Saints rundown: Alvin Kamara’s status vs. Bucs up in the air; Pete Werner making huge strides

Pete Werner never really thought about how the team’s moves this offseason impacted him.

The Saints let Kwon Alexander leave and never added another linebacker, making it clear Werner had won the job alongside Demario Davis. No one else was taking that spot.

Werner earned it. Everyone could see it. But he just didn’t want to look at the situation and assume anything.

“Mentally, I always think I’m going to be the one because of my work ethic, and I’m going to prove myself,” Werner said. “But I don’t like to look at outside factors. I just like to have trust within myself and know I’m going to out-compete, work hard and be a good team player.”

Werner’s mindset mirrors his approach to playing linebacker. The best way to define how Werner plays is to say he’s always in the right place at the right time. Or, in coach-speak, he’s incredibly sound.

Those same traits showed up during Sunday’s win over the Falcons. Werner forced a fumble and made a huge tackle for a loss on a Marcus Mariota run that helped deliver the victory. On Monday, coach Dennis Allen described Werner as the type of player the team wants because players like Werner makes their jobs easier, and they make it easier for others to their jobs well.

But there is also no question Werner has taken a jump during his second season. He credits that leap to learning how to better watch film and prepare for upcoming games. Adding knowledge and experience to Werner’s natural instincts has allowed him to take off to the point that Demario Davis described the second-year player as one of the better weakside linebackers in the NFL.

“You try to go into the game, not so that you can react all the time. You’d rather anticipate a few things that happen based on formations or certain tendencies that they give you off of alignment,” Werner said. “The film study can make you play a little bit faster, and getting that extra step can be the difference in this league.”

Getting that extra step forward is too.

ALVIN WATCH: Alvin Kamara’s status for this week’s game is officially up in the air.

The running back suffered a rib cartilage injury Sunday, according to a source, and it will be interesting to see what he is able to do against Tampa Bay this week. That he missed Thursday’s practice is not good for his potential availability.

Even if Kamara plays, he could be limited. After the injury initially occurred, there was some belief it wouldn’t cause much of a situation, but that could be proven wrong this weekend.

ADEBO’S SITUATION: Paulson Adebo is walking around and looks like he’s doing well, but his ankle injury continues to keep him off the field.

The Saints cornerback played it coy when approached about his status.

“Just taking it day by day,” Adebo said. “When I’m ready to be out there, I’ll be out there.”

The good thing is, Adebo said he feels like he’s progressing toward getting back on the field.

So, when will that come? Honestly, it felt like he was close to playing based on how he’s looked and how he talked about his injury before the start of the season. But it has to be getting closer to that point. He’s coming up on about four weeks of being sidelined, which should be close to enough time to heal an ankle injury.

Getting him back sooner than later is a big deal for this team. Adebo has huge talent, of course, but his presence also allows the defense to shuffle players around and get everyone in the best positions to succeed.

DID YOU KNOW that Jameis Winston has a 121.9 passer rating when scrambling since 2016, according to NFL Next Gen Stats? Winston has connected on 16 touchdown and has one interception on those plays.

The quarterback’s ability on the move continues to be something I think gets a little bit underrated. He’s been really good at playing through contact and still making plays and probably has improved in that area of the game the past few years. You can tell Winston has worked on his body and is in better shape than he was five years ago.

THOMAS SHIFT: Seeing how Mike Thomas’ career changes while playing with a different quarterback will be one of the more fascinating storylines to monitor in the next few years.

He was the league’s most efficient and dominant receiver playing with Drew Brees, but almost everything he did came on shorter routes. He averaged 10.6 yards per route run during his first five seasons in the league, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, which was fewer than all but 15 wide receivers.

Against Atlanta, though, Thomas averaged 13.3 yards per route, one of the longest totals in his career.

Thomas doesn’t have to win on shorter plays. He isn’t a burner by any means, but he can do more in the intermediate areas of the field and use his big body to box out defenders on deeper routes.

Now, the slants and crossers shouldn’t go anywhere. If Thomas doesn’t get a bunch of targets on slants this season, the Saints are doing something wrong, but he can be more of a second-level threat than he was while playing with Brees.

PASS RUSH: No question the pass rush last week was extremely underwhelming.

New Orleans only pressured Marcus Mariota four total times, and it would be hard to argue the team ever really did anything to make him feel uncomfortable. But a lot of that was due to design.

One of the hallmarks of this defense is its creative blitz packages and willingness to attack. New Orleans likes to bring defenders from all over the field and do so at a high frequency. That didn’t happen against the Falcons due to Mariota’s ability to run.

This week, that should change. New Orleans will be smart about how they pressure Tom Brady because he’s Tom Brady, and he can and will pick apart your coverage if you leave too many holes in your defense. Still, the plan won’t be as conservative as it was last week.

The Saints rushed five or more eight times during the first meeting against the Bucs last year, and six times during the second meeting. The key, as it always is against Brady, is to get pressure with your front four and play good coverage.

So, the pressure numbers should be a little better this week since the team can still do some creative things with how it brings pressure that won’t expose the defense the way it would have against Mariota, as far as stunts and things like that go, but this also isn’t exactly a game where the team can focus on attacking the quarterback.

Whether it’s this week or next, this pass rush is going to show what it can do.

PROTECTION: The Saints do not sound overly concerned about the protection issues from last week because they view some of the issues as correctable.

Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. said the Falcons did things the team wasn’t expecting, which led to some early difficulties and sideline adjustments. But overall, he didn’t see the situation as dire.

“When you look back at it, you can’t put it all on one position,” Carmichael said. “One on a quarterback, one of them on the running back, one on the line. So, we just can’t let those things happen. Because then we’re gonna have to get the ball back, and we’re not sustaining drives.”

Last year, the Saints suffered through a similar game against Carolina. The Panthers found a weakness in how New Orleans protected the A gaps (between the center and guards) and attacked them ruthlessly. It was an issue the whole game, but by the following week, the remedy was installed.

Some of the one-on-ones the team lost are what they are, but the scheme issues should be cleaned up by the time the team takes the field Sunday.

TRIPLETT PLAN: Many of you have asked how things will look now that Mike Triplett is on our staff.

The plain and easy answer is more. More writing. More analysis. More columns. More content. More value for your dollar.

But here’s a look at how we are planning to execute each week:


• Trip writes a Monday rundown with nuggets left from the game.

• I write a film study.


• Podcast goes live at 12:30 with me, Trip and Kevin.


• One of us writes a story.


• The other one writes a story.

• Podcast at 10 a.m. with me and Trip.


• Nick’s rundown

Note: No more members only podcast on Friday.


• Play by ear, but likely off. This week, Trip has a good story dropping Saturday.


• Trip writes a story

• Nick writes a story

• Members only podcast with Nick and Trip (most weeks).


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