Cowboys vs Saints: “Under the Radar” Players
Dallas Cowboys: Jayron Kearse, SS
New Orleans Saints: Nick Vannett, TE
We bounced back with our Tony Pollard prediction last week. Offensively he had 68 yards on limited touches in which he averaged five yards per touch. He also tossed in an electrifying 100-yard kick return to get the Cowboys right back into the game. Let’s cross our fingers we stay hot this week.
This week I look to safety Jayron Kearse as a guy who could not only step up big this week but continue what he has done all year. Kearse has been a great addition to the Cowboys. Through 11 games, not only is he the Cowboys leading tackler, he has already set career highs in games started, total tackles, solo tackles, pass deflections, and tied his best mark for interceptions.
With Alvin Kamara potentially playing on Thursday, Kearse could be tasked with some duties of guarding arguably the best pass-catching back in the league. Not only do I suspect we see Kearse on Kamara, but his hybrid ability to play in the box along with roaming as a safety opens up a lot of things for this defense.
Kearse should see plenty of action as I think the Cowboys have the advantage in Trevon Diggs and Anthony Brown over the Saints receivers of Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris. The Saints will likely look to RB/WR hybrid Ty Montgomery and the tight end Nick Vannett making Kearse very active.
I don’t necessarily need an interception or fumble, but I think we see Kearse step up with some open-field tackles that save chunk plays in the flat or force a fourth down with a textbook form tackle.
For the Saints, they will need to find a spark offensively as they rank fourth-lowest in the league in yards per game with just 209 yards offensively and third-lowest in completion percentage at just 58%.
Their tight end, Nick Vannett, is a bit of a lesser-known name around the league but he could quietly find himself as a Saints top target. Throughout November, their other tight end, Adam Trautman, was the Saints leading receiver in yards and receptions. He is on the IR now.
Trautman has hauled in at least 4 catches in the last three games he played. This sort of trend feels like one that will be even more pronounced with Taysom Hill at quarterback. It also shows me that Sean Payton is not opening the playbook up entirely as his top two wideouts have just 11 catches combined in the last three games.
If the Cowboys can contain Kamara, and I would sell out to do so if he plays, they are going to put a lot of pressure on the passing game. In an area I think there is a mismatch on the outside, the Cowboys will need to make sure the Saints’ tight end doesn’t hurt them.