The New Orleans Saints are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Sean Payton didn’t need Drew Brees a week ago, and instead relied on his defense wrecking Matt Ryan while Taysom Hill got his feet wet. Meanwhile the Broncos celebrated an upset victory over the once hapless Miami Dolphins to reach 4-6. At least from afar, it’s crystal clear what the Broncos will need to do if they’re going to knock off another giant: run the ball effectively, establish play action, and play great defense.
Earlier today Pro Football Focus’ Seth Galina reached out and made it painfully clear how hard that strategy could be to implement. What follows is our conversation about the Broncos and Saints, lightly edited for clarity.
1st and 10
What do you expect the Broncos to do on third down, and how could that give Taysom Hill problems?
Galina: On third downs, the Broncos need to keep expanding on their blitz package. They’ve come with some more exotic stuff in the second half of this season and I think you want to test if Taysom can handle that kind of stuff early in his development as a starter. Maybe not as much man on third downs because then the ball just goes to Thomas, and he’ll generally win his 1v1, and you may not be forcing Taysom off his first read enough.
Taysom Hill was awesome in his first start. Whether this was a product of the Falcons defense or even if he will ever play this good again remains to be seen but for one afternoon he made all the right reads and threw the ball accurately.— seth galina (@pff_seth) November 23, 2020
A thread with the most interesting plays: pic.twitter.com/TDrgAgYaJI
2nd and 7
What do you expect Broncos Country to see from Dennis Allen when Drew Lock is forced to pass?
Galina: He’ll probably end up doing the same stuff he’s been doing to everyone else and showing their mug fronts and then dropping out and sending pressure from different angles. If he can get to Matt Ryan, who certainly has a lot of experience playing against Allen and knowing where the pressure might actually come from, there’s a good chance he’ll get Lock on a couple of those.
Last week was a step in the right direction for the Broncos’ protection scheme but they’ve struggled with mug fronts and sim pressures all year. My understanding is Lloyd Cushenberry and Dalton Risner have been co-handling the calls.
Galina: They’re gonna have their hands full with what the Saints want to do, especially on third down. It’s a fun matchup.
The Saints sacked Matt Ryan 6 different times on third down. pic.twitter.com/HPzB018NLO— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) November 27, 2020
3rd and 3
The Saints’ run defense has been really good all year, so I don’t think Broncos’ game plan last week will be anywhere near as successful. What does Pat Shurmur need to do to help Drew Lock against this defense?
Galina: One of the difficult things is that the Saints are great against the run even when they play 2-high. So they aren’t allocating too many resources to stopping it but are still doing it at a high level. When you have great individual players like Cameron Jordan, Demario Davis, David Onyemata, Trey Hendrickson and hopefully Sheldon Rankins, it helps. They will however trigger Chauncey Gardner-Johnson often. He’s likely to insert himself from the nickel position, so you can maybe make a play over his head.
4th and 1
Do you think it’s reasonable for Broncos fans to believe the defense should be able to hang so long as the offense does its part? That seems to be the hope going in.
Galina: Taysom did well last week but against more of a static defense that the Falcons run. We still don’t know if he can play against a team that’s going to play a lot of different things and disguise what they’re doing. He certainly sees his own defense do it, but there really is a huge difference between what the Falcons and Broncos do. Also just in general, the Broncos are much better. It could turn out that Taysom is that good and he’ll dice ‘em up, but it remains to be seen what he can do versus a “real” defense.
I want to pick your brain about Lock a little because you’re on my shortest of lists for QB analysts I trust. I see a QB who is struggling to read the action as it happens, who is creating pressure for himself because he doesn’t hang in clean pockets or step up to manage the rush. Those are bigger issues than his mechanics, but his mechanics also look shaky in spots.
Galina: My people tell me he’s doing a lot of locking on to first reads.
The Broncos coaching staff seems to have moved to more curls in an effort to help him find guys. I call him a “see it throw it” passer because he does the Flacco thing where he needs a guy to be painfully open.
Galina: Static routes.
Galina: Throwing to guys running horizontally not really his thing.
Which completely negates the strengths you have with Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler.
Galina: Lock has the 23rd most amount of horizontal lead throws, and is horrible at them. Basically last in grade.
The static routes is kind of my big question with Lock. At least based on what I’ve seen, I feel like the Broncos have dumbed it down as much as they can for him, and then when that wasn’t working they went super ground-and-pound last week. It’s a huge reason why I’m so pessimistic on him.
Galina: If you cannot throw accurately to receivers moving toward you or away from you on the run, you’re screwed.
the second category is how drew lock plays quarterback https://t.co/gxM753SjgO— seth galina (@pff_seth) November 25, 2020
What’s your prediction for the game?
Galina: Saints 31, Broncos 10. No, uh. Saints 64, Broncos 9.
Who ya got?
This poll is closed
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