception.

There is no doubt that Geno Smith had a great game. He made absurd throws and is arguably the best quarterback the Saints have played this season.

These issues have to be resolved. The schedule for the Saints only gets more competitive. The Bengals are a team with a lot of weapons and will take advantage of this weakness the Saints showcased against Seattle. Especially without Marshon Lattimore who has been arguably the best player on the team this season. Luckily the team will be getting Marcus Maye back who probably prevents at least one of those deep shots.

Time will tell us how this defense will operate, but going into the season we all knew more big plays downfield were going to be allowed without Marcus Williams. With two new safeties, the communication isn’t going to jell immediately. Especially with two safeties injured. Getting Marcus Maye back will take these deep shots away and the sooner the better. With the Bengals coming to town, getting Maye back soon is crucial.

Other Film Notes From The Saints’ Victory Over Seattle

  1. The Taysom Hill quarterback power works from any formation.
  2. Cesar Ruiz continues to have a productive season.
  3. Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport created pressure very well.
  4. Malcolm Roach had a really good game sniffing out the run.
  5. Taysom Hill had the game-securing block for Alvin Kamara. He does it all.