When Kelvin Benjamin went down with a knee injury, the responsibility to keep the Carolina Panthers’ passing game going fell on tight end Greg Olsen. This shouldn’t be an issue for a player coming off a season with 84 receptions on 122 targets, 1,008 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He is certainly talented enough to be the team’s primary pass catcher.
However, Olsen is off to a bit of a slow start with a one reception, 11 yard performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1 but rebounded with six receptions for 70 yards against the Houston Texans in Week 2. He was much more involved in Week 2 and that role could expand even more heading into Week 3.
The New Orleans Saints have struggled containing tight ends this year. They gave up four receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 to Arizona Cardinals’ Darren Fells and then two receptions for 29 yards to Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Austin Seferain-Jenkins in Week 2 before he left with an injury.
The issue for the Saints has been that their linebackers struggle dropping into pass coverage. According to Pro Football Focus, their starting linebackers (Stephone Anthony, Hau’oli Kikaha, and David Hawthorne) have a combined pass coverage rating of -4.5. Anthony is by far the worst with a rating of -3.3.
On this play in Week 1, the Cardinals line up Fells on the bottom of the formation with wide receivers lined up on the high side. This gives Fells a one-on-one matchup with Hawthorne. This is a formation that the Panthers may work out of a lot this Sunday.
On the play, Fells runs a deep out but is able to get enough separation from Hawthorne for an easy throw for Carson Palmer that ends in six points.
The Saints probably realized that they would need to switch their game plan up in Week 2 against the more athletic Seferain-Jenkins. On this play, the team takes safety Kenny Vaccaro and uses him to jam the Tampa Bay tight end at the line.
The problem is that Seferain-Jenkins gets a pretty clean break off the line and Vaccaro is now already out of position almost from the start of the play.
By the time they are at the top of the route, he has gotten far enough away from Vaccaro for Jameis Winston to make the throw and complete the pass.
This game will be the perfect opportunity for Greg Olsen to break out. The Saints linebackers aren’t able to run with Olsen and their safeties aren’t big enough.
Last year, there was only four games where Olsen was targeted more than 10 times and one of those games was against the Saints. He caught 10 of 11 targets for 72 yards and one touchdown in their second meeting of the season. It would not be surprising to see similar numbers on Sunday.
*All screenshots courtesy of NFL Game Pass
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