Greg Cosell’s Film Review: Saints cause many defensive issues, just by lining up

Greg Cosell
Shutdown Corner

Saints coach Sean Payton is probably the most multiple offensive coach in the NFL, in terms of personnel and formations. They’re difficult to defend. They could start with 15 personnel packages and 15 formations on the first 15 plays of a game.

With their large number of personnel and formation variations the question is, how will you match up? They can put a lot of pressure on a defense that way. There was a great example on a 44-yard touchdown to Jimmy Graham last week against Atlanta.

The Saints lined up with both wide receivers to the right side of the field, and Graham as the traditional line of scrimmage tight end on the left. The Falcons chose to defend this look by flopping their corners to the same side of the field, to defend the two receivers. That means you have a safety or a linebacker to cover Graham, and you have to live with that.

Falcons safety Will Moore drew the matchup, as a "cover three" cornerback in this coverage. Theoretically, if Graham runs an in-breaking route, Moore will have help from the other safety. If he runs an out route, he has no help.

Graham ran an out-and-up route and easily beat Moore, who has no corner skills and was clearly uncomfortable.

The Saints caused that mismatch by the way they lined up. There's no easy way to defend it, however. One other option is to not flop both corners to the same side, and then end up with a cornerback on Graham, who is 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds.

That raises a matchup question for New Orleans' Monday night game at Seattle. Will the Seahawks feel comfortable with strong safety Kam Chancellor matched on Graham? I think they’re going to feel good with it. Whether it plays out in their favor is a different issue, but they’ll feel comfortable in that matchup in certain situations.

Graham is a key part of the Saints' multiple offense.They don’t just put Graham in a spot and expect him to beat a guy; he lines up all over. As a defense you have to think about how you'll match up.

If they put three receivers on one side, with Marques Colston in the slot, and Graham on the other side with Darren Sproles offset in the backfield to Graham's side, how do you cover all those players? The Saints create many scenarios where the defense is in conflict.

It’s not unstoppable when the Saints create that pressure, because nothing is unstoppable, but it forces a defense to figure out: How will you match up?

- - -
NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.

What to Read Next