The New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints are in comparable situations this season. Sure, they share a record of 1-1, but the parallels betwixt these two franchises run much deeper than that. Having both lost their franchise quarterbacks within the last two seasons, each team quickly rebounded with the player that they believe be next in line for that role. Bouncing back this fast was important for both franchises as the core leaders that surrounded said quarterback are all still hanging around.
The Saints still have running back Alvin Kamara, linebacker Demario Davis, defensive lineman Cameron Jordan and safety Malcolm Jenkins; all of whom bring strong leadership and immense talent to New Orleans’ roster. New England can say the same as they have their own strong core consisting of running back James White, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, special teamer Matthew Slater and safety Devin McCourty, who bring those same qualities.
That group of players, plus a few more, are certain to play a major role in the successes of their teams moving forward. They also serve as the subjects to our matchups that could decide Sunday’s game.
White vs. Davis
Through just two games, the 2021 season already looks like it has the makings to become a bounce back year for Patriots running back James White, who is factoring into the Patriots offensive plans more and more each week. That is good news for New England, who will need White to be his best self to contend with Saints linebacker Demario Davis.
Davis arrived to New Orleans on a free agency gamble prior to the 2018 season, and has given New Orleans a huge return on their investment. In his three seasons with New Orleans, Davis has earned a pair of All-Pro selections and has served as one of the defenses best pass rushers.
With a rookie quarterback under center, White’s role in the offense grows exponentially. He isn’t just a safety blanket, but a security guard. He will be Mac Jones’ go to man on underneath routes, but he will also serve as his personal protection from blitzing linebackers such as Davis. It is expected that White and Davis’ paths cross on a number of occasions Sunday, especially in the passing game where they will draw each others assignment.
New England’s Pass Rush vs. New Orleans’ OL
It took me almost a full week to figure out if the Saints’ offensive line was good or not. Verdict: I have no clue.
After keeping the pocket clean for Jameis Winston in week one, they were absolutely manhandled by the Carolina Panthers who had four sacks and forced a pair of interceptions from quarterback Jameis Winston. With starting center Erik McCoy missing multiple practices this week, it looks as though New Orleans will be rolling out the same unit as they did in their loss to Carolina.
New England should be able to attack that front with the same ferocity as Carolina as they have the guns to do so. A blitz heavy defensive scheme got Winston walloped last weekend and the Patriots linebackers excel on stunts and blitzes. Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Ja’Whaun Bentley could all team up with the teams top pass rushers in Matt Judon, Josh Uche and Chase Winovich for a big day.
Jones vs. Jenkins
If you had to find a single safety in the NFL today to compare Devin McCourty with, it would probably be Malcom Jenkins. Both cary a career AV (approximate value) of 83, they both serve as captains and former defensive signal callers for their secondary, they both moved from cornerback to safety, and they even both went to high school in New Jersey. Must be something in the water.
I say all of that to say this; Malcolm Jenkins isn’t the type of guy you want your rookie quarterback to have to face.
In a week where all of Patriots twitter was clamoring for Mac Jones to air the ball out more, New England will likely take another conservative approach to their offensive game plan with Jenkins lurking around in the secondary. That is unless Jenkins can bait the rookie into making an errant throw or two. This will be a fun chess match within the game.