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5 Qs, 5 A’s with Canal Street Chronicles: Drew Brees return, Saints elite defense, the Teddy Bridgewater question and more

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Baltimore Ravens Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

It is the biggest test for the Arizona Cardinals this season and we talked with Chris Dunnells of Canal Street Chronicles about maybe the best team in the NFC.

Let’s get to it.

If healthy, do the Saints have to go back to Drew Brees?

Of course. The New Orleans Saints are 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater under center, but make no mistake about it: this team is better with Drew Brees at quarterback. The offensive playbook did not appear to be fundamentally changed for Bridgewater – just slimmed down some. If healthy – which is a big “if” – the return of Brees re-opens the rest of the playbook for Sean Payton and the offense. Drew’s accuracy and pocket awareness elevates the play of the rest of the team around him. As long as there isn’t an increased risk of re-injury by starting Drew this week, then he plays.

What has Teddy done well and what is the biggest difference from Drew to Teddy?

Teddy has done well at executing the game plan of Sean Payton week-to-week. “Teddy, go out and dink and dunk your way to a win against the Jaguars.” “Teddy, the special teams and defense got you two scores already, so just protect the ball and coast to a win against the Seahawks.” “Teddy, attack the cornerbacks downfield against the Buccaneers and let’s light it up.” “Teddy, suck the soul out of the Bears by hitting big passes when they sell out to stop the inside runs.” Whatever has been asked of him, he’s been able to do.

What’s the biggest difference between him and Drew? Drew is still one of the best football minds in the game at quarterback. He’s been in the league and seen it all. He can quickly identify a defense, audible to a better play, recognize favorable matchups, and then provide pinpoint ball placement for his receiver. Teddy could get there eventually, but he’s miles from Drew’s caliber on that front right now.

The Saints defense looks like they have finally put it all together, what would you say is the biggest reason as to why and is there a weakness?

I’m not sure what you mean by “finally.” “Finally” as compared to the 2014-16 era when they were one of the historically-worst defenses in the NFL or “finally” as in Week 8 of the 2019 NFL season? This defense has made strides the past few seasons, and is playing exceptionally well in 2019 after finding similar success for much of 2018. The biggest reason would be the changes in personnel. The Saints have made excellent draft picks (like Marshon Lattimore, Sheldon Rankins, and Vonn Bell), trades (like Eli Apple and Kiko Alonso), and free agent acquisitions (like Demario Davis and AJ Klein) to finally have pieces around Pro Bowl DE Cam Jordan.

The biggest weakness…do you mean in general or this week? In general, the linebackers outside of Demario Davis can struggle in coverage and are below average moving side-to-side. For this game, it would be at the #2 cornerback position if Eli Apple sits out a week to rest an injured knee.

You didn’t exactly ask this, but if what you’re asking for is how I would attack the defense this week, I would keep Larry Fitzgerald in the slot all game and have him double-move the rookie Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (starting in place of the suspended PJ Williams) to death. The Saints will likely have Lattimore follow Fitz outside, but would probably shift to someone like Christian Kirk if Fitz lines up in the slot on the majority of plays.

Oh, and don’t bother thinking you’ll find success running the ball. The one thing this defense does well is stop the run. They haven’t given up a 100-yard rusher in 33 games. You’ll need to keep rushing to keep the defense honest, but don’t be surprised if there aren’t any big rushing numbers at the end of the game.

Do you think the Saints will sign Teddy for the long-term and to carry the post Brees era?

It all depends on what happens with Drew. If Drew retires, then yes, I think they sign Bridgewater long term. He’s ready to start in the NFL now, and has proven that again over the last five weeks.

If Drew sticks around for another year or two, I doubt Teddy signs to remain a backup and the Saints couldn’t afford to pay Bridgewater a starter’s salary if they’re already paying Drew.

Who wins and what are your overall expectations for the Saints in 2019?

I picked against the Saints in Week 3 on the road against the Seahawks, and they ended up winning. Each week since, I’ve had to pick against the Saints to not ruin the juju we’ve built. So with that understanding, I’ll say Cardinals 80 Saints 6.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll say Saints 27 Cardinals 13.

I get that the Cardinals have won their last three games, but the Bengals, Falcons, and Giants are a combined 6-18 (.250). The prior three games where the Cardinals won, they faced teams that were a combined 14-6 (.700). And while I think the world of Kyler Murray and that he is full of potential, this will be a new experience for him. His three away games so far have been against the Ravens (loss) and then against a Bengals and Giants team whose fans aren’t really interested. The Super Dome crowd is a totally different experience for a rookie.

And to your final question, my expectation for the Saints is to host a playoff game. Anything short of a trip to the Super Bowl would be a disappointment for this team and the fans, but you can never “expect” to go to the Super Bowl. I’ll expect them to get to the playoffs, and then hope for the best after that.