What We Saw: Saints vs. Raiders

Corey Saucier breaks down the Monday Night Football matchup, including the struggles of Drew Brees and the dominance of Darren Waller.

New Orleans Saints @ Las Vegas Raiders

 

There was a huge question mark coming into Monday night’s matchup regarding who would benefit the most from the Saints’ sudden lack of depth at the WR position. With New Orleans’ star WR Michael Thomas missing his first game since 2017, there was lots of speculation that newly-acquired WR Emmanuel Sanders would make a splash against the Raiders. Instead, Sanders failed to record his first catch until there was less than a minute left in the game. There were more than a handful of unexpected twists in this matchup on Monday night, so let’s jump right in.

 

New Orleans Saints

 

Quarterbacks

 

Drew Brees: 26/38, 312 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

 

Saints’ QB Drew Brees and his signature accuracy have yet to fully emerge through 2 weeks of this NFL season. Is it possible that the shortened preseason and training camp are the primary factors? Clearly Michael Thomas’s absence this week played a role as well, but could age finally be catching up with Brees? The jury is still out in my opinion, but one thing is certain so far – Brees just hasn’t yet looked like the Brees of old. He doesn’t look confident enough in the pocket to let his downfield routes develop. He’s missing some easier, shorter throws that we’ve never really seen him miss before. His 4.82 average air yards per attempt through this season’s first 2 games are the second-lowest in the NFL over the past 15 years. I wouldn’t panic or try to move on from Brees just yet, but if he continues to fail the eye test, it may just be time to look for better options at QB.

 

Running Backs

 

Alvin Kamara: 13 carries, 79 yards, 2 TD | 9 targets, 9 receptions, 95 yards

Latavius Murray: 3 carries, 14 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 19 yards

Ty Montgomery: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 25 yards

 

As I mentioned above, it was safe to assume that Saints’ WR Emmanuel Sanders would lock down a larger target share heading into this week, but as a Saints’ fan I had a gut feeling that the biggest beneficiary of Thomas’ absence would be RB Alvin Kamara – and he was just that. Kamara led the Saints in every statistical category on the night while scoring 2 TDs for the second straight week. Kamara dazzled with a dizzying array of screen-plays while also averaging over 6 YPC on the night. With Thomas possibly sidelined for multiple weeks, Kamara should continue to dominate touches in this Saints’ offense. The worries of last week’s larger workload for fellow RB Latavius Murray were calmed on Monday as Murray commanded only 5 touches. Look for Kamara to repeat his previous RB1 performances next week in a matchup against the Packers which might just turn into a shootout.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Emmanuel Sanders: 3 targets, 1 reception, 18 yards

Tre’Quan Smith: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 86 yards

Jared Cook: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 13 yards, 1 TD

Deonte Harris: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 23 yards | 1 carry, 11 yards

Michael Thomas: OUT – high ankle sprain

 

It would be impossible for any Saints WR to have the trust of Drew Brees that Michael Thomas has earned over the past several seasons. That being said, we didn’t really see much trust at all between Brees and the rest of his receiving corps on Monday night. 3rd year WR Tre’Quan Smith led the WR group in targets, receptions, and receiving yards, but failed to make much of an impact on the game as a whole. He did seem to emerge as the most reliable pass-catcher (outside of Kamara), so his stock is up. Fantasy managers who started Emmanuel Sanders hoping for a larger role in Thomas’ absence were left sorely disappointed. TE Jared Cook found the end-zone for the first time this season but was otherwise ineffective. This is an offense that hasn’t really gotten into their rhythm yet, and missing arguably the best WR in the league surely isn’t helping. It will be tough to trust any Saints WRs next week against the Packers.

 

Las Vegas Raiders

 

Quarterbacks

 

Derek Carr: 28/38, 282 yards, 3 TDs

 

The gameplan for Raiders’ QB Derek Carr appeared to be a fairly simple one on Monday night – give the ball to RB Josh Jacobs and TE Darren Waller, and get out of the way.  While the Raiders’ offense got off to somewhat of a sluggish start against the Saints, the Carr to Waller connection was really astonishing to watch as the game unfolded. Carr also added a couple of short TD throws (one to WR Zay Jones and one to FB Alec Ingold), but ultimately the Raiders’ gameplan morphed into a force-feeding of Waller and daring the Saints to stop it. The Saints couldn’t. Carr likely gave your fantasy team a surprising boost this week if you started him, and after seeing Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson shred the Patriots’ secondary on Sunday night, you might just get another surprising boost from Carr next week, too.

 

Running Backs

 

Josh Jacobs: 27 carries, 88 yards | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 17 yards

Jalen Richard: 2 carries, 26 yards, 1 TD

Devontae Booker: 3 carries, -1 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 6 yards

Alec Ingold: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 1 TD

 

Las Vegas’ RB Josh Jacobs failure to find the end zone was certainly a disappointment after he scored 3 times last week at Carolina, but his 100+ scrimmage yards and 3 catches salvaged a decent fantasy output this week. Jacobs wasn’t able to break any big plays this week either, but he is still a bellcow RB1 and should be started no matter what (barring injury, of course). Backup Raiders’ RB Jalen Richard lost a fumble in the second half but would go on to redeem himself with a 20-yard TD run to essentially ice the game in the 4th quarter. It is a safe bet to assume that we will continue to see a whole lot of Jacobs, and not much of anyone else in this backfield. Jacobs was nursing a lower-body injury late in the game that caused him to miss a few plays, but he was on the field at the end of the game so this appears to be minor.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Henry Ruggs: 3 targets, 1 reception, 4 yards

Hunter Renfrow: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 37 yards

Bryan Edwards: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 42 yards

Zay Jones: 1 target, 1 reception, 15 yards, 1 TD

Nelson Agholor: 1 target, 1 reception, 19 yards

Darren Waller: 16 targets, 12 receptions, 103 yards, 1 TD

 

It cannot be overstated how dominant Raiders’ TE Darren Waller was in Monday night’s matchup with the Saints. Waller beat whoever was in front of him, wherever he was lined up from – all night long. He beat linebackers, cornerbacks, safeties, and even a defensive end or two. Waller was just exceptional, accounting for nearly half of all of QB Derek Carr’s completions and pass attempts. With Waller having had such a huge output, it meant that the rest of the Raiders’ pass-catchers didn’t get much run. Rookie WR Henry Ruggs managed only 3 targets on the night – but to look on the bright side, a couple of those were long home-run type targets and he drew a key pass interference late. Eventually, Ruggs will start coming down with some long TD bombs, but Monday wasn’t the night for it. Fellow rookie WR Bryan Edwards improved slightly upon his week 1 performance, but not yet quite enough to enter the conversation of being a viable fantasy option. He made a nice contested catch and burst upfield for a nice gain on his best play of the day. It will be interesting to see if these Raiders’ pass-catchers (other than Waller) can bounce back next week against a tough New England secondary who just got burned by Seattle and will have a chip on their shoulder.

 

 

(Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

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