Dallas Cowboys vs New Orleans Saints – Gus Kattengell’s Preview
Thanks to a healing roster, Saints are poised for better football.
The Saints enter Week 4 still winless but for a strange reason with as much hope as they’ve had this season. QB Drew Brees is on the mend as are many of his teammates and that is a very good thing for a team that is young and has asked role players to tally up minutes as starters.
A win could go a long way to making this season interesting for fans. Two of the next three games are on the road, at Philadelphia and Indianapolis, with division Rival Atlanta at home on a Thursday night. The Eagles and Colts offenses have been real up and down this season and the Falcons in the Dome in a primetime game is one you think the Saints maybe looking forward to. The Falcons spanked the Saints last time they were in town a season ago. So am I saying the Saints could be 3-3 in a few weeks? No not exactly but a win Sunday puts them in a very realistic position to be where I have thought the team would be after the first half of the season. 4-4 with eight games to play to make a run at a wild card spot.
Dallas and the Saints have met 27 times with Dallas holding a 16-11 advantage, most of those wins came early as in Tulane Stadium early as the Cowboys won 11 of the first 12 games from 1967 to 1984. 11 of the last 17 games have been decided by less than 10 points, last season was not the case as Dallas won 38-17 in a game that was over real early. The Saints were down 24-0 at halftime as QB Tony Romo tossed 3 TDs and RB DeMarco Murray rushed for 149 yards and 2 TDs. The Saints dropped to 1-3 on the season, a record the Saints hope to get to following this Sunday night’s meeting.
HOW THE SOUTH IS WON
Atlanta 3-0 vs Texans +7.0
Carolina 3-0 @ Buccaneers +3.0
Tampa Bay 1-2 vs Panthers -3.0
New Orleans 0-3 vs Dallas
Health and Hope are my pair of storylines this week.
Brees is playing on Sunday. He said as much in Thursday’s airing of the Ellen DeGeneres show, which he taped Wednesday following practice. Brees this week seemed much more positive this week in his body language which I take as him telling the truth that he is healing well enough to play.
RB C.J. Spiller is healthy and looking forward to being more involved in the offense and should be since coach Payton said that it was a mistake to only give him three touches against Carolina. Spiller’s ability to catch passes out the backfield could help spark the offense which has struggled to find big plays.
On the defensive side of things, welcome back CB Keenan Lewis. Lewis has been the most consistent corner over the past few seasons and his return adds depth as now he and Brandon Browner, who has struggled, will finally play together. If Browner continues to struggle it’ll be interesting to see if Payton gives Breaux the chance to play with Lewis and moves Browner to the nickel back position. Payton also praised rookie Damian Swann Monday for his play this season and specifically at Carolina. It’s a good problem to have and one the Saints haven’t had due to injuries. Safety Jairus Byrd also could be seeing limited snaps this week and could be full go at Philadelphia which means we may finally be getting close to seeing the secondary Saints coaches believed they would have this season.
Head coach Sean Payton is hoping the moves made over the last several months and more recently will pay off. The Saints have reshaped their roster as only 28 players of the 53 that head into Sunday’s game were on the team last season.
Wednesday another draft pick exited the building. Defensive End Akiem Hicks was traded to New England for tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (pronounced HO-oh-mah-nah-wah-noo-wee). Payton insisted this week that the trade did not take place due to Hicks falling out of favor and being passed by younger players (Hicks through three games has 2 tackles) and was unhappy with his role. Payton presented the trade as the team filling a need and that need being a physical blocking tight end.
Still, Hicks became the third draft pick to leave in the past seven months joining Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills. It’s not a wonder why the Saints have been struggling and seen their success taper off. Since winning the Super Bowl in 2009 the Saints have been flat out bad in drafting players. 28 players have been selected in the drafts from 2010-2014 and only six players remain on the team. SIX. They are Cam Jordan, Mark Ingram, Kenny Vaccaro, Terron Armstead and John Jenkins and Brandin Cooks. Add the lack of success with the free agents you’ve been able to acquire with the tight purse strings due to the salary cap and well you can see why the team is struggling.
Fans will trust Payton for now but no doubt you couldn’t blame them if they doubted the rational considering the team’s lack of a pass rush for a tight end, when you had the league’s highest paid tight end but traded him away.
Dallas is coming off a 39-28 loss to Atlanta after going up 21-7 early and leading 24-17 at halftime. Atlanta outscored them 22 to nothing in the second half. The Cowboys (2-1) won the first two games of the season 27-26 over the Giants on a Romo TD pass with seven seconds to play, and won 20-10 in a game that saw Romo break his collar bone.
Like the Saints, Dallas is dealing with a hungry injury bug. WR Dez Bryant suffered an injury to his right in the season opener that needed a screw to be inserted in his foot. Several defensive players are out including top draft pick and pass rusher Randy Gregory.
The Cowboys defense this told reporters that fatigue played into an issue as they were on the field just of 34 minutes and were playing short handed. Dallas 29 in the league in sacks (Saints are tied for 21st) and getting pressure on the QB has been an issue for them this season.
PLAYER THAT NEEDS TO HAVE A GOOD GAME ON OFFENSE
WR Brandon Coleman. Coleman has eight receptions for 83 yards on the season and a touchdown. A lot of attention is being paid to WR Brandin Cooks and until someone else makes defense pay that isn’t going to change. Coleman needs to be more consistent and more importantly make a big play. His 6-6 size needs to be of service in the redzone and could be the target we thought we’d see during the offseason when he was making noise. Now, Coleman was doing that when playing for a resting Marquis Colston. You have to wonder if playing along side him is an adjustment after he’s run Colston’s routes for most of the offseason?
PLAYER THAT NEEDS TO HAVE A GOOD GAME ON DEFENSE
It’s safety Kenny Vaccaro once again for me as I keep waiting for the third year player to deliver the type of momentum plays we saw him make as a rookie. Is he having a bad season? Well Vaccaro is leading the team in tackles with 20 total and 12 solo, just two pass defenses, no interceptions and no sacks. I put in the zero sacks because Vaccaro as a rookie was used to pressure QBs on the blitz. It seems as if the Saints haven’t been doing that as much. I asked Vaccarro in the locker room about that and he said he loves to blitz but it’s up to coaches to call them. So where is the pressure, why isn’t Ryan bringing the noise? Injuries. No Byrd, Lewis, and a bunch of young players means you have to play it safe. Watch the pressure get turned up a notch this week especially if Lewis plays and if that happens, Vaccaro will finally be able to be unleashed.
The offensive line with Senio Kelemete in at right guard did a solid job at Carolina last week in a tough environment against a defense that likes to change looks and bring pressure. This week they are at home and it looks like Jhari Evans will miss his second straight game. Brees was hit repeatedly and pressured before he got injured. If Brees can get time to throw the football against a defense that is struggling with injuries and creating pressure it could be the breakout game the offense has been craving.
HOW I SEE IT
It may be Kool-Aid with a dash of something special in it because I feel strongly that the Saints will win on Sunday. Brees getting back into the fold helps no doubt especially if he can make most of the throws. I believe this team is close actually and can win some games. Health is essential and having to play with so many new faces and ones that were on the couch a week before they start (safety Kenny Phillips, who played well) is a tall task. It limits what you can call. We have yet to see the team Payton and Loomis put together this offseason.
I’ve never been one to say coulda, woulda, shoulda, but the fact is despite playing okay and at times dreadful football the Saints had chances to win in every game. Sunday night is win number one, Saints 27-Dallas 16.