FRISCO, Texas – Week 4 is upon us, and with it comes another preview.
As always, here’s my first look at what the Saints are bringing to the table on Sunday night.
Nemesis: CB Marshon Lattimore
Marshon Lattimore was a member of my Top 10 All-Opponent Team. He is so smooth and fluid in the way he plays. He has all the physical traits you want in a corner. He can turn and run with his man with ease. I have yet to see him get left behind. He is one of the best in the league when it comes to handling the double-move. He is able to read and react with ease. He never appears to be taxed when he’s in coverage.
He can be an extremely hard guy to shake due to those physical traits. He will line up and play on either side without an issue. You can count on him to make receivers make contested catches even when he plays off or at depth.
Dak Prescott is going to need to be careful throwing the ball over the top of him. He is one of the best I’ve studied when it comes to tracking a ball and high-pointing the ball. He has shown the ability to create turnovers when he gets in position to finish.
I will be interested to see if Dennis Allen walks him over the top of Amari Cooper, much like the Dolphins did with Xavien Howard. Cooper beat Howard up pretty good, but the Dolphins don’t have a front that can affect the quarterback. The Saints do.
With no Michael Gallup, Allen could take his chances and make Randall Cobb and Devin Smith beat him in this game.
Weapon: RB Alvin Kamara
This Cowboys defense understands what lies ahead when dealing with Alvin Kamara. He was held in check last season with an outstanding game plan and tremendous effort from everyone involved.
With Drew Brees not in the lineup, Sean Payton is leaning on him even more than before to carry the load. I believe there is nothing he can’t do on the football field. He makes life difficult -- not only for the defensive coordinator, due to all the positions he lines up at, but for the defenders themselves having to bring him down once the ball gets in his hands. He is a dangerous player in every sense of the word. He has a rare combination of speed and power. Defenders just bounce off him as he’s running through the line. He makes it hard to get a clean shot on him.
Last year, the Cowboys had success rallying bodies to the ball and slowing him down before he had a chance to get going. When Kamara gets the ball in his hands, he’s looking for that gap or crease to hit. When he sees it, he’s gone.
To defend him well, the front is going to need to stay square along the line of scrimmage, then the linebackers have to step up and fill. This is where the Seahawks had trouble in their matchup when their linemen got turned and their linebackers over ran the play. This created those gaps, which he took advantage of and was difficult to stop.
Under the Radar: C Erik McCoy
Erik McCoy reminds me of those old school blockers from back in the day. He will hit and climb his man as a blocker. He gets really close to the defender – belly-to-belly -- and then just pushes him out of the way. To this point, he has had nice success with this blocking technique. He plays with some initial pop, and he has the strength and power to hold his man in position. For a young guy, he has some power. He has a solid base and anchor, and that power makes him a hard guy to knock back when he sits down.
He does a solid job of keeping the front of the pocket clean, which is what you want from a highly-drafted center. You can see why the Saints drafted him so high, because he can make things easy for the quarterback in front of him. He works extremely hard to take his man out of the play. He shows the ability to mirror and slide with his guy with lateral agility.
If he has a weakness, he really doesn’t have the extended speed or burst to help on the outside as a puller. His matchup with Maliek Collins and Christian Covington will be interesting due to the fact that both are power players. Where Collins and Covington might be able to take advantage of him is with quickness. When the Saints have showed some problems with their line has been inside with those quick tackles that tend to play more on the edges than down the middle.