With Week 1 of the regular season upon us, it is a time for optimism among fans around the league. With a new season comes renewed hopes and excitement over new players or schemes. The same is true for the Packers, who face a new look New Orleans Saints team. Despite familiarity between these two teams, meeting in Week 3 a season ago, there will be a lot to watch for in this year’s matchup of Packers-Saints.
Jameis vs Joe Barry
Starter Jameis Winston presents a much different style of quarterback than Sean Payton is accustomed to. In an offense predicated on timing routes and short to intermediate throws, Winston brings a big arm and propensity to push the ball downfield. In his last year as a starter, he led the NFL in average depth of target at 11.3 yards, and attempted a league-leading 152 passes over 15 yards (the Saints as a team had 76).
The Joe Barry scheme is designed precisely to defend just that. Expect to see a lot of zone coverage, allowing completions underneath with defenders rallying to prevent yards after the catch. With a receiving core with little star power and a quarterback prone to turning the ball over – expect the Packers to try and force the Saints into long, methodical drives.
Saints Edge Rushers
With Elgton Jenkins set to fill-in for the first 6+ weeks of the season at left tackle, he will be tested early against a formidable Saints pass rush. Marcus Davenport has started to exploit the traits that made the Saints trade up in the first round to draft him in 2018. Opposite him is Cam Jordan, who has been one of the premier players at the position for the better part of the last decade.
Jenkins has shown great versatility along the offensive line and the Packers clearly think highly of him, but expect Matt LaFleur to offer help with tight end chip blocks to slow the rush down. The Packers young interior fortunately catches a break as Saints starting defensive lineman David Onyemata will be suspended for the contest.
Packers Rushing Attack
With the Packers set to start 2 rookies along the offensive line, it would not be surprising to see them try to establish the running game early on with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. This would also help set up a lot of the play-action concepts that the Packers run off of their zone running scheme. The Saints, however, had one of the stingiest run defenses in the league a season ago – ranking 4th in rushing yards per game, and 3rd in yards per carry allowed. Obviously the loss of Onyemata hurts here, but they still have the horses to make things tough for the Packers.
Davante Adams missed the week 3 matchup against New Orleans a season ago, and Allen Lazard took full advantage – to the tune of 6 catches, 146 yards and a TD. With the additions of Randall Cobb and Amari Rodgers, along with the progression of MVS, the depth at the wide receiver position looks much more promising than a season ago. Week 1 will provide the first glimpse into how Matt LaFleur plans to utilize all of these pieces.
Fully expect Davante Adams to get his – he’s averaged 145 targets over the last 3 seasons, and that should not change – but Rodgers will have plenty of dependable targets to spread the ball around. This offense will be even tougher to defend if defenses are unable to roll coverages towards Adams.
Jared is a rogue Packers fan from a Steelers family and an overall football junkie, including playing 4 years at Ithaca College. You can follow him on twitter at @JPrugar.