Behind Enemy Lines: Saints optimistic about pass rush vs. Cardinals despite the numbers
Behind Enemy Lines brings you the key storylines and latest news for the Arizona Cardinals’ opponents each week this season.
Saints optimistic about their pass rush despite the numbers
By Jordan Leandre
New Orleans Saints head coach Dennis Allen is impressed with the improvement of his team’s pass rush over the past several weeks.
However, he acknowledged that a quarterback’s scrambling ability plays a major role in what the pass rush can do.
On Thursday night, the Saints visit State Farm Stadium for a matchup with the Arizona Cardinals.
For the Saints, bringing quarterback Kyler Murray to the ground will be similar to open-field tackling.
“There’s really kind of a lot that goes into it,” Allen told reporters Wednesday. “It’s taking the proper angles and being able to wrap the quarterback up and get him on the ground, keeping on our feet.
“There’s times when you’re at an ability mismatch and that’s where the other 10 guys on the field have to be there to back you up.”
Entering Week 7, the Saints are 31st in the NFL in pass rush win rate at 31%. Only the Detroit Lions have a lower rate (30%). On the other hand, the Cardinals are middle-of-the-pack in pass block win rate (60%), according to ESPN Analytics.
Through five weeks, Murray had only taken seven sacks this season. On Sunday against the Seahawks, he took six. To make matters more difficult, the Cardinals will be without interior linemen Justin Pugh (ACL) and Rodney Hudson (knee).
Those two absences could loom large against the Saints’ front seven. Particularly linebacker Demario Davis, who has a team-leading four sacks this season. Davis’s 11-sack pace would shatter his career-high of five in 2017 and 2018.
Saints WR Chris Olave expects to play vs. Cardinals
By The Associated Press
METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints leading receiver Chris Olave said he expects to play in Arizona on Thursday night after missing last Sunday’s game because of a recent concussion.
“I’m ready to get back to it,” Olave, who was drafted 11th overall last spring, said after practice on Tuesday. “We’ve got to get back to winning. So, that’s the No. 1 goal.”
With top veteran receiver Michael Thomas missing New Orleans’ past three games because of his injured foot, Olave has emerged as the Saints’ most productive pass catcher so far this season with 25 receptions for 398 yards and two touchdowns.
But it was during his second touchdown in a Week 5 victory over Seattle that Olave got a concussion. As Olave was coming down with the catch, Seahawks cornerback Coby Bryant slammed the receiver to the turf.
Olave said he briefly lost consciousness when his helmet impacted the turf and lost his grip on the ball. The play initially was ruled an incomplete pass, but was overturned on video review to the touchdown.
Olave said the injury was “not really” scary to him.
“It’s a contact sport. Stuff like that’s going to happen,” Olave said. “But I’m just glad I’m healthy. I’m glad I got back on my feet. I’m glad I’ve got another opportunity to play.”
Olave did not take issue with the way Bryant tackled him.
“It was a good play by the corner,” Olave said, noting that he knew Bryant from college, when the rookie defensive back played for Cincinnati. “We went against each other in college. He’s good people. He reached out to me to make sure I was good. He’s a good player, too.”
Olave’s return has considerable significance for the Saints, who had to play without their top three receivers against the Bengals. Receiver Jarvis Landry (ankle) also did not play, and like Thomas, has not practiced this week, either.
The Saints relied heavily on their running game last week, gaining 228 yards on the ground. Quarterback Andy Dalton had his least productive game in three starts — passing for 162 yards and one TD to Tre’Quan Smith — since season-opening starter Jameis Winston went out with back and ankle injuries.
Stock up on Saints run game, stock down on defense
By The Associated Press
– The New Orleans Saints’ running game has averaged better than 230 yards during the past two games, with 235 against Seattle in Week 5.
– Rookie receiver Rashid Shaheed, who was undrafted out of Weber State, showcased exceptional speed when he scored a 44-yard touchdown on a jet sweep in his debut. Saints head coach Dennis Allen indicated that Shaheed, called up last week from the practice squad, could stick on the active roster. Shaheed is returning kicks now that Deonte Harty is on injured reserve.
– Kicker Wil Lutz has made seven of his past eight field-goal attempts, including one from 60 yards, and his only miss in the past three games hit two posts from 61 yards out.
– Quarterback Andy Dalton had his least efficient game in his three starts. It didn’t help that the Saints’ top three receivers were out. But Dalton was unable to convert in the clutch despite the Bengals’ defense being forced to respect New Orleans’ formidable run threat. Dalton completed 17 of 32 attempts for his lowest completion rate (53.1%) this season and lowest yardage total (162). The offense struggled in the red zone and couldn’t sustain any threatening drives in the final 10 minutes.
That doesn’t mean Dalton won’t get a fourth straight start.
Allen said Winston is still “not 100%” healthy and noted that the Saints have averaged 30 points per game in Dalton’s three starts.
– Defensively, the Saints have struggled to produce turnovers. Since Week 2, New Orleans has two fumble recoveries on non-special teams plays, and it has only one interception all season.
“It’s not what we would expect,” Allen said. “We’ve made that point, that we’ve got to be able to take ball away more often and we haven’t been able to do that yet. So, we’re working on it.”
Allen added that more pressure up front could force the kind of rushed, inaccurate throws that are more likely to be intercepted.
Which QB will it be?
By Arizona Sports
New Orleans Saints head coach Dennis Allen is doing his best to keep the Arizona Cardinals guessing as to which quarterback will start Thursday in a visit to State Farm Stadium.
Or maybe he really doesn’t know.
Andy Dalton, in his first season with New Orleans, has made the past three starts after Jameis Winston began sitting out after Week 3 with a back injury.
While Winston practiced in limited fashion last week and was active for the game, Allen told reporters Sunday after falling to the Bengals that it wasn’t necessarily a sign Winston would have been available over the weekend.
“The No. 1 thing is let’s get Jameis where he’s 100% healthy. Look, he was healthy enough to be the emergency third quarterback in this game last week. Part of that was manipulating the roster to get 48 guys up on gamedays,” Allen told reporters on Monday.
“Andy’s done a good job when he’s been in there. We’ve produced and scored some points. Let’s get Jameis fully healthy and we’ll go from there.”
Both quarterbacks have gone 1-2 in their trio of starts.
Dalton has thrown for 585 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The Saints beat the Seattle Seahawks in that span but fell by three and four points, respectively, to the Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals around that victory.
Winston has passed for 858 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions with a 27-26 win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1 followed by losses to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then the Carolina Panthers before his injury.
Lately, New Orleans has been dealing with a slew of injuries outside of quarterback. At receiver alone, they lost to Cincinnati, 30-26, with starters Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry and Chris Olave out.
The Saints hammered the Bengals on the ground Sunday, rushing 34 times for 228 yards, a 6.7 yards-per-carry average.
Alvin Kamara led the way with 99 yards on 19 carries, while Mark Ingram (46 yards) and gadget quarterback Taysom Hill (39 yards) contributed as well. Rookie receiver Rashid Shaheed added 44 yards on his only touch, his first career touchdown run.
According to ESPN, it was the first time since 2005 the team lost a game in which it surpassed the 200-yard rushing mark.