By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Saints have a lot of brand new parts that they’re trying to break in rather quickly. It probably doesn’t help that a lot of them are getting their Week 2 tuneup against the Patriots and an angry Tom Brady.
Sean Payton seems pretty happy about his 2017 draft class, based on how much run they got against the Vikings on Monday Night Football. Or maybe the rest of his roster is just that poor. The important thing is the Saints’ rookie class mostly played prominent roles on Monday, and it mostly didn’t look great for them (although Payton said he was “fairly pleased” with their efforts). No matter how they perform against the Patriots, they figure to get significant snaps and hear their names called either way.
Here’s a quick look at five Saints rookies who you should know about before Sunday’s tilt at the Superdome. Look for them to make an impact, one way or another. If you read last week’s edition, you got up to speed on the Chiefs’ Kareem Hunt before his opening night explosion.
Marshon Lattimore, CB
Of all the Saints players drafted this past April, Lattimore carries easily the most upside. The 11th overall pick out of Ohio State (and the first cornerback taken) played nearly every defensive snap on Monday in his NFL debut but did not impress, earning a “poor” 50.6 grade from Pro Football Focus.
Lattimore can’t exactly be blamed for having to cover Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph on this touchdown catch. He watched the quarterback and shaded to his right to create a form of bracket coverage, but going up against a 6-foot-6 pass-catcher is always going to be a mismatch for the 6-foot-nothing Lattimore. He could have a bad time if he’s even asked to simply cover Brandin Cooks, but if the Patriots can force him into matchups against Rob Gronkowski, he definitely will.
Ryan Ramczyk, OT
Offensive tackles may not excite you like other positions do, but Ramczyk is of particular note to Patriots observers. He’s the player the Saints took with the 32nd pick in the draft. They essentially traded Cooks for this kid.
The rookie out of Wisconsin had a solid NFL debut. Thrust immediately into the starting left tackle spot on Monday night, PFF handed him a grade of 70.4, which rates as “average” by their system – but that’s not bad for your first game ever in a very important role. It’s likely that he has to block Trey Flowers on Sunday, so if you don’t hear Flowers’ name called much, the rook is probably having himself a day.
Marcus Williams, S
Much like Lattimore, Williams is quickly assuming a big role on the Saints defense. He played all 65 snaps against the Vikings, earning a decent 73.8 grade from PFF including 78.9 for his coverage. Kenny Vaccaro is the better, more experienced safety for the Saints right now – which means that if Brady were to pick on someone at that position, it would be Williams.
The second-rounder out of Utah, however, is billed as an effective cover safety with good potential as a playmaker. So if the ball goes his way on Sunday, he’ll have chances to hawk the ball away. But he’ll have a rough go of it if that has to come against Gronkowski; it’s more likely Vaccaro draws that assignment and Williams will take on the James Whites and Dion Lewises of the world.
Alvin Kamara, RB
Speaking of pass-catching running backs, it was Kamara – NOT Adrian Peterson or Mark Ingram – that played the most offensive snaps among Saints running backs against the Vikes. He played 31, none as a pass-blocker, and made four catches on six targets for 20 yards. He also rushed seven times for just 18 yards, which certainly contributed to his dismal 44.8 PFF grade for the game.
If anyone is going to replicate what Hunt did against the Patriots in the season opener, it will be Kamara. Hopefully Matt Patricia has the defense figured out better this week – it might also help a bit if Dont’a Hightower is on the field – but either way, look for Payton and Drew Brees to feed him the ball in open space and see what happens. You might even see the likes of Devin McCourty keying in on this kid.
Alex Anzalone, LB
As far as PFF’s grading room goes, Anzalone played the best of all Saints rookies on Monday night. He earned an “above average” 81.4 grade against the Vikings while playing 48 of 65 defensive snaps. He logged a couple of tackles and allowed just two catches on four pass attempts.
His assignments often came against a fellow rookie, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. So expect Anzalone to be in the mix whenever one of the Patriots’ four runners gets the ball, especially up the middle. A.J. Klein is the Saints’ primary inside linebacker, but Anzalone may have carved himself a slightly bigger role after his performance in his NFL debut.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, CBS, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @Dolloff985 and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.