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Vulnerability: Saints Can Expose Weak Ravens Secondary With the Long Ball

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Aug 28, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) before a preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Monday Night Football, the ultimate prime-time NFL spectacle of the regular season.  The New Orleans Saints, desperate for victory, will host and battle the Baltimore Ravens just three nights from now in the Crescent City.

The Black and Gold, who are performing at an uncharacteristic level at the moment, sit at 4-6 in the atrocious division known as the NFC South.  By uncharacteristic, I mean flat out awful, but Sean Payton and company, who are resting in second place, still have a legitimate shot at claiming the title over the Atlanta Falcons (4-6, 1st), Carolina Panthers (3-7-1, 3rd) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8, 4th).

However, if that is to be done, the team must make some critical adjustments on both sides of the football — they are certainly capable of doing so.  Today, we’ll focus on the offense and how QB Drew Brees can redeem himself Monday evening against a vulnerable Ravens secondary.

The Saints sit at No. 2 in the league in overall offense, but yards mean absolutely nothing when you can’t get points on the board and turn the ball over at a humiliating rate.  That obviously needs to change, and the defense may want to lend a helping hand as well.  The take-away, give-away ratio (-9) is an absolute mess, like bottom of the barrel with the Oakland Raiders, New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars mess.

I’m not here to preach about that though — I’m here to talk about, or rather ask, where is this consistent, explosive offense that we were once so familiar with?  The pieces are there.  The eight-time Pro Bowl gunslinger is there.  Is it coaching?  Does the team just not want “it” this year?  Is Brees’ age finally starting to show?

There’s almost no explanation to what’s really going on in the Big Easy.  I feel that way, other fans feel that way and even other analysts from around the nation feel that way, especially after Sunday’s domination by the Cincinnati Bengals.  Well, something’s got to give, so why not on Monday night versus the Ravens?

Baltimore ranks in the upper half of the league with the No. 11 overall defense.  However, their pass defense is good for 21st in the NFL, allowing 251.2 YPG through the air and 264.4 if you exclude defensive sacks.  With CB Jimmy Smith done for the year, the Saints have a great chance at exposing a weak secondary.

Smith’s injury, that came during the first drive of the Week 8 contest against Cincinnati, ended a solid season for the former first-round pick (2011) out of Colorado.  The 2013 breakout player tallied 28 combined tackles, eight passes defended and an interception in eight starts, but really seven games played this year.

The Ravens are still equipped with star cornerback Lardarius Webb, but after him, the secondary has very little experience at that position.  This grants a golden opportunity for Drew Brees and New Orleans’ potentially high-powered, but often inconsistent (this year of course) offense.

The Saints were able to make it rain on the Green Bay Packers‘ defense four weeks ago, so why not continue the prime-time trend on Monday and attack a somewhat subpar secondary?  We haven’t seen the long ball since the cheese head beat-down, and now is the perfect time for Brees and the offense to take charge and smear the Ravens’ D all over that Superdome turf.  Of course, protection from the offensive line is must to give Brees the time that he needs to find his men downfield.

Webb will likely be assigned to Jimmy Graham when he’s lined up as a wideout, which happens more often than not.  After that, Marques Colston will probably be his No. 2.  This opens up a gateway to the promised land for speedster Kenny Stills.  Oh, and Mr. Joe Morgan, who should see a significant increase in playing time with Brandin Cooks being placed on season-ending injured reserve.

Excluding Webb, these inexperienced Ravens conerbacks will have their hands full.  Stills and Morgan are both quite capable of burning their men and breaking away from coverage, play after play.  Remember, Joe led the NFL with 37.9 yards per catch in 2012, but those number came in limited playing time.

If the Saints can finally blow the lid off of what they’ve been holding back, Baltimore will be doomed by the deep ball and New Orleans will find their 15th straight prime-time win at home.  It’s time to get back to business, Who Dat Nation.

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