Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Saints Will Strive for Reinvigoration in the NFC South Race | Scouting Report 

Scouting Report: The NFC South is up for grabs, and although the Buccaneers will look for a season sweep of the Saints, New Orleans will seek for revitalization on a national stage…Key players and strengths and weaknesses for the Bucs’ Week 13 opponent 

Saints Scouting Report Wk 13
(AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will battle the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football at 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN – Tampa Bay's sixth appearance in the Prime-Time slot in the past six seasons. Both teams will look to strengthen their standing in the NFC South, a division that is up for grabs. At 5-6, the Bucs have a half-game lead over the Falcons, with the Panthers and Saints (4-8) a game behind that. The Bucs and Saints will look to revitalize their 2022 seasons, beginning with a tally in the win column on Monday night. Both clubs are coming off a loss in Week 12, looking for redemption. On a national stage, the two will square off in a matchup that could prove to be the turning point for one of these two franchises.

New Orleans has dropped to 1-4 on the road with a trip to Raymond James Stadium looming. The Saints have lost three of their last four outings and find themselves at a crux. Inconsistency on the offensive side of the ball, giveaways and a laundry list of injuries have hindered the Saints' progression.

When the Saints opened the 2022 season, Jameis Winston started under center. He was entering his third season with the Saints, hoping to build off an impressive start to his 2021 campaign before it was halted by a torn ACL. However, another injury derailed his season. Andy Dalton, whom the club signed during the offseason as a veteran backup, was thrust into action in the club's Week Four London game against the Vikings because of both back and ankle ailments to Winston. Winston was sidelined for a couple of weeks, giving Dalton the chance to operate as the starting signal-caller. Head Coach Dennis Allen declared Dalton the starter moving forward for the Saints for his production during the allotted interim period. The Saints offense has spiraled as of late, mustering just 23 combined points in back-to-back losses to Baltimore and Pittsburgh after accumulating 26, 34 and 24 in the three games prior.

In Week 12 against the 49ers, The Saints suffered their first shutout since 2002, snapping a streak of 332 games without being blanked. In a microcosm of the season, turnovers and penalties hindered the team, leading to their demise on Sunday. Alvin Kamara lost a fumble on the team's first possession and lost another on the goal line in the fourth quarter on a would-be score to trim the deficit. Additionally, New Orleans was penalized six times for 46 yards, most notably when Chris Harris Jr. was called for illegal contact, negating an Alontae Taylor interception and subsequent return, which had brought the Saints inside the 10-yard line. Dalton finished the game completing 18 of 29 attempts for 204 yards. Kamara was held in check, carting the ball seven times for 13 yards, with six receptions for 37 yards. Chris Olave continued to be Dalton's go-to target downfield, recording five receptions for 62 yards. The Saints had multiple opportunities to score but self-inflicted errors sealed the team's fate.

Through 12 games, the Saints have committed an NFL-worst 21 turnovers, which has resulted in them owning a league-low minus-14 turnover margin. Their opponents have scored 73 points off of those turnovers, which has contributed to the team's overall record. Many stats could shed light on the Saints' roller coaster start, but none affect the outcome of games more than gifting the opponent the ball.

"It's the No. 1 stat in football," Offensive Coordinator Pete Carmichael said. "If we continue to turn it over, we're going to continue to struggle to win games."

Despite the loss in Week 12, the Saints got several reinforcements back in the lineup, including defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport, cornerback Bradley Roby, running back Mark Ingram and left tackle James Hurst. The Week 12 contest also marked the debut of rookie tackle Trevor Penning, who saw action in jumbo packages. All will help solidify the unit come Monday night against the Bucs.

Saints' Difference-Makers

On this week's edition of the esteemed compilation of difference-makers, featuring Saints' headliners as the name suggests, these four stand out. Ahead of the Week Two matchup between the Bucs and Saints, I listed Demario Davis, Cameron Jordan, Deonte Harty, Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore among the premier rundown. This time, a new talent-filled nucleus will be mentioned. Many could have been incorporated; however, this group could help swing the game in favor of New Orleans on Sunday:

WR Chris Olave

Chris Olave, the Saints' first-round selection, currently leads the team in receptions (56) and receiving yards (822) – both of which lead all NFL rookies. The Ohio State product possesses burst, allowing him to create separation at all three levels. His speed creates vertical opportunities and he has the ability to sit underneath for hitches and curls. Olave can adjust to the ball in flight and has become a go-to target for Dalton downfield. He is quick off the line and gets north rapidly, pulling away faster than defenders expect. Olave is averaging 14.7 yards per catch and the Bucs will have to account for the Saints' top aerial-attack threat. He is lethal at the top of his routes and the Bucs' corners will need to stay stride for stride with the Saints' burner on Monday night.

DT David Onyemata

David Onyemata anchors the middle of the Saints' defensive line. He has established himself as one of the league's best defensive tackles, possessing a rare blend of athleticism and strength. He is a bulldozer coming out of his stance and can knock back offensive linemen with power. Between 2017 and 2020, Onyemata accumulated 16 sacks, 42 quarterback hits, 21 tackles for loss, and was a crucial component of one of the league's top-tier run defenses. New Orleans rewarded that production by signing Onyemata to a three-year contract extension. He has recorded 3.5 sacks in 2022 and continues to be a disruptor in the interior, wreaking havoc at the line of scrimmage. Last season, Onyemata's best showing came against the Buccaneers in the Week 15 rematch. In the 9-0 victory for New Orleans, Brady was sacked four times and the unit registered nine quarterback hits and forced two turnovers in the shutout. Onyemata tallied a sack, three quarterback hits and one tackle for loss among his six total stops. He is a defensive catalyst for the Saints and one the Bucs' will have to contend with on Monday in Prime-Time.

S Tyrann Mathieu

Tyrann Mathieu is a dynamic playmaker, capable of lining up at multiple positions in the secondary. New Orleans lost Marcus Williams and Malcolm Jenkins during the offseason, but the position remained a strength when they signed the All-Pro Mathieu. He took his talents to the Big Easy, accounting for both of the Saints' interceptions in 2022. The "Honey Badger" is active in both the run and pass game, playing with relentless tenacity. A unique attribute that allows Mathieu to be a disruptive force is his instincts. Mathieu reads an offense, reacts and puts himself into position to make plays. He is always around the ball and is a hard-hitter – bringing the physicality of a larger-sized player. Whether lined up in the slot, blitzing, or lined up deep in the post, Mathieu makes an impact. With rare read-and-react skills, he will be a focal point for the Bucs' offense on Monday at Raymond James Stadium.

TE Taysom Hill

New Orleans has labeled Taysom Hill a tight end on paper, but they have used him as a gadget player. Hill does it all, lining up as a tailback, tight end and wideout. He is the focal point of trick plays and has thrown the ball and run it more than he has caught it. He is capable of producing a game-shifting play and defenses have no idea where Hill will line up on any given play. He can start at one position and motion to another. Safety up, or safety back? Nickel or base? Hill has carried the ball 58 times for 409 yards, including five touchdowns in 2022. Through the air, he has completed eight of 14 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. With a rare combination of speed and strength, the Swiss Army knife has the capability of playing anywhere on the offense except as an offensive lineman – which he did in 2018 for the Saints. With vision, patience as a runner, arm-talent as a passer and ball skills as a receiver, Hill is a player the Buccaneers' defense will have to account for on Monday night. He is a load to take down in the open field, becoming a mismatch for smaller safeties and linebackers in the open field.

Strengths

Here are some ways in which the Saints have excelled in 2022:

  • 822. Receiver Chris Olave leads all rookies in receptions with 56 and receiving yards with 822 this season. He has 40-plus receiving yards in each of his 11 games played (tied for most in the NFL). Olave needs just 316 receiving yards in his final five games to set a Saints' rookie record.
  • 54.6. The Saints have been efficient on first downs. New Orleans ranks at the top of the league in percentage of plays on first down gaining four-plus yards (54.6). On 326 first down plays, the Saints have gained four-plus yards on 178 plays.

Weaknesses

Negative factors hindering the outcome of games for New Orleans in 2022, most notable:

  • 253.0. The Saints have 12.5 points per game and 253.0 total yards per game since Week Nine, both 31st in the NFL. A contributing factor to the dip in production offensively is the inability to achieve a successful ground attack. New Orleans is last in the league with 57.0 rush yards per game since Week Nine (141.3 yards per game in Weeks 1-8). Conversely, the Saints ranked in the top ten offensively from Weeks 1-8, averaging 24.9 points per game and 394.4 total yards per game.
  • 21. The Saints lead the league in turnovers with 21 and have the worst turnover margin in the league at minus 14. Ball security will be a key focus for the club moving forward down the stretch. Of the 280 total points the Saints have allowed in 2022, 73 have come off giveaways.

New Faces in 2022

WRs Jarvis Landry and Chris Olave

The Saints' acquired an infusion of talent to the wide receiver room during the offseason. In the first-round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Saints selected Chris Olave, an Ohio State product who has made a significant contribution to the Saints' offense. Late in the offseason, New Orleans added former Browns' pass-catcher Jarvis Landry to the mix. Olave is a nuanced route runner and can quickly get vertical on defenders with snap anticipation. Landry, the proven veteran, has helped fortify the Saints' passing attack as an ideal possession receiver in the slot with a good feel for timing on routes.

Safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye

With Malcom Jenkins' retirement and Marcus Williams leaving for the Ravens, the Saints bolstered their safety corps by signing former Jet Marcus Maye and former Chief Tyrann Mathieu. Maye has served as a replacement for Jenkins at strong safety and Mathieu is at free safety. Given Mathieu's diverse skillset, the Saints have not limited him to solely working as the deep-middle safety. Mathieu has a knack for forced turnovers with superb closing speed. His intensity rallies teammates and fuels the defense, bolstering New Orleans on the back end.

Andy Dalton

In March, the Saints signed Andy Dalton to a one-year deal to serve as the club's veteran backup behind Jameis Winston. The Saints re-signed Winston to be the starter early in the offseason, but coming off an ACL tear, questions were raised regarding his availability and Dalton added insurance. The news of his signing came after Dennis Allen confirmed that Taysom Hill would be utilized as a tight end/gadget player moving forward. Dalton took over the starting role for an injured Winston in Week Four and won the full-time gig.

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