The Carolina Panthers open division play this week with a game against the overly well regarded New Orleans Saints. To get an idea of where all that hype is coming from, I spoke with Chris Conner. His high opinion of the team is unsurprising—for a Saints fan. The short story version is that fans are confident in Sean Payton, even without Drew Brees. We’ll see if that holds through the season.
It appears half of the Saints defensive depth chart is hurt. Who is actually going to play on Sunday and do Panthers fans know any of them?
The Saints week 1 win over the packers for sure took a beating towards the injury report. We’ll probably know more as Sunday approaches on some names like Marshon Lattimore, his availability along with newcomer Bradley Roby could be essential while tasked against D.J Moore and Robby Anderson. Marcus Davenport and Kwon Alexander both look doubtful to play, but defensive end and linebacker actually have been bright spots for the Saints all summer in regards to depth. If Lattimore doesn’t suit up, that’s where things get tricky as you’ll see a mixture of veteran Desmond Trufant next to Roby who Panther fans should remember from his Falcon days, as well as rookie Paulson Adebo, who has looked very well since being drafted. Adebo also picked off Aaron Rodgers in his first regular-season game last weekend.
If you’re asking about defensive names that Panther fans associate in a Saints uniform, you’ll see familiar faces such as Cameron Jordan, Marcus Williams, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and Demario Davis of course. Malcolm Jenkins will be out there, and first-round pick Payton Turner is expected to get his first game action.
Erik McCoy, the Saints starting center, is out for six weeks with a calf injury. He was one of four interior linemen the Saints carried into the season on their initial 53-man roster. What are the Saints going to do with the remaining three and how do you think they will stand up to a surprisingly formidable Panthers defensive tackle group?
The Saints have done a great job over the Sean Payton era in maintaining flexibility throughout their offensive line. They pride themselves in keeping around a plethora of linemen that are proficient at multiple positions. The latest example took place last week when Erik McCoy went down, and 2020 First Round draft pick Cesar Ruiz moved over from guard to his college position at Center, and the offensive line didn’t miss a beat. Calvin Throckmorton took over at the guard position for Ruiz last Sunday, which will probably be the plan against the Panthers. The Saints later signed former Kansas City Chief Austin Reiter, maybe he is a last-minute call-up from the practice squad? You never really know with Sean Payton, but for now I expect to see the interior to consist of Peat, Ruiz, and Throckmorton. Without McCoy, New Orleans still has three pro bowlers and first-round picks a piece upfront. You would only assume they should be able to hold their own, but if there’s a weak spot to watch for, it’ll be at the right guard position with McCoy sidelined.
Listen, we all remember Jameis Winston from his days in Tampa. Lasik is good stuff, but no surgery on this Earth makes throwing one touchdown and zero interceptions for every thirty yards passing—or every sixty yards of offense—a sustainable performance. When he comes back down to earth this week, what should we expect to see as his actual average level of play?
Comes back down to earth!? Why can’t he throw five touchdowns again Walker?
All jokes aside, I believe that Sean Payton and the Saints organization, have made a large impact on Jameis. He already made some personal changes, as he’s seemed to mature off the football field and you can tell by the physical shape he’s in that Winston has put the work in. When you put guys with his talent inside of buildings that show countless examples of stability, who knows what average will be? I think eventually the Saints have to run into a team that makes them pay from not having Micheal Thomas, but if Jameis is taking care of the football, and Marquez Callaway has another great game against Carolina, a Sean Payton designed gameplan with deep throw accessibility again leaves a lot to consider. I want to give you a straight answer and I promise I’m trying to get there, Jameis just offers a different assortment of tools that the Saints haven’t had in a little while. Winston already brings strong-arm talent and mobility with a solid offensive line. New Orleans also has some speed with Deonte Harris, and we can’t forget the other all-world running back in Alvin Kamara on the field, not to mention the new guys coming into the fold like backup running back Tony Jones Jr, and tight-end Juwan Johnson who almost had a hat trick with touchdowns in week 1.
We may need to see a few more weeks of Jameis to know what an “average level of play” looks like especially if the defense remains elite putting the offense in favorable positions. We’ll discuss what a possible healthy Saints offense could do at a later date, but to finally answer your question with the information we have and the current health status of the Saints offense? My guess for an average Jameis “level of play” is him sitting somewhere around the mid 200 yardage mark, with one-to-two touchdowns and probably one turnover whether it be an interception or a fumble.
Panthers fans are contractually obligated to assume that the Packers are an atrocious team more so than the Saints are legit this year. Why are we wrong? (We’re not though)
You’re wrong because the Saints didn’t beat the Jets starting a rookie quarterback with better hair than weapons as we stand. You’re wrong because Marshon Lattimore with one hand is better than anything the Jets could throw out there against DJ Moore. All of that and Carolina still only won by five points.
But I’m not here to take shots of course.
The fact of the matter is, New Orleans is one of the better coached teams in football, so they’re pretty much prepared for any situation. Whether it be the roster, or playing their first “home” game against one of the best quarterbacks of all time and a super bowl contender in Jacksonville. Panther fans have seen the Saints go 9-1 without Drew Brees over the past few seasons. Hell if they’re old enough they should remember the great Luke McCown almost upsetting Panthers with phenomenal performance years back in Carolina. My point is, they’re used to adversity in any form in arrives. So as much as Green Bay had their own issues and laid somewhat of an egg in week one, the Saints picked them up and supplied the pillow for the Packers to deliver it, before smashing the egg on their faces last Sunday. New Orleans has elite talent across the board, depth in areas they weren’t supposed to have, and a Julius Peppers-sized chip they consistently play with brought to them by their head coach. I wouldn’t tell you they’re a super bowl contender just yet, but with the mixture of young talent, veteran leadership, and experience up and down the organization, they’re easily “legit”.
The Saints put their foot down last week while the Panthers tripped over their own. Week one is rarely, if ever, the full story of any team’s season, yet the odds makers are leaning towards the Saints already. What’s your score prediction for this week?
Last week shocked everyone, I don’t expect a similar performance so I’m back to believing the Panthers game will be a close one. The final injury report will be telling for me, but I’d expect something like a 24-20 ball game. I believe both defenses are legitimate, and that will be front and center on Sunday next to some of the other ugly defensive battles this series has produced over the years in Carolina when the Panthers have a lick to play for.
Overall I expect Sam Darnold to make more mistakes than Jameis, and New Orleans leaves Carolina 2-0.