The team’s lack of sacks this season isn’t lost on the New Orleans Saints defenseIt is not a problem.
In two games, there has been one sack for the Saints. Last season, they averaged 2.7 yards per game, ranking eighth in the NFL. There were two this year: one in the win over Atlanta Falcons and one for the loss to Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Really just gotta take it on the chin,” defensive end Marcus Davenport said. “It’s what you put out there, and that was our first body of work.
“Just from there, I think it’s one of those things that we’re going to use to only make ourselves better. We’re always gonna keep it with us but never let it hinder us.”
The Saints’ next opportunity is Sunday against the Carolina Panthers (0-2) and their new quarterback Baker Mayfield. Mayfield was traded by the Cleveland Browns to Carolina in July.
Mayfield really can’t be compared to either quarterback the Saints have faced so far. He’s not as mobile as Marcus Mariota, who rushed 12 times for 72 yards for Atlanta, but he also doesn’t remain in the pocket as much as Tom Brady, whose three rush attempts resulted in a loss of 2 yards for Tampa Bay. Mayfield can be either one or both depending on the circumstances.
“I think he is able to get the ball out, with all the timing and rhythm and accuracy,” Saints coach Dennis Allen said. “And then I think he’s also got the ability to extend the play and create some opportunities down the field with custom, off-scheduled throws. He’s a tough, tough issue to deal with.”
Mayfield completed 16 out of 27 passes for 235 yard and a touchdown in his first game with Panthers. He ran five more times for 6 yards, and another touchdown.
His second game saw less yards in the air and more on ground. Mayfield completed 14 out of 29 passes for 145 yard and a touchdown. He ran six times for 35 yards.
“We got to keep him contained,” co-defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen said. “We can’t let him run out of the back of the pocket. There’s a place he will run out to, and he’ll play with his legs or make a deal with a guy if he has too many minutes.
“And then we got to do a really good job of pushing the interior of the pocket into his lap where it makes it hard on the lanes for him to see through the middle of the field.”
Mayfield was able to average 9.5 yards per game during four seasons with the Browns. So, it’s not that he’s running for distance. It is more that he is running to buy time so someone will open their eyes. It’s time to make a play.
“The most important thing out there now is getting off the field and affecting the passer whether it be a pressure, 1-on-1 rush or whatever it is,” Nielsen said. “I think we’ve done a good job of affecting the quarterback, particularly in Game 2 more than Game 1. Although the guys are doing a good job, it is sometimes difficult to execute early in the season. And it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”
The Saints opened last year’s season with back to back games of two sacks per game. Their season-high mark was seven — against the Panthers, nonetheless — in Week 17.
Mayfield has already been sacked six more times this season. Two rookies are also on the Panthers’ offensive line.
“I’m gonna let you guys worry about sacks, pressures and all that,” defensive end Cam Jordan said. “All I want to do is win.”