The New Orleans Saints will welcome the Arizona Cardinals into the Dome as they look to improve to 3-0 on the season. Despite a less than stellar season last year, the Cardinals will bring a physical brand of football that features playmakers on offense and defense alike. Here are some things to watch for this Sunday.
Cardinals secondary vs Saints wide receivers
Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the New Orleans Saints’ offense struggled. The struggles were readily apparent in the lack of production from the Saints’ receivers. The majority of the yards were accumulated by Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles. Though Darrelle Revis is a great player, he wasn’t guarding every receiver, meaning that no other receiver stepped up and made plays. The Cardinals present a similar challenge with a secondary featuring Patrick Peterson, one of the top defensive backs in the league. Chances are he will draw the assignment of locking up Marques Colston. With Colston being taken out by Peterson and Graham being doubled, it is up to Lance Moore, Kenny Stills, and the other receivers to beat the 2nd and 3rd corners of the Cardinals.
The Saints up to this point have done an exceptional job against the top receivers of other teams considering where they were last year. In the first two games Julio Jones and Vincent Jackson, two of the league’s best wideouts, were held to less than 100 yards receiving. The Cardinals present a similar challenge with Fitzgerald. Despite his disappointing season last year, this year he has developed a nice rapport with quarterback Carson Palmer. Keenan Lewis, one the Saints’ key acquisitions, seems to be paying dividends so far as he and Jabari Greer are doing an effective job limiting opposing wideouts. The task won’t get any easier as they try to limit the Cardinal’s offensive catalyst.
Can the running game get it together?
The first two games have seen abysmal rushing totals from the Saints’ offense, and it hasn’t been because a lack of effort. The holes don’t seem to be opening up on the attempts that are there. What is puzzling to many Saints fans is the distribution of carries. I have been a defender of Mark Ingram, but it is getting downright ridiculous. He has averaged an absolutely dreadful 1.8 yards per carry. Meanwhile, old reliable Pierre Thomas has average a more than acceptable 5.8 yards per carry.
Personally, I, along with I’m sure many Saints fans, are fed up with the lack of production, and would like to see Thomas get the lion’s share of the carries. Though I believe in the Saints’ coaching staff, I am starting to wonder if they have access to the statistics, or eyes for that matter, because it pretty obvious who should be toting the rock.
X Factor: Special Teams
Often an overlooked part of the game, this game in particular can definitely see an impact coming from special teams. The Saints seem to be a better team overall, but special teams can really even out the score. The Cardinals have one of the best return men Peterson and if they so choose, Tyrann Mathieu is good in his own right at returning kicks. The Saints will need to do a good job limiting the touches and effectiveness of the Cardinals special teams if they want to win. Don’t be surprised if this game shifts somehow because of special teams. Between Mathieu, Peterson, and Sproles, something amazing is bound to happen.
Under the Radar Matchup: Darnell Dockett vs Jahri Evans
Darnell Dockett has been one of the best interior lineman in the past few years and is often underrated. Nonetheless, the three-time pro bowler has proven that he can be very disruptive and his presence allows the outside rushers to thrive in favorable situations. Luckily for the Saints, the interior is where the Jahri Evans resides. A mammoth of a man, Evans has been one of the best guards in the league going to 4 Pro Bowls and being selected to 4 All Pro Teams. Because of Drew Brees’ diminutive stature, gut pressure is especially troublesome. If Evans can keep Dockett at bay, that will put the Saints in a great position to score some points.