The New Orleans Saints have done a good job of keeping quarterback Drew Brees clean, as the signal-caller has been sacked just nine times entering Week 9’s showdown against the Los Angeles Rams.
Brees, however, knows he faces a challenge against Rams defensive tackles Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh.
The Saints quarterback had to draw on memory by going back to his days at Purdue on the last time he saw a team with two elite interior defensive linemen on the same team like what the Rams possess.
"Not since we played the University of Georgia in the 1999 season in the Outback Bowl," Brees told reporters Wednesday, via the Saints’ official website. "It was Marcus Stroud and Richard Seymour. That was a pretty stout defensive interior front. But no, I mean, at this level, it’s really unheard of to have Suh and Donald in there. Those guys are unbelievable."
Anchored by Donald, who leads the league with 10 sacks, the Rams have terrorized opposing quarterbacks to the tune of 22 sacks, which is tied for the eighth-most in the league. Suh has three sacks on the season and is tied with linebacker Corey Littleton for second-most on the team.
The numbers since 2016 suggest Brees and the Saints offensive line should be on high alert.
According to Next Gen Stats, Brees’ numbers since 2016 see a dip when he is pressured by defenders coming from inside compared to the edge.
When facing pressure from the interior on 82 pass attempts in that span, Brees completes 51.2 percent of passes, averages 7 yards per play and posted a 66.9 passer rating. When dropping back to pass on 122 attempts and with pressure from the outside since 2016, the Saints quarterback completes 58.2 percent of his passes, averages 8.2 yards per play and has a passer rating of 76.5.
As for the Rams, the team’s pass rush has been unbalanced entering Sunday’s game, with the highest pressure rate produced from the interior, according to Next Gen Stats.
On the Rams’ pressure rate in 2018, a total of 51 pressures come from the interior compared to 31 on the edge, and the defensive line has 12 sacks from the interior with seven on the outside. Los Angeles’ 17.7 pressure rate from the interior is the highest in the league.
Perhaps the Rams had those numbers in mind when the team traded for defensive end Dante Fowler, who arrived from Jacksonville with 14 career sacks in 39 games, to bolster the pass rush from the edge.
"They couldn’t have waited a week," Brees said with a chuckle. "He obviously adds some juice to that D-line that’s already really stout."
Meanwhile, something will have to give Sunday when considering Brees has only been pressured on 15.5 percent of his drop backs this season, marking the lowest rate in the league, per Next Gen Stats.
The Saints offensive line has protected their quarterback, but Week 9’s matchup featuring strength versus strength won’t be a Sunday leisurely stroll in the park.
"These guys just, man, they’ve got a ton of great players up front and then obviously, they’re good on the back end as well," Brees said. "So they fly around, they play fast, they play aggressive. That’s what makes them so good."
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