Saints working on defense in short week

Published 11:53 am Thursday, October 20, 2022

By John DeShazier

The New Orleans Saints

The short week of preparation that comes along with playing a Thursday night game didn’t give the New Orleans Saints time to make full-speed corrections for the errors that popped up defensively in their loss to Cincinnati on Sunday.

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Mental reps and walk-throughs aren’t the same, but it’s what New Orleans (2-4) will employ entering their game against the Cardinals (2-4) at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

“We believe in practice and getting full-speed reps,” Coach Dennis Allen said Wednesday. “That’s the way the game is played. But that’s the nature of the business when you play a Thursday night game. It’s tough for guys to get themselves ready to play on a short turnaround like that. The biggest thing is just mentally being prepared and understanding the things that we have to improve on.”

“Would you like to have a full-padded practice, or a padded practice to get some things straightened out? Sure.” defensive end Cameron Jordan said. “But it’s a short week. We don’t have time to worry about what we do or don’t have. We’ve got to be able to get the bodies back.

“We just had a game Sunday. Some guys, I’m sure, are sore today. And then we’re going to go be in a full game where it’s going to take all 60 minutes to try and get a win come tomorrow. So, whatever it takes. I think our organization has handled this the right way, in taking off the pads and honing in on the mentality and the mind-set to get this job done.”

Part of getting the job done is eliminating, or at least minimizing, missed tackles. The Saints had several notable instances of missed tackles against the Bengals, including on the game-winning touchdown. New Orleans has averaged 30 points per game on offense in the last three games, but also has allowed 30 per game while compiling a 1-2 record during the span.

“We’ve just got to understand that tackling is about want to, willingness, effort,” Allen said. “Sometimes the game is in space and you’re going against some really good players, so angles are important, and getting 11 guys running to the ball, that’s important. There’s a lot of things that go into that, but that’s an area that we look to be better at.

“Most of the tackles that we’ve missed have been space tackles, and so just really understanding what our leverage is, where our help is. And then there’s a lot of times where, when I’m the only guy, it’s really just about making sure I’m putting my chest on him and getting him wrapped up and getting him down to the ground.”

Thursday night, New Orleans will attempt to apply it against a quarterback, Kyler Murray, who’s one of the most elusive in the NFL and who will have his top target, receiver DeAndre Hopkins, available for the first time this season after Hopkins served a six-game suspension.

“What we have to do is focus in and hone in on our mission, and that’s to have gap integrity, that’s to be aware of where the quarterback is, that is to try and get after Kyler and not let him escape the pocket, as he has been quite elusive this season already,” Jordan said. “It’s going to be our task to not let the quarterback escape for a touchdown like we did previously.

“We’re not far off, but at the same time, we’re not where we want to be. There’s a direction that we’re heading and we have to be able to get there faster.”

TAYLOR MADE: Possibly, defensive back Alontae Taylor will be available for Thursday night. During the open portion of practice Thursday, Taylor took reps in the cornerback rotation.

“He’s highly competitive,” Allen said. “He’s smart. He’s going to get up and challenge and compete. I think he’s got 19 defensive snaps on the season, (but) he’s a guy that we’ve been real excited about. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to have him healthy. I’m excited for him to get back out there and get an opportunity to compete, whether it be defensively or on special teams.”

QB NEWS: Allen said the reveal of the starting quarterback for Thursday would be made at gametime. But on Wednesday, Andy Dalton had the media availability and, generally, that duty is reserved for the starter. It would be the fourth consecutive start for Dalton.

OUT: Five players were ruled out Wednesday, none was a surprise: Receivers Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry, cornerback Marshon Lattimore, left guard Andrus Peat and tight end Adam Trautman.