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Saints vs. Cardinals Week 7 Scouting Report: Grades and Key Matchups

Kyler Murray

The Scouting Report for Thursday night’s Saints vs. Cardinals game is produced by The 33rd Team’s Scouting Department, led by former Eagles, Cardinals, and Ravens personnel executive T.J. McCreight and assisted by scouts Justin Casey, Kevin Cohn and Evan Pritt.


Kyler Murray vs Saints Defense

  • With most of their offensive personnel and coaching staff intact from last season, it was reasonable to expect a step forward for Murray and the Cardinals’ offense. Instead, they have taken an alarming step back. Through six games, they rank 31st in yards per play, 22nd in scoring and 28th in third down conversions.
  • There is plenty of blame to go around, but when a club invests the amount of money the Cardinals did into Murray, much is rightly expected of him. He is capable of making spectacular plays as he did in their comeback win against the Raiders, but you can’t count on that every week.
  • You need to execute routine plays on a routine basis, and the Cardinals' offense is missing that. There have been way too many examples of sloppy footwork and mechanics, poor ball placement, drops and miscommunications.
  • In a lot of ways, this is a carryover from last season when the Cardinals’ offense struggled without DeAndre Hopkins on the field. The team averaged 30 points per game when he played and just 21 without him.
  • Murray’s QB rating was 108.1 with him and 89.7 without him last season. His completion percentage was almost 7% higher, and his yards per attempt was more than two yards higher with him.
  • One thing Hopkins' ability to win 50/50 balls is something no other receiver on the roster can do.
  • There is no doubt the return of Hopkins should provide a boost to the offense. However, it might be asking a too much for him to save an offense that generated just three offensive points.
  • That performance came against a Seattle defense that had been one of the worst in the league through five games.
  • With Hollywood Brown now out for an indefinite period of time and Hopkins just coming back, expect second-year receiver Rondale Moore and TE Zach Ertz to see a lot of targets. Moore has seen his targets go up from five to eight to 10 in his three games since returning from a hamstring injury. Moore has looked explosive with the ability to make defenders miss after the catch.
  • Ertz has been the second-most targeted player behind Brown and has 35 receptions for 299 yards and two touchdowns. He has run more routes (243) than any other TE in the NFL. While he is still a productive player, he is probably carrying more of a load than his athletic ability merits at this point in his career.
  • The Saints haven’t been a scary defense for opposing QBs. They are allowing a QB rating of 98.1, which ranks 24th, and allowed nine touchdown passes to just one interception.
  • The Saints haven't had all of their starters in the secondary healthy at the same time. They've brought up 33-year-old Chris Harris Jr. from the practice squad the last two weeks, and it looks unlikely No. 1 corner Marshon Lattimore (abdominal) will return on a short week after missing last week’s game.
  • The Bengals attacked Harris, who played the majority of his snaps in the slot. He struggled with quick releases and hard-breaking routes, which is something that Moore could exploit.
  • Marcus Mariota is the one true running QB who the Saints have faced, and he caused them some problems. He rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Murray is coming off the second 100-yard rushing game of his career vs Seattle.

Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill vs Cardinals Run Defense

  • The Saints have been productive on the ground so far this season. The two-back tandem of Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill has the Saints ranked seventh in yards rushing yards per game with 151.5 and third in yards per rush at 5.35.
  • Kamara is having a productive season in his own right. He is averaging 4.6 yards per carry and has taken the majority of the Saints' carries with 66 in only four games.
  • With the Saints banged up at receiver during the last two weeks, he has 57 total touches. Kamara has done a good job of taking what is in front of him this season. He has not ripped off a ton of long runs, however, he can really grind out a game and get four or five yards consistently.
  • Kamara has good vision and lateral quickness to find holes. He runs hard and hits it without hesitation. He does not dance in the backfield. He can put his head down and deliver a blow as well. He does have the speed to take one the distance but has not had many opportunities to do so. He is a reliable number-one back who can handle a high volume of carries and grind out a game for you.
  • Hill is the Go-Go Gadget, swiss army knife weapon for the Saints. He isn’t a running back, as he takes his rushing snaps at QB, but he is a player you absolutely have to gameplan for, especially on the ground.
  • Hill is averaging 10.3 yards per rush on 26 carries with five touchdowns. Game planning for Hill is tricky because of his threat to throw the ball. He isn’t an elite passer by any means. If he was, he would still be playing quarterback, but he can do it well enough coupled with his rushing ability to make him dangerous.
  • Hill has great vision and balance. He sees holes and hits them without hesitation. He does a great job of breaking off arm tacklers with his balance and strength. He does not have top-end speed but can create big chunk plays for the offense. His size and quickness make him a threat in the red zone because he can get hard yards in creative ways.
  • He is truly a one-of-a-kind type of player, and the Saints do an excellent job of deploying him and getting the most out of him.
  • Arizona's run defense has done a good job limiting teams this season. They rank seventh in the league in 103.8 yards allowed per game. They are a bit worse in yards per rush at 4.33, which ranks only 14th.
  • Solid is really the best definition to describe their run defense. They don’t do anything flashy, and they don’t have any world-beaters on defense. However, they do a really good job of playing tough and staying disciplined.
  • They stay in their gaps and don’t over-commit. They don’t get a ton of push, and they aren’t blowing up runs in the backfield, but they also don’t get blown off the ball. They are fundamentally sound. They will give up a chunk play now and then, but they haven’t consistently given up big plays.
  • The Cardinals' run defense can be exposed by a running back with the willingness to just eat four or five yards and keep the game moving. They struggle with containing the quarterback. They will give up much bigger runs on scramble plays with mobile QBs who can get outside the pocket.
  • Kamara and Hill play right into what the Cardinals' defense struggles with. Kamara can grind out the game, and the Cardinals are susceptible to allowing it. Arizona needs to be disciplined when Hill is on the field. Hill could have a huge day if the Cardinals don’t have a great plan for him and the Saints' creativity.
  • It creates an even greater challenge for the Cardinals with this being a Thursday night game. They will only get the opportunity to walk through the game plan instead of taking live reps with a decoy Hill in the backfield.

Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport vs Cardinals OL

  • The Saints' four defensive linemen have all started every game this season. This unit plays hard and gives outstanding effort, but their production is not eye-popping.  The only starter on the front with more than a half of a sack is Jordan with 3.5 sacks.
  • Jordan has a great motor and understands how to use his hands and how to attack an offensive lineman.
  • The Saints will play stunts and games up front trying to get a favorable matchup. They want to get Davenport and Jordan on a lesser athlete, usually a center or guard.
  • Davenport has modest production this season with only a half of a sack and 10 total tackles. He does not have a tackle for a loss this season.
  • Davenport does have some lower body tightness and needs to play with better pad level. Too often, Davenport gets stuck on blocks and struggles to shed offensive linemen.
  • The Saints are in the middle of the pack – 16th in the NFL with 13 sacks. Most of their sack production comes off of movement from the linebackers.
  • Defensive tackles Shy Tuttle and David Onyeata are more disruptive than productive as pass rushers. They want to get them on the move to free up the ends and linebackers to get to the passer.
  • The Saints are also 16th in yards passing per game and 28th in points per game allowed with 26.3.
  • New Orleans plays hard as a unit, and it is very evident they play to the whistle.
  • The Cardinals' offensive line, similar to the Saints' defensive line, has been healthy this season and has had few changes up front. They have gone back and forth at center with Rodney Hudson and Sean Harlow.
  • The Cardinals are tied for 17th in the NFL giving up 14 sacks on the season and are 22nd in points per game with 19.
  • This unit is experienced and has played in quite a few NFL games, but players like Justin Pugh and Rodney Hudson are clearly on the downside of their careers.
  • It is not easy to protect a quarterback like Murray. While Murray’s rare athleticism will get him out of trouble, the offensive line is forced to protect longer and is asked to sustain blocks for several seconds.
  • The average fan may not realize with a mobile quarterback the offensive line won't always know where he is, and their blocking angles are affected and change during pass plays.
  • The Cardinals are 17th in the NFL with 226 passing yards per game. On Sunday, Murray was not only their leading passer but their leading rusher.
  • At times, this offense has looked choppy and out of sync. The plays will come in late, and they are often up against the play clock.
  • Tackles Kelvin Beachum and D.J. Humphries have to be disciplined when playing the Saints. They will have to be prepared to block several different kinds of rushers due to their stunts up front.
  • It will not be an easy day for Beachum. Jordan is a savvy rusher, who uses his hands and has good enough strength to move Beachum.

Extra Points

  • Arizona has been outscored 41-3 in the first quarter this year. They scored their first points in the first quarter last week against Seattle.
  • Arizona has lost eight straight home games since a 31-5 victory against Houston last October.
  • Hopkins only ran 23 routes with eight targets and 5fivecatches for 82 yards and one touchdown from the right side of the formation in 2021, compared to 266 routes with 52 targets and 41 catches for 490 yards and seven touchdowns from the left side of the formation.

Saints’ Keys to Victory

  • They must squeeze the pocket and contain Murray to keep him in the pocket. When Murray gets on the edge and gets in space, few defenders can tackle him one-on-one.
  • With injuries to their top-three receivers, Hill and Kamara will have to make plays.

Cardinals’ Keys to Victory

  • Hopkins has to hit the ground running with the loss of Brown.
  • Be ready for anything that the Saints may throw at them with Hill.

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