We were graced to have our
good friends over at Canal Street Chronicles (the New Orleans Saints SB Nation site) speak with us about five burning questions surrounding the franchise and the impending injury news from star WR Michael Thomas.
Thanks to the team over at CSC, even though this week, we’re rivals. We’ll go back to being friends on Tuesday morning.
S&BP: How is the health of the Saints team after Week 1?
CSC: The news that Michael Thomas will miss “several weeks” to what is now classified a “high ankle sprain” is obviously devastating. It’s crushing to lose the reigning Offensive Player of the Year in any offense, but especially in one that focuses so much attention in running through a single player.
The Saints were without two of their top-three draft picks from the 2020 NFL Draft in OL Cesar Ruiz and LB/Edge Zack Baun as well as 2018 first-round pick Marcus Davenport last week. Considering: (1) none of the three were placed on IR; (2) new IR rules allow for any number of players to return; (3) the IR can be as short as three weeks; and (4) the importance of additional roster spots that could be freed up by placing someone on IR, I expect all three to be back this week. If any of the three were going to miss at least two games, it likely would have made more sense to place them on injured reserve, but that is just me speculating here.
The Saints are more equipped now than in recent years to handle the loss of someone like Thomas - heck, they went without Drew Brees for five games last year - as they now have a player like Emmanuel Sanders who should be able to stop up and assume that No. 1 wide receiver role. The return of Ruiz on the offensive line should also help (Alvin) Kamara and the run game, and a healthy defense should ease pressure on the Saints offense.
S&BP: Who is one player on both sides of the ball that Raiders fans might not be familiar with that you expect to make an impact on this game?
CSC: On offense, I’ll go with WR Deonte Harris, entering his second year in the NFL. The former undrafted free agent earned First Team All-Pro honors last year in his rookie season, and Sean Payton is slowly finding more creative ways to get Harris the ball in space on offense.
On defense, I’ll go with the cornerback formerly known as C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who now prefers to be called “Ceedy Deuce.” Deuce led the team in tackles last week, and is a physical player who can fill holes to stop the run, but also is decent in coverage against tight ends in the slot. Deuce is not afraid to lay the wood, and he has a nose for the football, so I’d expect him to try to give the Raiders’ run game fits all night.
S&BP: Finish this sentence: The Saints will win this game unless _________________.
CSC: Michael Thomas misses the game and the Saints offense struggles without Thomas to draw away attention from Emmanuel Sanders, Alvin Kamara, and Jared Cook in the New Orleans passing attack.
S&BP: If you were Jon Gruden, how would you game plan to attack the Saints defense?
CSC: I would bank on the Saints defensive backs like Marshon Lattimore, DJ Swearinger, and others to get a little too “handsy,” so I would constantly press the ball downfield with deep pass attacks. Hope the pass is caught by the Raiders’ receiver, but even if it isn’t, there’s a high probability a defensive pass interference penalty will give you the yardage anyway at this point.
The Saints have solid depth at each level on the defense, so they shouldn’t get gassed as easily as other teams with long, sustained drives. No, instead, I would try to strike quickly and often by using Henry Ruggs III to attack deep down field.
S&BP: What are your predictions for the game? Who wins? Final score?
CSC: With the utmost respect to the Raiders, the Saints appear to be better on paper in every aspect of the game - at quarterback, skills positions, offensive line, defensive line, secondary, special teams, coaching ... There’s a reason we play the game, but the Saints should be looking to go down in history as the team to get the first ever NFL win in the Raiders’ shiny new stadium.
That them there are fightin’ words.
Let’s go to battle on Monday!