The rundown: Marshon Lattimore is locked in and playing some of the best football of his career

Kenny Stills has come in and quickly made an impact.

The veteran wide receiver had one catch for 17 yards during Sunday’s win over the Patriots and had an opportunity for a deep touchdown, but the play’s timing wasn’t quite right.

New Orleans was impressed, but not surprised, by how quickly Stills picked up the offense. Most of it is still the same from the first time Stills was here, though there are some additions and nuances that have changed. Sean Payton said Stills had most of the offense down by his second day in the building.

“He’s a smart football player, and he’s come in, and to me, there’s been no slowdown in the process of him learning,” offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael said. “He obviously has a great memory. I think he’s very familiar with the system.”

Stills remains on the practice squad, so the Saints will need to decide on whether to bring him back up again this week against the Giants, though it would be a big surprise if he doesn’t play this week. There seems to be an eventual path for Stills to get on the 53-man roster, and potentially even have a role ahead of some of the players on the roster even after Michael Thomas and Tre’Quan Smith return from injured lists.

MANAGING THE LOAD: New Orleans will be mindful of how they use Alvin Kamara this season like they always have. The team often discusses his touches and views each one through the prism of how it will impact the running back down the line.

But so far, he already has 62 touches, an average of nearly 21 per game after never previously topping 18 in a season, and the overall number might not paint the proper picture. Kamara hit 23 touches against Green Bay and 27 against the Patriots.

The Saints are clearly leaning on him a little more heavily than in previous seasons, though the coaching staff says they’re keeping an eye on it and being smart about how they’re using Kamara.

For his part, the running back says it isn’t an issue and that he has felt good on the Monday following each game. The other thing to keep in mind: The offensive approach is likely to change once the team gets to full strength and can rely on its passing offense a little more heavily.

KEY TO VICTORY?: One thing that stands out when looking at Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is his issues with handling pressure the last few years.

The quarterback has done a good job of running out of those situations throughout his career. But when he throws, there are sometimes problems. Jones threw five interceptions last year when under pressure and four in 2019.

Jones has handled those situations decently this season, but it is early and worth finding out if the early success is for real.

MARSHON LOCKING IN: There was plenty of evidence during training camp to believe that Marshon Lattimore was setting up to get off to a good start this season.

So far, he hasn’t disappointed. The cornerback is locking down whoever he has been up against and is currently Pro Football Focus’ top-graded cornerback in the NFL. Lattimore has surrendered six catches for 79 yards during his first two games with an interception.

Perhaps the most impressive thing is that Lattimore held it down despite playing Sunday’s game with a broken thumb.

“I thought he was outstanding the other day in New England,” Allen said. “They challenged him and threw the ball at him. Nothing got over the top. There were a few underneath throws, but he had 10 tackles in the game. He didn’t shy away from it, and I didn’t see any ill effects from playing with the cast. Certainly, I know that still bothers him. So, the fact he can go out and play the way he did was impressive to see.”

When Lattimore is at his best, he transforms this team like no other player on defense. His presence allows the team to use the other 10 players in different ways. The issue over the last few years is that sometimes Lattimore would be inconsistent. He isn’t having those issues so far this year. If he keeps it up, the cornerback will be a consistent reason for team success.

ROBY SNAPS: New Orleans will find a way to get Bradley Roby on the field at some point. He’s too talented to keep on the sideline, even if Paulson Adebo manages to maintain his hold on the second cornerback spot, which is no guarantee.

But what if Adebo holds onto the job?

New Orleans could use Roby in some dime packages and have him match up against more athletic tight ends in passing situations or get him on slot receivers. Something like this could make sense as soon as this week against a player like New York’s Evan Engram.

Sometimes, the Saints use P.J. Williams in that role or have one of the other safeties drop down while Williams goes deep. Putting Roby on the field could alter some of the disguises available, but he certainly has better coverage skills than the safeties. Roby could help lift the defense in specific situations.

WINSTON DECISIONS: One of the most interesting comments made by a player this week came from Jameis Winston.

While his touchdown pass to Marquez Callaway has drawn a ton of scorn from observers, Winston painted a different picture. The quarterback’s only regret about the play seems to be that he didn’t place the ball a little bit higher, which would have made it a safer throw. After reviewing the film, he also said that Payton saw the pass was put only where Callaway could get it.

“I’m throwing it again,” Winston said. “I probably try to throw it a little higher. It’s third down. We have a field goal as long as I don’t give their defense an opportunity to catch the ball. It’s a good decision because it’s third-and-10, and we’re kicking a field goal or scoring a touchdown. That time it was a touchdown, but we’re not going to make a living throwing the football up.”

The key for Winston is making sure he gets away with those plays if he attempts them. The core decision wasn’t all that different from the touchdown pass he threw to Juwan Johnson in Week 1. He was under pressure and threw it high to the tight end for a score. Where it gets different is that the Patriots were bringing Winston to the ground this week, which Winston acknowledged.

DID YOU KNOW?: Winston’s yardage totals in the first three games of the season are the three lowest marks in games in which he started and finished.

Winston passed for 148 yards against the Packers, 128 against the Patriots and 111 against the Panthers. His previous low was 157 yards against the Baltimore Ravens in 2018 during a 20-12 loss.

ENCOURAGING SIGNS FOR ROOKIE CLASS: There is a long way to go before anyone can declare anything about this rookie class or even have true optimism. Three games isn’t nearly enough evidence.

But it is fair to say the early signs are good. Adebo is playing well, first-round pick Payton Turner did some good things in his debut game, and last week it was second-round pick Pete Werner’s turn to put forth some good tape.

The linebacker covered well during his first extended action and showed off his ability to process the field by consistently putting himself in the right spots to succeed. Werner said he always had confidence he could succeed at this level but was happy to finally get on the right side of injuries that slowed him during training camp and knocked him out of action for Week 2.

“Yeah, it was very frustrating,” Werner said. “I just knew in my head that I have to stay positive, as positive as possible because I was never used to an injury all throughout college and never had a big one, never missed a snap, so it was new for me, so I had to change my mindset and I had to just think of everything positive and tried to get away from that injury mindset. Okay, it’s an injury, but I have to find a way to get back on this field, so that’s the transition I had.”

Kwon Alexander should reclaim his role at weakside linebacker when he returns from injury, but it does look like Werner might have the best skill set to be the long-term answer at the position. For now, he needs to do his best to avoid the ups and downs that come during every rookie season. And when or if they hit, he needs to show he can handle the adversity and bounce back quickly.

Finding that even keel shouldn’t be an issue for Werner, but those are things that every player needs to get through.

NO MARTINEZ: One of the games inside the game this week will be how the Giants operate without linebacker Blake Martinez.

Martinez was responsible for lining everyone up on defense before suffering a season-ending injury. Losing a player of his caliber could make things difficult for the Giants, and it is likely an area New Orleans is going to look to exploit.

The Saints will likely throw some different looks at the Giants this week and work to get the defense’s eyes moving in the wrong direction through the use of motion and misdirection.

These are the types of weaknesses that Payton loves attacking.

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