Vikings-Saints tip sheet

Let’s get you ready for the NFL kickoff down in New Orleans between the Vikings and Saints. A tip sheet: personnel, notes and schemes to prepare you for tonight.

Personnel to watch…

Jared Allen, Vikings: Do the Saints have to slide protection to Allen; do they have to keep the back in the protection scheme, etc.? Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier wants to rush four and play seven in coverage.

Malcolm JenkinsICONThe Saints' Malcolm Jenkins.

Malcolm Jenkins, Saints: Steps in for Darren Sharper at the free safety position. Let’s see how he plays the deep middle of the field and if he can jump routes in the passing game — like Sharper did.

Greg Camarillo, Vikings: Interesting to see what type of relationship the Vikes’ new WR has with Brett Favre on the field. Receivers have to go make plays for Favre to gain his confidence.

Pierre Thomas, Saints: Have to score TDs in the red zone — especially inside of the 5-yard line. Tough front seven in Minnesota to run on.

Antoine Winfield, Vikings: Test him early and often. Still one of the best CBs in the league when it comes to the run game, but let’s see how he matches up with the Saints’ talent at WR.

Pregame Notes…

Shiancoe: How do the Vikes use the TE and how do the Saints respond? In the west coast system, the TE is ideal for the dig route, the curl, the option route, etc. Short throws that are predominantly between the numbers and the hash with inside breaking routes.

Saints personnel: If you are coaching the Saints, why wouldn’t you challenge the Vikings secondary — especially when they are low on numbers at the CB position? Would not be surprised to see New Orleans use plenty of “Posse” (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB) and “Jet” (4 WR, 1 RB) early in the game tonight — with some no huddle.

Brett FavreICONExpect the Saints to come after Favre tonight with multiple pressure looks.

Pressure, pressure, pressure: We know Williams is going to come after Favre and the Vikings offense, but don’t be surprised to see the Saints play some Cover 2 in 3rd and long situations after sending blitz packages on first and second down. Favre needs to get rid of the ball quickly and connect on his hot reads.

Peterson’s ball security: We know the Saints are going after the football when A.P. is in the game. This is a defense that charts turnovers on the big board in their meeting room and uses the first part of practice every day to work on stripping the ball. If Peterson starts to put the ball on the ground, the Saints will roll.

The deep ball: What I have seen from New Orleans this preseason — and going back to the ’09 season — is a tendency to throw the deep ball in first down situations when the ball is near midfield. Not uncommon in the NFL to use the vertical passing game and take a shot down the field with the ball in between the 40’s. Tonight, the Vikings defense has to use their run/pass keys in these situations because I do expect at least one deep shot per half from Sean Payton’s offense in this field position.

Red Zone scoring: You know what you are going to get from the Vikings defense in the red zone — Red Cover 2. Think of the Tampa 2 scheme with the corners sinking to almost create a five-deep look in the end zone. Force QB Drew Brees to throw the check down and get the field goal unit on the field. How do the Saints respond? Look for “7” routes (flag), 4 Verticals (working the two inside routes), plus the draw and screen game with RBs Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush.

Taking away Harvin: The Saints can use combination coverages against the Vikings when WR Percy Harvin is aligned in the slot. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams plays a lot of Cover 7 (combo man to man), where a Nickel back and a safety can play a “slice” call on the inside receivers — essentially creating a two-on-one look.

Scheme Talk…

- Watch for the Corner Cat (corner blitz) and the Double Corner Cat from the Saints’ defense tonight. Williams uses his “Chucky” defense (named after Jon Gruden) to send the CBs on a free run to the QB.

Sean Payton ICONDon't be surprised to see some exotic play calling from Sean Payton.

- Would it surprise you to see Payton bring out some exotic plays and formations early in the game? Get a quick score on an explosive play? A throwback screen, double-pass, etc. Offensive coaches have a lot of gadgets on the shelf they have been dying to get in the game plan throughout August.

- The play action game for the Vikings has to be big. Use the run game to set up the “middle read” (WR verticals, TE option in the middle of the field) and the “OVS” (or outside vertical stretch: 9/7/Flat).

- In the complex blitz schemes of Williams’ defense, there will be opportunities to bait the QB into making a “blind” throw with defenders dropping into coverage. I broke down one example of these schemes on the chalkboard yesterday.

- Zone or man pressure for Frazier’s Viking defense? If I am calling the plays, I stick to zone pressure (where defenders can see the QB) against the Saints — and always have a single high safety in the middle of the field to break over the top of any outside vertical route.

- Curious to see how much "Tank" personnel (1 WR, 2 TE, 2 RB) the Vikings use. They can wear down the Saints front seven in the run game.

Quick hits…

- I played in the opening kickoff game on Thursday night back with the Old Ball Coach in Washington against the Jets in ’03. Players have to manage their emotions early and get into the flow of the game.

- The speed of the game is going to increase — rapidly — from the preseason. Let’s see if the young players can stay within the pace of the game.

- The Saints will raise the Super Bowl banner tonight. Tough environment to play in as a visiting team.

Check back to the NFP after the game for my postgame notes: a breakdown of what I saw on the field.

Follow me on Twitter: MattBowen41

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