SAINTS at REDSKINS
Noon Sunday, FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
Radio: WWL-AM, 870; WWL-FM, 105.3; WDGL-FM, 98.1; KMDL-FM, 97.3
Top storyline: Ryan’s defense ‘takes time’ to come together
Rob Ryan has seen the stats.
He knows this team has a historically poor passer rating against and that things have been mathematically worse than they were a year ago. Yet he still believes this team has been better this season, and he still believes things will only get better.
He says people just need to be patient.
“It takes time to master it all,” he said. “We haven’t done a great job yet. We know what we’re playing, we’re focusing in and we need to play it better. We’ve got the right players, and it is all going to come together here pretty soon.”
It’s a fair point of view. A lot was made this offseason about the Saints simplifying their defensive playbook and installing a new system. Few, however, considered that there could be bumps and bruises along the way.
But entering Week 10, there isn’t much time for patience. This team needs to figure out the things that have been ailing it, find solutions and start getting results.
The biggest issue this week will be finding a way to contain Washington tight end Jordan Reed, one of the better pass-catchers at his position this season. And, as always, the defensive line needs to create pressure and do a better job of stopping the run.
Normally, some leniency would be given to the defense since it will be without Dannell Ellerbe, David Hawthorne and Ramon Humber. But there isn’t much room for patience at this point.
Know your opponent
Redskins LB Ryan Kerrigan Kerrigan suffered a broken hand last month, but he’s still making an impact: He has 20 quarterback hurries, two hits and 31/2 sacks.
That likely sounds disappointing considering he had 131/2 sacks last year, but Kerrigan is still making an impact for the Washington defense by getting into the backfield and hurrying the quarterback. If Saints left tackle Terron Armstead can’t play, things could get difficult for the offensive line.
Redskins DE Jason Hatcher
Perhaps it’s a good thing for the Saints that Washington blitzes only seven times per game, since Kerrigan isn’t the only member of the front seven that has a penchant for getting after quarterbacks.
Like Kerrigan, Hatcher only has one sack, but he has 21 pressures and six quarterback hits, according to Pro Football Focus. The Saints offensive line will be tested by this duo. After last week’s woes against the Titans, they need to be ready.
Redskins QB Kirk Cousins
The Saints are coming up against another quarterback who likes to get the ball out quickly. Cousins’ average time to throw this season has been 2.52 seconds, which ties for Drew Brees for the 10th-fastest trigger in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
That means the Saints need to get after Cousins quickly or do things to disrupt his timing in the secondary. The Saints will need to take away his horizontal options, too.
1. Linebacker issues The sum of the injuries at linebacker weighed down New Orleans during last week’s loss to Tennessee. Now the Saints are back in the same position. It could be a wild thought, but perhaps the Saints would consider playing some variation of nickel on virtually every snap to help disguise the lack of depth at linebacker.
2. Go deep If the Redskins have a weakness on defense, it’s that they can be beaten deep: Washington has allowed 17 passing plays of 25 or more yards. New Orleans has allowed 20 of those plays, which should provide a barometer for how leaky Washington has been. The Saints have 25 such plays on offense, most in the NFL.
3. Let it Spill C.J. Spiller only played six snaps last week against the Titans, which, on the surface, was a little confusing. But the reason for his lack of snaps was likely related to how often the Titans blitz. The Redskins have blitzed only 56 times this season, according to Pro Football Focus. That could help Spiller get on the field.
4. Bouncing back New Orleans’ playoff hopes took a hit with last week’s loss. Another defeat technically wouldn’t end the team’s chances, but it would mean the Saints likely could not afford to lose another game and still make the playoffs. That would be a bad position to end up in, especially considering New Orleans has to play Carolina again.
OUT: LB David Hawthorne (hamstring), LB Ramon Humber (hamstring), LB Dannell Ellerbe (hip), CB Damian Swann (concussion) QUESTIONABLE: Terron Armstead (knee)
PROBABLE: LB Hau’oli Kikaha (ankle), G Tim Lelito (shoulder), CB Brian Dixon (hip), WR Willie Snead (knee), CB Keenan Lewis (illness), WR Marques Colston (not injury-related), DT Kevin Williams (not injury-related), G Jahri Evans (not injury-related)
Just like last week, the Saints need to figure out how to overcome injuries at linebacker. Getting Kikaha back will be big. But if things aren’t figured out, the team will have to dig deep into the depth chart to fill in for the losses of Ellerbe and Hawthorne at weakside linebacker.
QUESTIONABLE: WR Andre Roberts (ankle), CB DeAngelo Hall (toe), DE Jason Hatcher (knee), LB Keenan Robinson (shoulder/neck), NT Terrance Knighton (migraine) PROBABLE: CB Chris Culliver (knee), S Dashon Goldson (wrist/hamstring), CB Bashaud Breeland (hamstring), LB Ryan Kerrigan (hand), C Josh LeRibeus (elbow/shoulder), RB Chris Thompson (back)
Nick Underhill: Saints 34, Redskins 24
I said last week that I couldn’t foresee myself picking against the Saints again until they play Carolina. I’m sticking with that. Even with all the flaws, there’s a small part of me that still believes New Orleans will finish above .500. I don’t see the Redskins being the team that snuffs out the little bit of hope remaining. Then again, my picks have been abysmal this year, so take that for what it’s worth.
Joel A. Erickson: Saints 35, Redskins 31
Neither team has been able to play much defense this season, and in a shootout, it’s always best to bet on the quarterback. Drew Brees has a huge advantage over Kirk Cousins and, unlike Tennessee, Washington doesn’t have the pass rush to be the equalizer.
Scott Rabalais: Saints 31, Redskins 29
The Saints lead the NFL in total offense and are second in passing but are 4-5. Why? Mostly their defense, which has the NFL’s worst pass efficiency rating (112.0) and is 31st in yards and points allowed. Every QB to play the Saints has improved his passer rating. That said, Washington’s offense has been mediocre. A shaky nod to the Saints being able to score their way out of this one.