One would think facing the Saints at home on “Monday Night Football” would be a welcome sight for a Vikings offense trying to rediscover some sense of strength and consistency.
After all, the Saints are riding a three-year streak of 7-9 finishes with scoring defenses that have ranked 28th, last and 31st.
This being the first game of a new season, we aren’t sure what to expect on. The Saints could have up to eight new starters on that side of the ball, including an entirely new set of linebackers led by former Panther A.J. Klein. Also, Dennis Allen had the entire offseason to install his own schemes after replacing the fired Rob Ryan last November.
The Saints looked good defensively in the preseason. But, of course, it was only preseason.
And now, without further delay, here are two areas I think the Saints will be looking to exploit, and vice versa …
Saints slot receivers versus Vikings CB Mackensie Alexander:
Drew Brees has feasted on Minnesota DBs going back to the late ’90s, when he was torturing the Gophers. No quarterback does a better job confusing defenders with his eyes and subtle fakes in the pocket. You can see him working on his pump fakes and head turn after every throw in practice.
That makes the still-green Alexander is a key player in the game. The Saints lost their best slot receiver — Willie Snead (72 catches a year ago) — to a three-game suspension, so that helps Alexander.
Unproven Tommylee Lewis could see time in the slot. So could Austin Carr, although he just arrived as a waiver wire claim from New England.
The guy to keep an eye on here is rookie running back Alvin Kamara. He can play in the slot. In fact, his standout preseason has people buzzing more about his receiving skills. He could be a bad matchup in the slot, especially if he’s there at the same time Adrian Peterson is in the backfield.
Running back Mark Ingram also has the versatility to split out, so the options are plenty for how the Saints could attack that area even with Snead out.
Saints DE Cam Jordan vs. Vikings RT Mike Remmers: Jordan is the Saints’ best pass rusher, and he plays on the left side. That’s a good matchup for New Orleans considering Remmers is the least effective pass protector of the two new starting tackles the Vikings picked up in free agency.
Jordan had a team-high 7 1/2 sacks a year ago. He can speed rush and rush straight ahead. Remmers sometimes struggles with both. It helps tremendously that Remmers’ debut with the Vikings will come at home and not in the Superdome.
Vikings WR Stefon Diggs vs. Saints CBs Marshon Lattimore and P.J. Williams: It’s way too early to think the Vikings’ passing game can exploit anybody. First, the Vikings have to prove they can sustain blocks long enough to even have a passing game.
But they are looking at a couple of young corners with a combined two games of NFL regular-season experience between them. Lattimore is the rookie first-round draft pick who, by all accounts, is legit.
Williams’ story is interesting. He was a third-round pick in 2015. He ended up being stashed on IR as a rookie. He won the starting job last year, but a nasty concussion in Week 2 kept him out the rest of the season.
Vikings DEs Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter vs. Saints LT Ryan Ramczyk: The Saints didn’t expect to get such a quick return on their second pick in this year’s first round. After trading receiver Brandin Cooks to New England, the Saints used the 32nd overall pick on Wisconsin’s Ramczyk.
When Terron Armstead suffered a serious shoulder injury this offseason, Ramczyk became the new starting left tackle for at least the early part of the season.
The word out of New Orleans is Ramczyk is holding his own and won’t be overwhelmed by the size and noise of the stage on Monday night.
But he has yet to face the likes of Griffen and Hunter, not to mention all the different pressure packages Mike Zimmer is sure to throw at the rook.