– clashes that could decide the game of the Patriots against the Saints
The New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints are in comparable situations this season. Sure, they share a 1-1 record, but the parallels between these two franchises run much deeper than that. Having both lost their franchise quarterbacks over the past two seasons, each team has quickly bounced back with the player they think is next in contention for that role. Bouncing this fast was important for both franchises, as the key executives around said quarterback are still lagging behind.
The Saints still have running back Alvin Kamara, linebacker Demario Davis, defensive lineman Cameron Jordan and safety back Malcolm Jenkins; who all bring strong leadership and immense talent to the New Orleans roster. New England can say the same as they have their own strong core made up of running back James White, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, special team Matthew Slater and safety Devin McCourty, who bring those same qualities.
This group of players, along with a few others, will certainly play a major role in the success of their teams in the future. They also serve as subjects for our clashes which could decide Sunday’s game.
White vs. Davis
In just two games, the 2021 season already looks set to become a rebounding year for Patriots running back James White, who increasingly takes the Patriots’ attacking plans into account each week. That’s good news for New England, who will need White to be at his best to face Saints linebacker Demario Davis.
Davis arrived in New Orleans on a free agency bet ahead of the 2018 season, and gave New Orleans a huge return on investment. In his three seasons with New Orleans, Davis won two All-Pro caps and was one of the best passing defenders.
With a rookie quarterback below center, White’s role in the offense grows exponentially. He is not only a security blanket, but a security guard. He’ll be Mac Jones’ man of trust on the underlying roads, but he’ll also serve as personal protection against blitz linebackers like Davis. White and Davis’ paths are expected to intersect on several occasions on Sunday, especially in the passing game where they will draw each other.
New England Rush Pass vs New Orleans OL
It took me almost a full week to determine if the Saints’ offensive line was good or not. Verdict: I have no idea.
After keeping the pocket clean for Jameis Winston in the first week, they were absolutely battered by the Carolina Panthers who had four sacks and forced a pair of interceptions from quarterback Jameis Winston. With starting center Erik McCoy missing several practices this week, it looks like New Orleans will deploy the same unit they did in their loss to Carolina.
New England should be able to attack this front with the same ferocity as Carolina because they have the weapons to do so. A blitz-heavy defensive program blew up Winston last weekend and the Patriots linebackers excel at stunts and blitzes. Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Ja’Whaun Bentley could all team up with the teams’ top pass runners in Matt Judon, Josh Uche and Chase Winovich for a big day.
Jones vs. Jenkins
If you had to find a single security in the NFL today to compare Devin McCourty, it would probably be Malcom Jenkins. Both have career VAs (approximate value) of 83, they are both captains and former defensive callers in their high school, they both went from cornerback to safety, and they both even went to the New Jersey high school. It must be something in the water.
I say all this to say this; Malcolm Jenkins isn’t the kind of guy you want your rookie quarterback to face.
In a week where every Patriots twitter was calling for Mac Jones to spread the ball more, New England will likely take another conservative approach to their offensive game plan with Jenkins hiding in high school. That’s unless Jenkins can trick the rookie into making a stray throw or two. It will be a fun chess match in the game.