Scout’s Preview: Can Bills Stop Saints Explosive Offense?

by Greg Gabriel, Buffalo Sports Page NFL Expert

After getting out to a 5-2 start on the season, The Buffalo Bills got a taste of reality last week getting blown out by their division rival the New York Jets. What fans and the Bills themselves are asking is “are we the team we saw the first seven weeks or was last week a real indicator?”

We will all find out the answer Sunday at New Era Field when the Bills host the explosive New Orleans Saints. The Saints are 6-2 on the season, have won six in a row and are alone at the top of the tough NFC South. Not only are they in first place, but during their win streak, they are averaging 30 points per game. This is probably the best offense the Bills will face all year.
The Saints offense is designed and run by Head Coach Sean Payton, who is one of the best offensive minds in football. He knows how to systematically take apart any defense. Every play that Payton runs early in a game is a setup for another play later on. He knows how to exploit a defense’s weaknesses with a combination of the pass and run.

Cool Brees Blows Hot

The key reason Payton has so much success on offense is the guy he has playing under center. Drew Brees may be 38 years old but he still is at the top of his game. While he lacks ideal size at barely 6’0, he is one of the best at reading defenses and has one of the quickest releases in football. On top of the quick release his accuracy is deadly. For the season he has completed 71.6% of his throws and has thrown 13 touchdown passes.

One of the reasons Brees is so good is he has an excellent receiving corps to work with and that includes his running backs.  They’ve accounted for 68 receptions already. The Saints leading receiver is second year man Michael Thomas, who already has 50 receptions. Speedy Ted Ginn Jr is having an excellent year with 28 catches, and Brandon Coleman has 14. Coby Fleener is the tight end.  While he isn’t a top blocker he is a very reliable receiver.

Smile for the Kamara

After the trade of Adrian Peterson a few weeks ago, veteran Mark Ingram has come on. He has 541 yards rushing and another 31 receptions. Rookie Alvin Kamara is more of a situational ball carrier, but he is a key part of the passing attack with 38 receptions. While he isn’t the biggest guy, he has exceptional speed and quickness and is very elusive.

The Saints line is big a physical. This week they get back guard Larry Warford who is excellent at both run and pass blocking. Left tackle Terron Armstead is a Pro Bowl caliber player and rookie Ryan Ramczyk look to be a future star.

Bourbon Street Bullies

The biggest change on the defense is the addition of two excellent coaches. Former San Diego Charger Head Coach Dennis Allen is the defensive coordinator and the linebacker coach is Mike Nolan, who is a 35 year coaching vet. He has been a Head Coach or a coordinator for a long time and has a vast knowledge of defensive football.

The star of the defensive line is defensive end Cameron Jordan who already has 7 sacks on the year. The linebacker corps isn’t big by NFL standards, but they have speed and can play in space. The whole group can defend both the run and pass.

Cornering the Rookie Market

In the secondary is one of the best rookie corners in the league. First round pick Marshon Lattimore looks like a future Pro Bowler and as adapt and can both cover and defend the run. Safety Kenny Vaccaro is excellent.

Last week the Bills defense gave up both yards and points.  They’re going to have to revert back to their early season form to stop the Saints. Getting E.J. Gaines back will help in the secondary. What helps the Bills as well is Head Coach Sean McDermott has a lot of experience in defensing Sean Payton and the Saints. So the Bills should be ready.

Boost from Benjamin?

What will be interesting on offense is to see how newly acquired Kelvin Benjamin fits in. He should get his first start and between Benjamin, Jordan Matthews and Zay Jones, the Bills have some real size at the wide receiver position. That should provide some matchup problems for the Saints. Also tight end Charles Clay could be back and with him being Tyrod Taylor’s favorite target, the Bills passing offense could be drastically different this week. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Points A Plenty

Right now this looks like it could be a high scoring game. The only thing that may slow that down is the weather but the Sunday forecast looks to be a typical November afternoon in Orchard Park…partly sunny and 43 degrees.

For more of Greg’s insights into the NFL, visit his author’s section at Buffalo Sports Page.


Greg Gabriel

Gabriel has spent most of his adult life as an evaluator for various NFL clubs. He started his career in 1991 working for the Buffalo Bills as a part time scout under dormer Bills Director of Player Personnel Norm Pollom. He left the Bills in June 1984 to become the Great Lakes area scout for National Football Scouting. Following the 1984 season, Gabriel joined the New York Giants as their Midwest area scout and was promoted to Director of Player Development in 1996. The Giants went to three Super Bowls and won two during Gabriel’s time with the club.

Following the Giants appearance versus the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV, Greg became Director of College Scouting for the Chicago Bears under General Manager Jerry Angelo. He held that position until June of 2010. During his time with Chicago, the Bears won three Division titles and the 2006 NFC Championship. In his nine Drafts with the Bears, the team drafted 12 future Pro Bowl performers such perennial Pro Bowler Matt Forte, Tommie Harris, Devin Hester, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman.

In the 2012 – 2013 season, Gabriel was a consultant for the Philadelphia Eagles Scouting Department and has since done some small scouting roles for various NFL clubs.

Since leaving the NFL Gabriel has been a contributor for the National Football Post, the Bleacher Report and more recently Pro Football Weekly. He also is both a writer and contributor for WSCR (670the Score) in Chicago. The last three years he has authored the Pro Football Weekly Draft Guide.
Gabriel grew up in Amherst and is a 1974 graduate of Canisius College where he was a member of the football team. He and his wife Robin currently resides in the Chicago area.

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