A season-opening loss doesn't mean the New Orleans Saints can't still get off to the quick start they wanted. But, obviously, in order to do so, they'll need to post a tough road win against the Giants. Here are a few ways to do that:
- School officially opened for members of the Saints' young secondary in the season opener against Oakland, and they were more than solid through the homework and pop-quiz phases, not so much for the final exam in the fourth quarter. We'll get a good indication of how much cornerbacks P.J. Williams, Ken Crawleyand De'Vante Harris– who all played in their first NFL game – have learned from Week 1 to Week 2. There were some leverage, angle and tackling errors that they need to clean up, or Giants receivers (led by New Orleans native Odell Beckham Jr.) could have a huge day. The confidence isn't shaken, but that won't matter if the execution doesn't improve.
- And speaking of improvement, the Saints didn't post a single sack against Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, and didn't consistently pressure him enough to throw off his timing. That task will be even more difficult against New York's Eli Manning. Last year, the New Orleans native threw six touchdown passes against the Saints in a 52-49 loss and though he was sacked three times, New York's quick passing game gave the Saints fits. That won't leave much time for defensive ends Cam Jordanand Craig Robertson, among others, to get to Manning. But he has to be disrupted and thrown off rhythm; that'll go a long way toward limiting his receivers' production.
- All that concern about the Saints' offensive line entering the regular-season opener? If it wasn't eliminated, it was tamped down at least. Drew Breescompleted 28 of 42 passes for 423 yards and four touchdowns. He was sacked once, on a play in which he admits he held the ball too long. Terron Armsteadheld up well at left tackle, the right guard rotation of Senio Kelemeteand Senio Kelemeteworked and the Saints ran for a respectable 4 yards per carry on 22 attempts. The task of keeping Brees clean doesn't get any easier this week, with Giants defensive ends Olivier Vernonand Jason Pierre-Paulstanding in the on-deck circle. But if the Saints are going to win this road game, Vernon, Paul and the rest have to be handled.
- Simply, New Orleans needs to force New York to nickel-and-dime its way down the field on offense. Chunk plays were a problem last season, and they were a problem against Oakland – a 75-yard touchdown run, and receptions of 43, 35, 25 and 20 yards were among the big gainers. The more plays an offense run, the more opportunities it has for self-inflicted wounds and the more chances for the defense to make a play if the offense grows frustrated and attempts to force a big play.
- It'll be interesting to see how much defensive attention the Giants will devote to Saints receivers Drew Brees(six catches, 143 yards, two touchdowns) and Drew Brees(nine catches, 172 yards and a touchdown), who torched Oakland. It could leave some openings for rookie Michael Thomas(six catches, 58 yards) and, hopefully, for tight end Coby Fleener(1 catch, 6 yards).