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5 key matchups to watch in Saints vs. Titans

There’s a lot of big-picture analysis involved with this week’s game between the New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans, but a handful of individual matchups could result in big shifts towards the final result. Here are the key battles to watch when the Saints have the ball and when they’re playing defense:

Saints CB Marshon Lattimore vs. Titans WR A.J. Brown

Dec 22, 2019; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) scores past a tackle attempt from New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Brown has seen a heavier workload in 2021, drawing double digit targets in six games (having done that just ten times in his career so far). With Julio Jones on injured reserve there’s no question that Lattimore should be shadowing Brown across the field. The playmaker was only thrown to twice in their last meeting in 2019, catching one pass for a 34-yard gain while also picking up 49 yards on a toss out of the backfield. He’s the best player in Tennessee’s offense and the Saints must be mindful of him.

Saints G Calvin Throckmorton vs. Titans DT Jeffery Simmons

New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Calvin Throckmorton looks to block against the New England Patriots during an NFL football game at Gillette Stadium, Sunday,Sept. 26, 2021 in Foxborough, Mass. (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)

We’re assuming Throckmorton will start at left guard with James Hurst moving to left tackle in relief of Terron Armstead (we’ll get to him in a minute), which means Simmons will be his primary opponent on the day. Simmons has rushed from the right side of Tennessee’s defensive line on 56.5% of his snaps, where he’s bagged 4 sacks and 23 quarterback pressures. Throckmorton will have his hands full but the Saints can help him out with Erik McCoy at center. The Saints could like Will Clapp at left guard better than Throckmorton, having activated him for this game, but the case remains the same no matter with backup is stepping in.

Saints DE Marcus Davenport vs. Titans LT Taylor Lewan

New Orleans Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport kneels prior to an NFL preseason football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Lewan is one of the NFL’s better left tackles, but he’s fighting through a knee injury that sidelined him last week. He’s also given up 3 sacks and 13 pressures this season. It’s a matchup that Davenport should find some success in. He’s been the team’s best pass rusher off the right side of their line, against left tackles like Lewan, coming away with a sack and 8 pressures on just 55 tries. If he can win that matchup and pressure Ryan Tannehill’s blind side it makes life easier for everyone else on the Saints defense.

Saints WR Deonte Harris vs. Titans CB Jackrabbit Jenkins

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Deonte Harris runs against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

No Titans defender has been thrown at more often than Jenkins, who has allowed 38 receptions on 53 tries while drawing six penalties. He’s still a capable cover corner but putting the fleet-footed Harris against his 33-year-old legs is a mismatch. Jenkins is allowing a modest 1.1 receiving yards per snap in coverage, but Harris is clocking a team-best 3.05 receiving yards per routes run. The Saints will have opportunities to get him open with his raw speed on deep looks off of play action.

Saints LT James Hurst vs. Titans LB Bud Dupree

New Orleans Saints offensive tackle James Hurst (74) after an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)

Dupree has been the Titans’ main rusher off the right end spot in recent weeks, totaling 76.2% of his pass rush attempts against opposing left tackles. It makes for a classic AFC North rematch with Hurst, the former Baltimore Raven, likely replacing Armstead in this game (who is out with a couple of injuries) and going against Dupree, the former Pittsburgh Steeler. They last met in 2019 Week 17, when Hurst started at left tackle and allowed just one pressure (a hurry), though Dupree did find a sack on an unblocked rush.

How is the other side feeling?

Mike Moraitis put together his own matchups preview over at Titans Wire, where he highlighted battles between Mark Ingram and the Titans run defense and some other topics we didn’t cover here like a duel between two of the NFL’s best punters in Brett Kern and Blake Gillikin. Check it out.





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