The New Orleans Saints have now moved past their off-season and Pre-Season preparations for the upcoming 2019 NFL Season, and have now shifted their focus towards their regular season opening game a week from this Monday Night (September 9th); when they will host the visiting Houston Texans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on ESPN Monday Night Football.
The Saints and Texans haven’t faced each other in an NFL regular season game since the 2015 Season nearly four years ago, when Houston won handily by a score of 24-6 at NRG Stadium. The series history between these two teams is tied up at (2-2).
For New Orleans next Monday Night however, the biggest challenge figures to be against the Texans’ dynamic wide receiver corps, all of whom bring their distinctive and unique talents at catching the football.
Houston boasts some serious play-makers: and once the game that night gets underway, the Saints defensive secondary — specifically outside boundary / starting CB’s Marshon Lattimore and Eli Apple — will very likely have their hands full in pass coverage, with starting Texans WR’s Deandre Hopkins and Will Fuller.
As most Saints fans are probably well aware: the 27-year old Hopkins is one of the NFL and the sport of Pro Football’s elite-caliber players at the wide receiver position, and with a healthy starting quarterback Deshaun Watson behind center for the whole season last year, Hopkins set a career-best in his catch rate at an impressive (70.6%).
Last year, Hopkins incredibly had a grand total of 11 games in which he got double-digit targets, along with 11 games where he recorded six catches or more and seven games with over 100 yards receiving. Hopkins has been chosen for All-Pro recognition twice, and has been chosen / played in the Pro Bowl 3 different times since Houston drafted him with their top pick (#27 overall) in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Long story short, Hopkins (who formerly was an All-American in college while he played at Clemson University) is an absolute beast and potentially could exceed those numbers from last year — especially if Houston looks to throw the ball more often this coming season as expected, and just so long as Watson continues to remain healthy for the majority of the Texans’ schedule.
But Hopkins won;t be alone that night at the Superdome, as he will be joined by the 25-year old Fuller; who has evolved into one of the most dangerous deep threats in the NFL in his own right.
The former first-round draft pick from the University of Notre Dame caught 32 passes for 503 yards and four touchdowns in seven games last season before injuring his knee against the Miami Dolphins.
Texans head coach Bill O’Brien told reporters the other day that Fuller looked good during the Texans’ Training Camp and should be ready for the regular-season opener next Monday Night. Fuller didn’t play in any of Houston’s exhibition games, and O’Brien and the Texans coaching staff clearly have been taking a cautious approach with him as he has slowly but surely worked his way back into their starting line-up,
As it is, Fuller’s likely match-up against the “up-and-down” Apple, who has been beaten one-on-one a few times in the recently-completed Pre-Season; could work out very favorably for the Texans, assuming that the Saints and defensive coordinator Dennis Allen decide to have Lattimore shadow the perennial All-Pro Hopkins, as expected.
Lattimore usually shadows the opposing team’s best receiver each time out; and he obviously will start the season next Monday Night with a highly anticipated match-up against Hopkins, which means Apple is probably going to face the possibility of having a bunch of passes thrown in his direction, which will be intended for the speedy Fuller.
And given the fact that the Texans are still in the midst of trying to figure out how to compensate for the loss in their running game of starting RB Lamar Miller to a torn ACL (which then prompted them to make a trade for former Cleveland Browns RB Duke Johnson), you can expect that the Texans offense will be “slinging the rock” and seeking to do some serious damage against a much-improved-but-still-vulnerable-at-times Saints secondary.
That said, the Saints secondary and especially Lattimore and Apple; aren’t likely to back down or be intimidated by what most analysts and observers would consider a daunting task to begin their 2019 NFL Season.
Most assuredly, you can bet that both Lattimore and Apple will have their hands full — but for a Saints team that will be intently-focused on getting to the Super Bowl following their two back-to-back heart-breaking finishes in the NFL Playoffs the past two years, any possible failure to do so will not be an option….