The New Orleans Saints hosted the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, a team looking for their first win since December of 2016. Instead of success, the Saints offense struggled to move the football without running back Mark Ingram, who is currently serving a four game suspension for PED’s.
The only real thing Saints fans can be truly grateful for is that Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield didn’t play for Cleveland. The Saints wouldn’t have been able to hang around had that happened.
The Saints managed to squeak by, 21-18. Let’s take a look at some of the crucial takeaways from the game on Sunday.
Ball Security is an Issue
Ball security has been a serious issue with this team in the first two games of the season. While Michael Thomas has caught all but 2 of his 30 targets this season, he’s lost two fumbles, one in each game. Ted Ginn Jr lost a fumble as well during the game.
If New Orleans can’t secure the football better, it will handicap this offense operating without Ingram. Drew Brees hasn’t thrown an interception yet this season, but that won’t last forever. What happens when Brees throws two interceptions against a stiff secondary?
Alvin Kamara is an absolute beast
While the numbers might not be reading it, Kamara makes a huge impact on this team. His ability to squirt through tackles and make plays happen is second to none. He did it several times against the Browns too.
— Brenden Ertle (@Brenden_Ertle) September 16, 2018
If only Kamara had Mark Ingram to compliment his game right now. His numbers would be more then receptions.
Michael Thomas has glue for hands while catching
Despite fumbling twice already this season, Michael Thomas is having an extraordinary start to the season. Thomas already has 28 receptions on 30 targets for a whopping 269 yards and 3 touchdowns. He dominates off the line and plays physical for the football, something that is rare in this league. Top five receiver in the league right now.
This Pass Rush needs to get better quickly
The Saints collected their first three sacks in the week two game against the Browns. To put this into perspective, the Steelers defense feasted on this offensive line and collected 7 sacks in week one. Somehow, the Saints defense couldn’t sack Ryan Fitzpatrick week one and couldn’t pressure the Browns very well against a porous offensive line.
The #Saints finished with 7 total pressures vs Bucs (27th of 28 teams)
6 players across the NFL created 7 or more pressures by themselves. The only Saint to create more than 1 pressure was Okafor, 2 hurries
Silver lining: Rookie Davenport generated 1 QB Hit on only 12 pass rush
— Brandon Varnam (@BravoVictor03) September 11, 2018
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Cameron Jordan was able to get going against a weak left tackle and got two sacks. Sheldon Rankins collected the third, but where was 1st round pick Marcus Davenport? Where was Alex Okafor? Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen needs to find ways to activate this pass rush and get after the quarterback – and quickly.
Offensive Grade: C+
Drew Brees had himself another very good day, throwing for 243 yards and 2 scores, and compiling a passer rating of 114.6. He still has that spark, but he can’t carry this team. Two of his receivers lost fumbles. Michael Thomas caught 12 of his 13 targets for 89 yards and 2 scores, but gave up a fumble. Alvin Kamara contributed his good bit to the offense, catching 6 passes for 53 yards.
The offense is struggling without Ingram, and are trying to use Mike Gillislee to bring that power to compliment Kamara. He has been virtually useless the past couple of weeks, carrying 8 times against the Browns for just 18 yards. Last week, he too lost a fumble. Gillislee was cut by the Patriots last season after underwhelming in nine games and two starts despite signing a three year contract with New England.
Defensive Grade: B-
The Browns left a lot of points on the field, mainly because their kicker was hurt and couldn’t deliver. The Saints were challenged by Jarvis Landry and Antonio Callaway, and played so deep off the line most of the game it let quarterback Tyrod Taylor pick his places he wanted to attack.
While the pass rush wasn’t there, the run defense did their job well. Carlos Hyde was held to just 43 yards on 16 carries, and was the teams leading rusher. The Browns averaged 3.4 yards per carry.
Overall Grade: C+
The Saints didn’t look any better then average against the Browns. The Saints were favored by 10 at kickoff, and they won by three, because the Browns rookie kicker, Zane Gonzalez, hurt his groin and missed four kicks all day. If Gonzalez makes two of those kicks, the Browns walk away with a win.
It might be very difficult the next two weeks without Ingram. However, the Saints play at Atlanta and at the Giants, so they might be able to walk away with a 2-2 record and suffer minimal damage. Let’s see the Saints clean up some of these mistakes first.
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