By Danny Cox
After the opening season loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the New England Patriots turned their attention to their next opponent— the New Orleans Saints. With a trio of talented running backs and a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees, any team in the NFL should be afraid to face them. But there may not be as much to fear as originally thought.
New Orleans Saints Season Record: 0-1
The Saints came out pumped up for their 2017 opener as new running back Adrian Peterson was anxious to face off against his old team in the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota quarterback Sam Bradford could not be stopped and “All-Day” gained no more than 18 yards on the ground in an all-around flat debut from the Saints, who hoped to look much better than previous years.
Saints On Offense
Obviously, things start and end with Drew Brees, but that has been the same case for more than a decade in New Orleans. When he has the ball in his hands, he makes others around him better. The only problem is that right now, he’s playing with an almost complete set of strangers in his wide receivers and a talented bunch of running backs who just can’t seem to get going.
The Saints have a lot of talent heading down the field in Ted Ginn, Tommylee Lewis, and Michael Thomas, but it appeared to take them forever to get rolling on Monday night. With a three-headed monster of running backs in Peterson, Mark Ingram, and rookie Alvin Kamara, one would have thought the Saints would light up the scoreboard.
Between the three of them, they gained 50 yards on 19 carries and never once saw the end zone. It seemed bad, but the Pats need to be careful if this offense gets on a roll.
Saints On Defense
New Orleans has a very strong defensive line with Cameron Jordan, Alex Okafor, Tyler Davison, and Sheldon Rankins. Making things even better for the Saints is a crop of linebackers that includes Manti Te’o, Craig Robertson, and A.J. Klein. They’re a very talented lot who can get after quarterbacks and make life hard for Tom Brady.
Now, if the Pats can give Brady enough time in the pocket, he may be able to pick apart a somewhat inexperienced secondary. It all depends on whether he is kept upright long enough.
Saints Players To Watch: RB Adrian Peterson and LB A.J. Klein
Adrian Peterson: Yes, Adrian Peterson did not look great in his New Orleans Saints’ debut, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to be a complete bust for the team. If he finds a hole and can break his first big run, it may make him more at ease and get him to calm down in an offense that is still quite new to him. New England will need to keep their eyes on him at all times because just when they think the Saints have turned to Ingram or Kamara, Peterson could break out.
A.J. Klein: The Saints have a number of possible playmakers on defense, but veteran linebacker A.J. Klein is quickly becoming a leader on the field for the black and gold. In four seasons with the Panthers, Klein’s highest tackle total for a season was 55. He already has 11 in just one game for the Saints. He’s fast, strong, and can be in the backfield in an instant or patrolling the field and hiding in the shadows.
This is going to be an interesting match-up as most everyone expected better from both teams in their season openers, and yet they came out to be nothing of the kind. One good thing the New England Patriots have going is that the New Orleans Saints looked even worse than they did. Oddly enough, the defense that looked good for the Saints in the preseason fell apart, while the usually explosive offense couldn’t get anything going. If the Pats have fixed their problems, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get their first win of 2017.