Is this what heaven is?
The LSU spring game has come and gone but it has brought me a sense of incredible hype going into the season.
Parts of the Saints passing attack have infiltrated Tiger Stadium as we expected. By the time August rolls around and we see them in real action against Georgia Southern a bigger part of the Saints playbook could be in place but for now, there were two concepts that stuck out to me.
The Tigers went into an empty set a lot this game, They lined up with three receivers to wide side of the field and two (one receiver and one running back) to the short side.
This is the Saints “weakside option” formation. Sean Payton will put either Alvin Kamara or Michael Thomas in the slot and work them on the option route. When LSU lined up last this it was only the running back in the slot. It will be interesting if they eventually come out with a package where they put a receiver (in the Saints case, their best receiver) in the slot to run that underneath option route
LSU showed two formation variations that New Orleans uses: regular and tight split (stack).
From the stack alignment, they ran a simple spacing concept. A quick game concept that can work against man or zone. The Saints will still run their option concept from this stack so expect LSU to do the same. From the regular split alignment, they did run the weak-side option.
LSU is fortuitous that their starting running back, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, is probably the best pass-catching starting running back they’ve had for a while. Neither Nick Brossette, Derrius Guice or Leonard Fournette (and you could go back further) are guys that you couldn’t really catch from the running back position. If Clyde is the guy that the staff wants on the field for a good portion of the game, this package is perfect for him. I thought he really showed out during the scrimmage in both the passing and running game.
I also noticed this in breaking route that LSU ran a lot on the weak side of this formation. Not a concept that the Saints run very much or at all but Burrow threw it really well in the scrimmage and I believe threw it pretty good during last season too.
The problem with Empty is going to be in protection. Teams will blitz against Empty formations. If Burrow can’t get into the right protection or find his hot receivers, the package could be eliminated by the defense. I don’t have the numbers on how often teams blitzed Brees when he was in Empty but off the top of my head defenses didn’t do it too much. Most Empty plays will be quick passes so it will be more on the protection scheme rather than the play of the tackles.
LSU has run Four Verts (or double seams) for as long as anyone else but a specific variation that comes from straight from the ‘Dome.
This was the play that Drew broke the passing yards record on because Washington was bad on defense. They actually ran it two plays in a row in that game both for big plays because of coverage busts.
The LSU defense didn’t have any coverage busts against this play in the scrimmage that allowed the ball to get deep but there are still options for the quarterback if the defense can cover the vertical routes.
On one play, Myles Brennan was able to find Fournette on the swing for a catch and run and on another he hits Dee Anderson on the shallow drag for another big gain.
Odds and Ends on Defense
- The standout/surprise on defense was Apu Ika. He went against the second team offensive line but he dominated. There’s no doubt he’ll get rotational reps during the regular season.
- Michael Divinity playing inside is interesting. I think we figured that he would stick at the F-backer position but the staff must feel like he’s too good to be on the sideline. If he moves inside that may mean Jacoby Stevens is going to play the F backer. Very excited to see how that plays out.
- The secondary is loaded. Vincent and Delpit at Safety. Fulton and Stingley at corner. Stevens played a lot of snaps at F (Sam linebacker). The cool thing is that I saw Stevens play at least one snap deep. Having him gives the defense some versatility. I think Harris also split snaps with Vincent at one of the safety spots as well.
I’m excited. Are you?