So far, the Cowboys have almost two full games of tape on the Teddy Bridgewater led New Orleans Saints. While it hasn’t been as potent as the Drew Brees led offense, the Saints new look offense shouldn’t be taken lightly. Since taking over as the starter in New Orleans, Teddy Bridgewater has gone 1-0, and he played a majority of the game after Brees exited with his thumb injury which the team lost.
Bridgewater has had his ups and downs, but one thing is certain through two weeks, the Saints offense runs through Alvin Kamara. Let’s dive into the tape of the Saints 33-27 win in week three, on the road, against the Seattle Seahawks.
If you’re expecting a big night from the Cowboys pass rush against the Saints, you may want to think again. The Saints are going to get the ball out quick, and avoid having to pass protect with long developing routes down the field. In week three against the Seahawks, Alvin Kamara led the Saints in rushes (16), rushing yards (69), rushing touchdowns (1), targets (10), receptions (9), receiving yards (92), and tied for the lead in receiving touchdowns (1). Talk about total domination.
On the play above, you’ll see a glimpse of the Saints game plan. Get Kamara in the flats and open field, in man coverage, and get the football to him. Not all of these plays will hit for home runs, but right now, he’s the Saints best chance of moving the football with consistency.
This is one of the more impressive plays from a running back so far this season. The Saints set up a running back screen to the right flat, but over stack the left side of the field to take defenders out of the play-side of the field. The Saints OL does an excellent job of allowing the Seahawks rushers up the field, before bailing out and setting up their down field blocking. The Saints have numbers on the Seahawks as Kamara takes a turn up field with plenty of space in front. The Seahawks defenders do a nice job of beating the blockers, but Kamara is just so special that he shrugs off two tackles to walk in for an easy six points. The Cowboys must be sure that they rally to the football every time Kamara touches the football, and they can not get caught being too aggressive rushing up the field as a defensive line.
Dealing with Alvin Kamara catching the football out of the backfield is going to be trouble on its own, but having to stop him from running the football will be a tough task as well. For a small back, Kamara is an excellent runner in-between the tackles, while also having the speed, patience, and vision to make big plays on the outside in the running game as well. Here’s a simple inside zone run, that should have only picked up four-to-five yards, but after multiple broken tackles, Kamara ends up notching 16 yards on this play. These yards were available due to lack of gap discipline from #72, who gets completely driven out of his gap. Jadeveon Clowney and Shaquill Griffin both had opportunities to bring Kamara down for a minimal gain on this play, but Kamara’s contact balance and elusiveness is too much for the Seattle defense.
Along with Kamara catching the football on check downs from Bridgewater, Sean Payton schemed a few targets for Kamara as well using screens out of the backfield, and a tunnel screen from the slot. Kamara also received jet-sweep handoffs in this game as well. There’s no secret who the go-to weapon is in this Saints offense with Brees out, and the Cowboys need to do everything in their power to limit Kamara’s production on Sunday night if they want to be victorious.
Even with Alvin Kamara being the #1 priority in the Saints offense, the Saints can move the football in other ways, too. While Bridgewater has yet to show much as a passer down the field, Bridgewater’s legs are still a threat on every play that isn't a handoff. Similar to Dak Prescott, Bridgewater isn’t necessarily the quickest QB in the NFL, but he’s tough to bring down, and slippery with the football in his hands. Early in the season, the Cowboys have struggled to finish some plays that would have resulted in sacks or limited gains, when they have the opportunity to bring Bridgewater down short of the sticks on Sunday night, they cannot allow him to break tackles and move the chains.
With Drew Brees out, Michael Thomas likely won’t be quite as effective between the 20’s, but will still make his mark on football games in some form or fashion. Thomas is one of the top receivers in the league in the shallow to middle depth of the field, and can be a terror after the catch as well. Where he could have the biggest impact on Sunday night is in the red zone. This is a beautiful design from Sean Payton that results in an easy pitch and catch from Bridgewater to Thomas. Thomas’ size, hands, and route-running abilities will make him an extremely tough cover for Byron Jones and Co., but with Teddy Bridgewater throwing him the football in place of Drew Brees, his production could be limited.
Even without Drew Brees, the Cowboys defense will have their hands full on Sunday night. Through the first three weeks of the season, it’s been rather smooth sailing for the Hot Boyz and Purge Squad, but that could all change this weekend, if they don’t pick it up a notch.