Check out our black and white look of Saints practice in London on September 28, 2017.
London – The New Orleans Saints found a winning formula against Carolina last week to post their first win of the season. The chase now is to duplicate the consistency of gameplan execution, against the Maimi Dolphins at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. Here are a few ways in which that can be accomplished:
- The Saints haven't committed a turnover this season, and that's a pretty phenomenal statistic to have through three games. No Drew Brees interceptions – he nearly has been flawless, 76-for-111 passing (68.5 percent) for 867 yards and six touchdowns – and the only Saints fumble has been recovered by them. Cleanliness always is a good trait to have for a football team, and it'll be even better if the trend continues against the Dolphins. It takes a bit of luck (Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly dropped a Brees pass that hit him in the hands) but mostly, it takes a team that's cognizant of how important it is to protect the ball.
- Big props so far to the Saints' offensive line, which has undergone much shifting in the first three games (rookie Ryan Ramczyk has played both tackle positions, Andrus Peat has played left guard and left tackle, Senio Kelemete has played right tackle and left guard, and Zach Strief has missed two games at right tackle). The line that opened the season at Minnesota – Ramczyk at LT, Peat at LG, Max Unger at C, Larry Warford at RG and Strief at RT – appears to be the one that will start against the Dolphins. That's good, because it's the best five and it will be tested. Perhaps especially, the interior of the line (Peat, Unger and Warford) will be tested by Miami defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, a six-time All-Pro who wreaks havoc. Saints Coach Sean Payton lauded Suh's ability to time a team's cadence, so Brees likely will toss in a changeup or two to throw off Suh and, perhaps, draw a penalty. If Suh dominates the middle, it's going to be difficult for the Saints to keep him out of the backfield and to establish much of a running game inside.
- The Saints defensive line knows where Miami quarterback Jay Cutler will be, given that Cutler isn't much of a scrambler. And in the past, when Cutler was with the Bears, the Saints had much success in pressuring him and in sacking him. After posting four sacks against Carolina (one each by Cam Jordan, Hau'oli Kikaha, Alex Okafor and Trey Hendrickson), the Saints have to feel good about their chances of getting to Cutler. He has a quick release and a strong arm, but he can be hit – for the Saints, hopefully, often and early.
- You won't see many better performances by a defense than the Saints had against the Panthers on Sunday and, especially, the secondary was on point. Only 156 net passing yards allowed, and interceptions by cornerback P.J. Williams and safeties Marcus Williams and Kenny Vaccaro highlighted the stinginess. Getting rookie starter Marshon Lattimore back should help at cornerback – you have to like what you saw of him in the first two games; he was very clingy against New England before departing that game with symptoms of a concussion – and it looks like New Orleans can depend on Ken Crawley to provide solid depth at that position after having started and playing well against the Panthers. If the Saints consistently can get that kind of coverage on the back end, that'll make like easier on the front end.
- The Saints arrived in London on Monday; the Dolphins, on Friday. Maybe it's an oversimplification to believe that adapting to the time change should be an aid, but it is a challenge to adapt, and the Saints allotted more time to do so than did the Dolphins. A bit of sluggishness from Miami on Sunday totally wouldn't be a surprise, and the Saints have put themselves in position to take advantage of it.