Atlanta Falcons Opponent Analysis: New Orleans Saints Defense

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The players are running routes in shorts, and there are no pads on yet as OTAs are in full swing. So what is there to do for fans while rosters are still forming? Analyze the opponents of the 2022 Atlanta Falcons, of course! And what better way to start than with the defense of the New Orleans Saints. This piece will break down the strengths and weaknesses of the New Orleans defense and how the Atlanta Falcons can attack it. 

READ MORE: Falcons Quarterback Plans

Atlanta Falcons Opponent Analysis: Break Down of New Orleans Saints Defense

Strengths of Saints Defense

Versatility in the Secondary

The New Orleans Saints run a base 4-3 defense with two safeties hovering in the middle of the field. However, they feel just as comfortable in their 4-2-5 defense, with Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Bradley Roby substituting for that linebacker. Both of these players are able to adequately play the run while also providing the speed/coverage ability that a cornerback affords. The versatility of players like this, combined with their safeties who have somehow become Marcus Maye and Tyrann Mathieu, give them a back-end that is quite formidable. 

The versatility of all four players also allows Dennis Allen to effectively disguise his coverages pre-snap which makes quarterbacks take extra time to distinguish the holes in the defense post-snap. Cornerbacks Paulson Adebo and Marcus Lattimore’s ability to cover effectively in both off and press coverage further allows Allen to be creative in his pre-snap looks.

Aggressive Nature of the Front-Seven

Atlanta Falcons fans know who Demario Davis and Cam Jordan are. They are the leaders of the two levels of the 4-3 front seven for New Orleans. Cam Jordan’s ability to consistently beat one-on-one matchups with offensive tackles makes life easy for him and his running mates on the defensive line. The Saints 4-3 defense relies on the front four being as aggressive as possible while the next level of linebackers are playing continuous guessing games with the quarterback on where the play will be going. That makes Demario Davis’ ability to sniff out run plays pre-snap that much more impressive.

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With playmakers like Marcus Davenport, Shy Tuttle, and David Onyemata on the front line, there is no question why the Saints allowed the least amount of yards/attempt in the run game of any team in the NFL.

 

Weaknesses of the Saints Defense

Longer Drives

This defense is an attacking defense. The Saints only allowed 5.7 plays per drive throughout the 2021 season, which is fifth-best in the NFL. This statistic, combined with their aggressive defensive philosophy, allowed them to be fourth-best in points allowed and seventh-best in yards allowed. However, when looking at their eight losses, a pattern emerged. In the eight games that the New Orleans Saints lost, they allowed 42 drives beyond that five-play threshold. Of those 42 drives of six plays or more, 27 of them, over 64%, ended in a score for the offense. Of those 27, 13 of them ended in a touchdown.

Allowing consistent runs/plays like that will kill this offense. Forcing Dennis Allen back into base looks to combat these types of plays will make for more room for production from the play-action game.

Aggressiveness

Yes, this is usually a strength of a defense but in New Orleans, their aggression is also their downfall. In 2021, the New Orleans Saints had the 11th-best turnover percentage per drive and the tenth-most takeaways. However, the Saints defense also allowed 32.3% of their drives to end in a score, which was 30th out of 32 teams.

The Saints defense is talented, and they are fast. But they are also young. They are prone to make errors at all three levels and those mistakes can leave their fans scratching their heads in bewilderment.

 

Points of Attack for the Atlanta Falcons

Run Game/Quick Passing Game

The first step for the Atlanta Falcons offense will be to put an emphasis on quick passes and the run game. With newcomers Tyler Allgeier and Damien Williams coming into the fray, they will have two backs who are willing to take the contact from the front lines of the Saints and continue to plow ahead for more yards. That will be key as the offensive line still probably will not be stout enough to open up the holes necessary to keep the run game steady by itself.

Atlanta will have to have an effective quick passing game to supplement the running game. With the help of Cordarrelle Patterson and receivers such as Olamide Zaccheus, Damiere Byrd, and even Drake London, they should be able to force mismatches in the flats of the defense. 

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Patience

The Saints will look to take away the Falcons number-one target with rolling coverages usually disguised as base looks. However, those base looks leave room for other pass-catchers to contribute overall. Last year, against the Tennessee Titans, A.J. Brown was held to only four targets, one catch, and 16 yards receiving. However, the door was opened for Marcus Johnson to have five receptions on six targets for 100 yards and allowed the Titans to keep drives moving and the Tennessee defense on the field.

With Dennis Allen taking over the reins as head coach, the Saints defense will be at the forefront of the team’s success. This analysis of the New Orleans Saints defense is just one of a series of pieces that will break down future Atlanta Falcons opponents.

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