Even without Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints offense presents plenty of challenges for the Patriots defense. Alvin Kamara is one of the most balanced and dangerous running backs in the game, while quarterback Jameis Winston looked like a renewed player in their Week 1 38-3 win over the Packers.
Last week, in a 26-7 loss to the Panthers, Winston and the offense produced just 128 yards, with Kamara accumulating only 30 total yards of offense. But make no mistake, the Saints are a good team that can be expected to bounce back.
"This is clearly one of the best-coached teams in the league," said head coach Bill Belichick. "They do a real good job all the way across the board. Of course, Sean's [Payton] record and reputation and all speaks for itself. Nobody attacks defenses better than Sean and Pete [Carmichael] offensively."
"They do a lot," said Dont'a Hightower after Wednesday's practice of the Saints attack. "They play a lot of guys, they have a lot of really good players. They have a really good offensive line. Obviously, you can't talk about them without talking about Kamara and Winston."
The Patriots captain went on to give high praise to the New Orleans running back.
"If you were trying to build a perfect back he essentially has everything you need...vision, balance, strong, tough," continued Hightower. "However you wanna give him the ball, you can give it to him.
"He's just a really good player, explosive. You can hand the football to him and expect maybe a three or four-yard run, he'll turn it into a 75-yard touchdown, he's just the type of player."
"Explosive really good one of the top in the league," said Lawrence Guy of Kamara. "So that's one of the things we have to play down-by-down, understand that he's going to get some big plays and we have to eliminate how many big plays he does get.
"It starts up front. We all know that."
Winston had two very different performances, which is kind of how it goes with him. When he's on and feeling it, he can torch any defense.
"Obviously, he throws the deep ball really good and he has all the weapons and tools that he needs to be a good quarterback," said Hightower. "They're a talented team so it's only a matter of time before those guys get to where they want to be."
"He threw for 5,000 yards in Tampa, so it's not like this guy isn't that productive," said Belichick. "He's big. He's strong. He's accurate. He's got a good touch on the ball. The offense that he ran at Tampa is a lot different than the offense he's running in New Orleans, but I think fundamentally he's just a big, strong guy that can throw the ball accurately."
For Hightower, Guy and the rest of the Patriots defense, this Saints offense will provide an excellent test in areas that have had some issues early in the season -- run defense and secondary depth.
Hightower acknowledged the defense still had spots to tighten up.
"There's times in the game where we're playing really well and then there's times where they might spark off a big run," said Hightower. "Those things happen in the game... the big thing about that is trying to get back to the sideline and getting those things fixed so those things don't happen again. It's football, those things are gonna happen, they're gonna have good calls."
"We're pretty good but we got a lot to improve on," said Guy. "This is a fundamental game, as Bill says it's a 'do your job' game. It holds true you have to do your job. We all need to understand... you try to do too much, try to be a superstar... you try to play good complementary football as a unit."
"We haven't seen these guys in quite a while, so got a lot of work to do this week, but very, very good football team, and, as I said, very well-coached and play a lot of smart football, and they really know what they're doing in all three phases of the game, so there's no plays off this week," said Belichick. Hopefully, we get off to a good start here today and string some days together and be ready to go on Sunday."
Practice & Injury Report
The Patriots welcomed their full 53-man roster to a rainy padded practice on Wednesday as the team kicked off on-field preparations for the Saints. That meant that both Trent Brown and Kyle Van Noy, who missed Sunday's game against the Jets, were present.
Van Noy was a full participant on the Injury Report, but Brown was still limited by his calf injury. Damien Harris was limited by a finger injury and Matt Judon did not practice because of a knee injury. Harris and Judon are significant developments and will be ones to monitor through the rest of the week.