While the New Orleans Saints will be without their best running back in Pierre Thomas for their wild card playoff matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, they will also be going up against one of the best running backs in the NFL today — LeSean McCoy. McCoy, who led the league with 1,607 rushing yards and had 2,146 all-purpose yards, will certainly be a formidable test for Rob Ryan‘s recently turned-around defensive unit.
New Orleans’ struggles with giving up big plays to running backs while on the road has been apparent this season. The Chris Ivory run against the New York Jets immediately comes to mind, but others like DeAngelo Williams of the Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams rookie Zac Stacy also left bad tastes in the mouths of Saints fans everywhere.
Whether it is the unfamiliarity of a stadium that is not the Superdome, the weather, the turf, the crowd or something else, New Orleans has sometimes given up huge chunks of yardage at what seem to be the least opportune moments to do so. To combat this, Ryan will have to get his safeties Roman Harpers, Malcom Jenkins and Rafael Bush to play intelligent and disciplined football.
With rookie sensation Kenny Vaccaro out and done for the season, these remaining safeties will need to take the appropriate angles and not get beat by the incredibly fast moving, uptempo offense that Chip Kelly has implemented in Philadelphia.
I would like to say that the Saints will be fine in this regard, but I am hesitant to do so. With McCoy’s speed, power and natural athletic talent, New Orleans has to take great care in defending against him, but also be aware of Nick Foles and the rest of the Eagles’ offense. This is going to be a tough outing for Ryan and his defense.