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New Orleans Saints vs Minnesota Vikings, 10-28-18: In-game report

In a rematch of last year's NFC Divisional Playoff matchup, Minnesota and New Orleans put on a less entertaining showing on Sunday Night Football.  New Orleans took advantage of two costly Vikings turnovers to win 30-20.  DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in game report:

Saints Quarterbacks 

Saints backup quarterback Taysom Hill (pictured at BYU in 2016) has been a jack of all trades for the team.

Sean Payton is one of the most innovative play callers in the NFL and he lived up to the hype on Sunday night against the Vikings, who came into the game ranked No. 10 in  total defense. The former quarterback, turned head coach, used backup quarterback Taysom Hill in Wildcat formations and empty sets and even lined him up at wide receiver while Drew Brees was under center. Hill is 6’2, 220 pounds and can run in-between the tackles and throw the football. His ability forces opposing defenses to have to game plan for something else while still preparing for Brees, the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards.  On one possession in the red zone, Payton even put Hill in shotgun and lined quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Brees out wide.  Hill ran up the middle for no gain but it goes to show Payton isn’t afraid to experiment with some new alignments and he may have used the wacky formation to get something on film for a later use.  Hill finished with one completion for 44 yards and three rushing attempts for -2 yards.  The former BYU quarterback has run for 123 yards and one touchdown so far this season. 

Vikings Receivers 

The Minnesota Vikings have two number one receivers in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.   Against New Orleans, Thielen caught seven passes for 103 yards and set the record for most consecutive 100-yard receiving games to start the season with his eighth straight.  He ranks first in the NFL in receiving yards and receptions. On the other side, Diggs caught 10 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown.  Most impressive is that the two combined for 17 receptions on 18 targets. Not only are Diggs and Thielen productive, but they make sure to catch anything and everything that comes their way. The Vikings made an effort to attack Saints cornerback P.J. Williams instead of testing Pro Bowler, Marshon Lattimore. Minnesota has two number one level receivers which allows them to pick on cornerbacks, who they deem more of a liability.  Both players made critical mistakes that resulted in big plays for the Saints defense.  With the Vikings up 13-10 and driving in for a score at the Saints' 18-yard line with 1:11 left in the second quarter, Thielen fumbled after a hit by linebacker Alex Anzalone.  The fumble was recovered by Lattimore and took potential points off the board.  Then, in the third quarter (5:58), Diggs failed to continue to run across the field on a crossing pattern while being covered by Saints cornerback P.J. Williams.  Williams ended up picking off the crossing pattern by Kirk Cousins and returned it for a 45-yard touchdown.  It put the Saints up by 14 and stymied the Vikings attempt to tie the game.  Despite the mishaps, the Vikings will continue to be a force in the passing game behind the production of Diggs and Thielen. 

Saints defense 

Davenport has four sacks for the Saints thus far in his rookie campaign.

Earlier in the week, New Orleans acquired Eli Apple from the Giants for a fourth round draft pick.  Apple led the team in tackles on Sunday night but a lot of those tackles came after he had given up catches.  Apple, who started the game, should form cohesion with the Saints secondary in time as he is accompanied by fellow former Ohio State Buckeyes Marshon Lattimore and Vonn Bell. With the emergence of defensive end Marcus Davenport (two sacks against Minnesota) alongside Pro Bowler Cam Jordan, New Orleans has the makings of a solid defense.  If defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, who served as the secondary coach during the Saints championship season, can get the secondary on the same page then New Orleans could match a strong offense with an equally strong defense. 

Update: Davenport was recently reported to have a toe injury that could keep him out for an extended period of time.

Alabama’s Miller making his mark

Alabama outside linebacker Christian Miller is blessed with NFL bloodlines.  His father, former NFL linebacker Corey Miller, enjoyed an eight-year NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants that included 72 starts, 14 sacks, seven interceptions and a host of tackles.

Miller hasn't been able to get his career on the same upward trek up to this point, but he has shown flashes in the past.  Before going down to a biceps injury versus Florida State in 2017, he had already run through the Seminoles offensive tackles on a couple of occasions when defending the run out of a two-point stance.  Well- balanced at 6-foot-4, 247 pounds, he has enough length to occasionally battle with offensive tackles on the edge (see picture vs. USC's Chad Wheeler in 2016).  He possesses the necessary bulk to create separation while deciphering the action.

So how has he grown mentally over the last year?

First of all, he didn't allow the biceps injury to end his 2017 campaign.  He rehabbed religiously to make a comeback in time for Alabama's national championship run.  His arduous journey draws high marks if for nothing more than its pure tenacity.  Miller put it best when he described the passage prior to the team's Sugar Bowl contest against Clemson in early January.

“I feel good. This is what we wanted,” Miller said. “This is the opportunity that we wanted. Obviously had a rough start to the season with getting injured in the first game. But I rehabbed and worked back, and now I’m back." (https://www.seccountry.com/alabama/christian-miller-describes-grueling-rehab-shit-not-easy).

And he didn't just come back, he contributed.  In the 2018 National Championship Game, he was seen lining up on the punt team at the left tackle spot.  In the same game, he used a right-handed post versus a tight end and just wouldn't quit on a down that resulted in a quarterback sack after he re-mapped his course.

Coming into this season, the true test would be to see if his pass rush variety would improve coming off the edge.  Last week vs. Ole Miss in Oxford, he put together arguably his best career performance to date (5 tackles, 2.5 QB sacks, 2.5 TFLs).   His first quarterback sack came on a play from the left defensive end spot.  He took a shoulder away and then surfed around the corner to wheel the edge and get the quarterback on the ground. On this play, he displayed an increased skill running the loop.   He later ran over a running back (in a one-on-one blitz pick-up) with a speed-to-power rush that resulted in his second quarterback sack.

These types of plays create a baseline to judge Miller on for the rest of the season.  As a competent complementary pass rusher alongside Dylan Moses, Isaiah Buggs and Raekwon Davis, the former five-star recruit may give the Crimson Tide's defense even more room to blossom.

2018 NFL Draft Recap, pick-by-pick: NFC North

NFC North

 

Green Bay Packers
Alexander (No. 10 pictured) may be relied upon to work at the nickel back spot for the Packers.

Notable picks: Alexander and Jackson could eventually develop into the two outside starting cornerbacks. Alexander’s ability to return kicks, play outside or in the slot makes him one of the more versatile players in the 2018 NFL Draft. The potential combination of Alexander, Jackson and Kevin King could be game-changing for the Packers secondary.

Round,

Selection,

 

Player School DN Big Board

Rank/

Grade

‘Nasty’ Take:
1 (18) Jaire

Alexander CB-5’10 196

Louisville 40 (2nd Round) Teams relied heavily on his outstanding 2016 film. Believes in his recipe. Will he play the nickel with Jackson and King on the outside.
2 (45) Josh

Jackson

CB-6’0 196

Iowa 55 (2nd Round) Jackson is used to this part of the country and the elements won’t be a factor. His ball skills will aid a defense which finished 23rd in pass defense.
3 (88) Trade from Carolina Oren

Burks

LB-6’3 233

Vanderbilt 71 (3rd Round) Burks adds another coverage linebacker to a group that needs more on-field speed. The former safety has all of the tools to develop into at least a nickel contributor in Year 1.
4 (133) J’Mon

Moore

WR-6’3 207

Missouri 160 (3rd Round) Moore was the rare SEC wide receiver to post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
5 (138) Cole

Madison

OL-6’5 307

Washington St. 127 (3rd Round) Former TE with good feet, durability and tackle experience. While he played RT in school, he could battle former UCF star Justin McCray (8 starts in 2017) for playing time at OG.
5 (172) JK

Scott

P-6’6 208

Alabama 411 (5th Round) Four-year starter who punted and kicked off the ‘Tide. Can be dominant kicking in Domes. Catch-and-kick times average between 1.15 and 1.25 seconds. Reminiscent of former Clemson punter Bradley Pinion.
5 (174) Marquez

Valdes-Scantling

WR-6’4 207

USF 281 (4th Round) Valdes-Scantling built on a good junior campaign with a breakout senior campaign.
6 (207) Equanimeous

St. Brown

WR-6’5 214

Notre Dame 80 (3rd Round) St. Brown probably may have more to give than even the team’s fifth-round pick. Regardless of the team’s QB play, he didn’t finish on the ball as well in 2017.
7 (232) James

Looney

DL-6’3 287

California 243 (4th Round) NFL bloodlines are complemented by a steady diet of lateral quickness and strong hands. He is an inconsistent pass rusher and Tyson Alualu-type.   35 ½” VJ.
7 (239) Hunter

Bradley

LS-6’3 241

Mississippi State N/A (long snappers, page 388 of Corey Chavous’ 2018 Draft Guide) Bradley, a long snapper, ran in the 4.7-range and was a big reason for P Logan Cooke’s success.
7 (248) Kendall

Donnerson

DE-6’3 250

SE Missouri State N/A Donnerson turned heads in private workouts prior to the draft with a 40” VJ and 10’11” BJ.

 

 

Chicago Bears
Smith's ability (No. 3 pictured) to run down plays laterally could increase the speed of an already formidable Bears rush defense.

Notable Pick: Smith could make life painful for opposing running backs as he combines with playmaker Danny Trevathan. He rejoins former Georgia Bulldog teammate Leonard Floyd.   All of the linebackers will have to pay attention to fourth-round pick Joel Iyiebuniwe. He could challenge for playing time.

Round,

Selection,

 

Player School DN Big Board

Rank/

Grade

‘Nasty’ Take:
1 (8) Roquan

Smith

6’1 236

Georgia 13 (1st Round) Smith’s speed will increase a defensive unit that is going…all the way up.
2 (39) James

Daniels

6’4 295

Iowa 41 (2nd Round) Daniels has he mobility to challenge for a starting offensive guard spot right away. In addition, he is athletic enough to backup at a tackle position.
2 (51) Anthony

Miller

5’11 201

Memphis 43 (2nd Round) Miller’s quickness will open up options on the outside or in the slot. His play speed will make him a major option in the run-pass-option game with Trubisky.
4 (115) Joel

Iyiebuniwe

LB-6’1 229

Western Kentucky 112 (3rd Round) The Bears continue to overhaul their LB corps with a ‘backer who can run and hit.
5 (145) Bilal

Nichols

DT-6’3 306

Delaware 97 (3rd Round) Nichols very easily could have gone higher if not for questions regarding his pad level. He could provide a challenge for DE Jonathan Bullard.
7 (224) Javon

Wims

WR-6’4 215

Georgia,

Belhaven

223 (4th Round) The Bears took a late-round flyer on a player who excelled adjusting to tough passes in 2017. He’s another tall, long wideout in the mold of current Bears Robinson and White. Can he play special teams?

 

 

 

Minnesota Vikings
Carlson connected on 13 field goals of 50 or more yards in school.

Notable pick: Carlson’s ability to hit field goals near the midfield mark will extend the team’s offensive range. Jalen Holmes brings positional versatility to the table and could be a big factor on third downs rushing from an interior line position.   Aruna could become a Day 3 find with his immense level of athleticism.

Round,

Selection,

 

Player School DN Big Board

Rank/

Grade

‘Nasty’ Take:
1 (29) Mike

Hughes

CB-5’10 183

UCF 16 (2nd Round) Hughes not only offers sub-package immediate potential, he is one of the draft’s best returners.
2 (62) Brian

O’Neill

OT-6’6 298

Pittsburgh 66 (3rd Round) O’Neill has starting potential as a left tackle if he can learn to sit down with more urgency.
4 (102)

 

Jalen

Holmes

DE-6’5 283

Ohio State 156 (3rd Round) Holmes can play up-and-down a defensive front.   He is improving with his hand usage.
5 (167) Daniel

Carlson

PK-6’5 223

Auburn 267 (4th Round) Despite six blocked kicks in school, he kicked 13 field goals of 50 yards or more.
6 (213) Colby

Gossett

OL-6’5 311

Appalachian State 105 (3rd Round) Gossett started 37 games at RG, 8 games at RT and one game at OC in school.
6 (218) Ade

Aruna

OLB-6’5 262

Tulane 219 (3rd Round) Former two-star recruit was much better in 2016 when he stood up as a two-point OLB much of the year.
7 (225) Devante

Downs

LB-6’1 245

California 515 (6th Round) Downs finished his career with 211 tackles and five interceptions despite missing significant time as a senior.   His eye speed makes up for ordinary explosion.

 

Detroit Lions
Johnson's workhorse mentality was complemented with an ability to throw the halfback pass.

Notable picks: Detroit went into this draft with the desire to get more physical on both sides of the ball. They drafted Johnson to run behind Ragnow and then selected the draft’s best blocking fullback in Bawden. Johnson will make-or-break this crop. If he can provide a one-two punch with some of the current Lions backs, it will finally take pressure off of Matthew Stafford.

Round,

Selection,

 

Player School DN Big Board

Rank/

Grade

‘Nasty’ Take:
1 (20) Frank

Ragnow

C-6’5 307

Arkansas 121 (3rd Round) Ragnow has always carried starter-traits, but leverage can be an issue for him vs. squatty nose guards.
2 (43) Trade from New England Kerryon

Johnson

RB-5’11 213

Auburn 101 (3rd Round) Johnson’s power and stride length make him look like a 6’2 runner on the field. He contains underrated lower body explosiveness at 213 pounds.   Easy mover.
4 (114) from New England Da’Shawn

Hand

DL-6’4 297

Alabama 137 (3rd Round) Hand is a player with heavy hands and an ability to defend the run. He may never be a great pass rusher, but he fits the profile desired on an underrated defensive front.
 
5 (153) Tyrell

Crosby

OT-6’5 319

Oregon 14 (1st Round) Crosby ranks as one of the best steals of the draft.   He may not look the part, but his 11-inch hands and 35-inch arms will make a difference at the right tackle spot.
7 (237) Nick

Bawden

FB-6’2 240

San Diego State 210 (4th Round) Bawden –a former college quarterback- reads through defenses with an ability to seek and destroy.   A true passion player with huge upside as a blocker. He adds substance to the team’s desire to run effectively in December.