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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Scouting Report: Saints' Top Game Wreckers | Week 4

A look at the Saints’ top playmakers who could impact the outcome of Sunday’s matchup

SR Week 4 Saints_

After playing in a prime-time slot on Monday Night Football, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will hit the road to take on their first division opponent of the 2023 slate. The 2-1 Bucs will vie for first place in the NFC South on Sunday against the 2-1 New Orleans Saints. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. ET at Caesars Superdome. 

Tampa Bay lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in a 25-11 clash, snapping its win-streak. The Eagles imposed their will in the trenches on both sides of the ball and the Bucs will seek redemption against an NFC South foe. The Saints also won their first two matchups of the 2023 season before losing to the Green Bay Packers in Week Three at Lambeau Field. New Orleans took an early substantial lead over the home team but faltered, giving up 18 unanswered points over the final 11 minutes of the game. Saints' starting quarterback Derek Carr sprained his AC joint in the contest and Jameis Winston could get the start against his former team on Sunday. Statistically, the Saints' offense may fall in the middle of the pack but defensively, they have one of the best units. New Orleans' defense ranks sixth in points allowed (16.7) and eighth in pass defense (188.3).  The Saints have a star-studded cast and here are five who could help swing the game in favor of New Orleans on Sunday afternoon: 

LB Demario Davis 

The Saints' defense goes as middle linebacker Demario Davis goes. He imposes his will and last season, Davis accumulated a career-high 6.5 sacks and posted his sixth-straight season with over 100 tackles and double-digit tackles for loss. He has emerged as a lethal asset who can rush the passer, stop the run and drop back into coverage to limit tight ends. He is quick off the snap and delivers earth-shattering hits. Davis' play recognition is second to none and he is adept at tackling in space, blitzing the quarterback and getting off linemen to affect the backfield. The versatile chess piece sets the tone for New Orleans' front seven and the Bucs will have to know where number 56 is at all times. He is regarded as one of the league's most well-rounded athletes and his voracious sideline-to-sideline pursuit puts him in prime positioning to make plays on the ball. 

RB Alvin Kamara 

Alvin Kamara, the Saints' five-time Pro Bowl running back, is slated to make his return from a three-game suspension in Week Four against the Bucs. The Saints have rushed for 280 yards (20th) through three games and are hopeful that Kamara's return will reinvigorate the ground attack. Kamara's numbers have dipped over the previous two seasons, as he produced an EPA-per-target/rush rate of -0.11 (56th) and EPA-per-rush rate of -0.17 (66th) in 2021. Then in 2022, he posted an -0.16 EPA-per-target/rush rate (57th) and -0.20 EPA-per-rush rate (60th). In 15 games last season, Kamara rushed for 897 yards and two touchdowns on 223 carries and caught 57 passes for 490 yards and two touchdowns. Kamara has totaled at least 1,300 yards from scrimmage in each of his six NFL seasons, though his touchdown total was a career low last season. His numbers may not be what they were during his rookie MVP season, but his tantalizing traits are still evident. With explosiveness and excellent vision, Kamara creates what is not blocked for him. He can quickly hit top speed post-cut and can run a full route tree out of the slot with his pass-catching prowess. The big-play threat is able to absorb contact and spin away from defenders to gain yards after contact. He will be a primary focal point for the Bucs' defense after they gave up 201 rushing yards to the Eagles in Week Three. 

CB Marshon Lattimore 

Saints' star cornerback Marshon Lattimore missed 10 games last season due to a lacerated kidney but in his small sample size on the field, Lattimore allowed just a 60% completion percentage and no touchdowns when targeted. He was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017 and has since cemented his place among the league's elite, breaking up a staggering 78 passes and intercepting 14 during a six-year span. Lattimore stays in the hip pocket of the league's premier receivers and is a forceful open-field tackler.  With hip fluidity and burst, Lattimore can hit top speed quickly when forced to turn and run in transition out of his backpedal. He has the instincts to make plays from any coverage and possesses the balance to mirror the target in phase throughout the route. Lattimore will be a player on Mayfield's radar come Sunday. 

WR Chris Olave 

With burst for separation at all three levels, Saints' receiver Chris Olave put on a show during his rookie campaign. In 15 games in 2022, Olave finished with 72 receptions for 1,042 yards and four touchdowns, leading all rookies with 69.5 receiving yards per game. He became only the third rookie in Saints' franchise history to eclipse the 1,000-yard receiving marker, joining Marques Colston and Michael Thomas. In 2023, he has already amassed over 100 yards in two matchups and is averaging 13.0 yards per catch. Olave has the speed to stretch the field vertically and displays an extensive route tree with a smooth mode of operation. He has a good feel for exploiting soft spots in zone coverage and consistently gets vertical on defenders with snap anticipation/tempo. 

DE Cameron Jordan 

Stalwart Cameron Jordan has achieved what few veteran players have in the NFL, both longevity and consistency. In 2022, he joined Reggie White and John Randle as the only players in league history with at least 7.5 sacks in 11-straight seasons. Jordan continued the stellar trend with another successful campaign last season, starting all 16 games he appeared in and registering 66 tackles (40 solo), 8.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, 13 quarterback hits, two passes defensed and two forced fumbles. He is relentless off the edge with a rare understanding of pass sets and angles to gain leverage. Jordan repeatedly commands double teams and runs through tackles with power. In a stat-driven league, many defensive ends will strive to rack up sacks and, in the process, they sacrifice the run. Jordan is not one of those players. He is also just as disruptive against the run, diagnosing and getting off blocks to stop rushers in their tracks. Jordan is touted as one of the best defenders in the NFL for the past decade and the Bucs will have to scheme protections around No. 94.

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