In Preseason Week 3 Saints versus Chargers Game Talent Abounds

This should be a good match-up in the third preseason game. The third preseason game is typically the game in which the starters play the most out of all preseason games. Last season the Saints won their division.  The Chargers just missed the playoffs tied at 9-7 for the wildcard and losing the tiebreaker.

Adam Schein , nfl.com columnist, puts the Chargers and Saints in his top nine offenses in 2018. Pete Prisco of cbssports.com predicts both will go 11-5. Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News.com predicts a Chargers – Saints Super Bowl. The Chargers and the Saints were number six and seven respectively on Gil Brandt’s ten most talented NFL teams. In the nfl.com list of the top 100 players of 2018 the Saints had the fourth most talented players (six) and the Chargers had the eighth most (five).

Here is a look at the talent that will be displayed in this “dress rehearsal” preseason game three.

Quarterbacks

Last season at age 38, Drew Brees completed a career-high 72 percent of his passes. He led the league in completions (386) and yards per attempt (8.1) while throwing for 4,334 yards and 23 touchdowns. This year Brees is in position to become the career leader in Passes Completed and Passing Yards. He should pass Brett Favre in career Passing Touchdowns competing with Tom Brady for the number two position. Brees is currently sixth in career Passer Rating, first in career Passing Yards per Game, first in career Pass Completion Percentage and fifth in Game Winning Drives. He is a Super Bowl MVP and has been selected to eleven Pro Bowls.

Seven time Pro-Bowler Philip Rivers has the eighth  best career quarterback rating for over 1500 attempts, fifth among active quarterbacks. His career completion percentage is tenth best and fifth among active quarterbacks. Pro Football Focus has Rivers as one of the league’s most accurate passer in short yardage (0-9 yards) and eighth best in intermediate (10-19 yards). Rivers is a competitor. He is one of three quarterbacks in 2017 that had four or more consecutive games with a passer rating of 103 or better and all were wins.

Saints second year quarterback Taysom Hill had a good preseason week one. He completed 8 of 9 passing attempts for 72 yards. In addition Hill rushed seven times for 52 yards and four first downs. He is said the be a freak athlete. Hill is a dual threat quarterback. He ran a 4.44 forty at his pro day which would have been the best at the combine for quarterbacks. Hill has been used on kickoff coverage by the Saints. He racked up four tackles and contributed to a blocked punt against the Vikings in the playoffs. In his sophomore year at BYU Hill ranked 8th in the FBS for total offense which included 1,344 rushing yards and 19 rushing TDs.

Wide Receivers

According to Pro Football Focus, in 2017 on passes that traveled 40+ yards in the air, Phillip Rivers had the 3rd best passer rating when targeting speedster Travis Benjamin.

In his rookie season of 2013, Charger Keenan Allen made the NFL All-Rookie Team. Last season he was NFL AP Comeback Player of the Year.  In between he had season ending injuries in both 2015 ad 2016 and played only nine games over those two years. As Comeback Player of the Year he was third in receiving yards (1,393) and second in 100+ yard games (7).

Over the last three seasons Charger Tyrell Williams’ 7.55 Yards after the Catch per reception leads all top receivers. He has a significant 18.4% of his receptions go for 25+ yards. Williams has speed. He ran a 4.43 forty and a 6.74 three-cone at his Pro-Day.

No player has ever had more receptions in their first two seasons than Saint’s receiver Michael Thomas with 196. Over the last two seasons no wide receiver has a better catch percentage (72.6%) and more targets (270) than Thomas. The closest would be Danny Amendola with a 73% catch percentage on 115 targets.

In 2017 Saint’s Ted Ginn had the highest catch percentage (75.7%) of his career which was third best among wide receivers in the league. According to Pro Football Focus only four teams had two wide receivers finish top-20 in yards per route run in 2017. New Orleans was one of the teams with Michael Thomas (2.39) and Ted Ginn (1.94).

Saint’s 2018 third round draft pick Tre’Quan Smith is a big receiver with good speed and solid hands. He is a red zone threat and tied for 2nd most receiving TDs among draft eligible receivers. Smith is also one of college football’s best deep threats. He had the 3rd most deep pass receiving yards among draft eligible receivers and the most touchdown receptions on deep passes among all FBS wide receivers. He will go up and fight for jump balls and makes some spectacular catches. In 2017 Smith had a high catch rate (67%) and a 61% success rate (the measure of efficiency by determining whether every play of a given game was successful or not based on down and distance).

Charger’s 2018 undrafted free agent signing J.J. Jones has been returning kickoffs in the preseason. He had a punt return of 72 yards for a touchdown in week two. At his Pro-Day Jones had a 4.35 forty and a 6.83 three cone.

Running Backs

Not since 1967 has there been AP Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year on the same team. In 2017 running back Alvin Kamara joined cornerback Marshon Lattimore to  do it for the Saints. Kamara led the NFL in rushing yards per attempt (6.1 yards). The next running back had 5.0 yards per attempt. Kamara was second in rushing/receiving touchdowns with 13. He was third in All-Purpose yards (1,901). Kamara is an explosive runner,  uses quick sidesteps to avoid tackles  and even leaps over would be tacklers. He is arguably the best active receiving running back in the game. Kamara’ s career 51.6 receiving yards per game leads all active backs by almost 9 yards.

Among the 120 running backs on NFL rosters at the start of preseason, Mark Ingram ranked in the top 10 in most significant metrics for backs who had a minimum 100 attempts over the last 3 seasons. Those metrics were 100+ yard games, rushing touchdowns, stuffs per attempt, yards per game, yards per attempt and longest play. Ingram had rushing plays of 70+ yards in each of the last three seasons.

Gordon Melvin of the Chargers has power and speed. He excelled at the 2015 combine in the broad jump, 20 yard shuttle and 60 yard shuttle. According to Pro Football Focus Gordon has the second most forced missed tackles since 2015 among running backs.

Boston Scott of the Saints is an athletic back drafted in the 6th round of the 2018 draft. In college he was touted by Pro Football Focus (PFF) as an elusive back with a forced missed tackle percentage of 26% – second best among draft eligible backs. Preseason week two Scott showed his ability to make people miss both as a rusher and as a receiver according to PFF. In the preseason Scott has had five kickoff returns of 20+ yards, the most among rookies. His long return was 35 yards.

Pass Rushers

The three veterans in this group combined for a total 36 sacks during the 2017 regular season. All three were in a group of just 16 pass rushers that had double digit sacks, hits and hurries.

In 2017 Cameron Jordan of the Saints had a career high 13 sacks, 11 tipped passes and two forced fumbles. He was selected for his third Pro Bowl. For the year Jordan had 14 sacks, 14 hits and 47 hurries.

In 2017 Joey Bosa of the Chargers had a career high 12.5 sacks and made his first Pro Bowl. He had 13 sacks, 11 hits and 51 hurries for the year.

In 2017 Melvin Ingram of the Chargers had a career high 10.5 sacks and made his first Pro Bowl. He is credited with 11 sacks, 12 hits and 53 hurries for the year.

Marcus Davenport of the Saints was the 14th pick in the 2018 NFL draft. In college he was Conference USA Defensive Player of the year and 1st team All C-USA in 2017. Davenport had a career 21.5 sacks in college which was ranked 10th among active career leaders in the FBS in 2017. He is said to have a great work habit.

Uchenna Nwosu of the Chargers was a 2018 NFL draft second round draft pick.  In college he was selected to the 2017 First Team All-Pac-12. Nwosu is passionate, relentless and tough. He had 13 passes tipped at the line of scrimmage in 2017 which was second in the PAC-12 for passes defended.

Secondary

According to Pro Football Reference the Saints (3.6%) and the Chargers (3.4%) had the third and fourth best pass interception percentage respectively in 2017. Quarterbacks had the fourth (Chargers – 78) and the seventh (Saints –  79) lowest passer rating against these teams.

In his rookie season Marshon Lattimore of the Saints was the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year and made the 2017 NFL All-Rookie team. He had five interceptions and 18 passes defended. Quarterbacks had a 45.3 passer rating when targeting Lattimore. Lattimore did not allow a touchdown on 415 coverage snaps in 2017, and gave up a first down or touchdown on just 27.9 percent of his targets, per nfl.com.

Casey Hayward of the Chargers made the Pro Bowl each of the last two seasons. In the last two years he has had 11 interceptions and 42 passes defended. He was the 2017 Pro Football Focus coverage defender of the year recipient. Hayward was tied with Lattimore in third place for passes defensed i 2017 with 22. According to PFF Hayward led all full-time starters in completion percentage allowed (42.7%) and was fourth in passer rating allowed (58.6).

Derwin James of the Chargers was selected with the 17th pick of the 2018 NFL draft. He may be the most versatile defender from that draft having played safety, linebacker and cornerback. James was a 2017 FWAA, USAT and CBS All-American. He exhibits strength, athleticism, excellent spatial awareness and great closing speed.  PFF has him as their second top candidate to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.

The game is on Saturday August 25th at 8:00 PM ET and is carried on CBS. Enjoy the Game!

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