by Steve Geller, Steve@wwl.com,posted Sep 19 2013 9:25AM
Just eight of the 32 teams in the NFL are 2-0, and the Saints are in that number. Both wins might have been too close for comfort, but those kinds of games build team chemistry and character. Many analyst and players will tell you, 'Good teams just find ways to win.'
The defense has been a huge surprise to me - considering what they looked like last season combined with the fact that a lot of key players are injured. The biggest thing standing out to me is the improved tackling.
The Arizona Cardinals come to town this week at 1-1 and have a lot of new faces on their roster - including at head coach.
Here are some players I'll be keying on in this one:
RB Pierre Thomas (yes again)
While Jaguars fans are trying to convince their owner that the team should sign Tim Tebow, the Who Dat Nation might be thinking about doing the same thing with the Saints to get Thomas more carries.
Once again PT managed to lead the Saints in yards per carry with 5.2 but was handed the ball the least amount of times. Say what? Sean Payton seems stubbornly committed to Mark Ingram being "the guy", but Ingram continually proves that he isn't. Hopefully we'll see the PT Bruiser get the bulk of the carries this week, or I firmly believe the ground attack will continue to be nonexistent. It definitely won't be easy though, as the Cards have been monsters against the run this season. Arizona is allowing just 58 yards per game, which is 3rd best in the NFL.
Saints Offensive Line
The Bucs whipped this group last week, and Brees took way to many shots for anyone Saints fans' liking. Now they face an AZ defense that hasn't been able to find a pass rush. The Cardinals have just one sack on the year, so the Saints o-line should not struggle.
Charlie Brown's been no clown though; the Saints left tackle has held his own through two games. The biggest problem just may be that All-Pro guard Jahri Evans isn't 100% healthy.
LB David Hawthorne
I had a feeling the Saints wouldn't miss Jonathan Vilma much because Hawthorne looked so darn good during training camp. Currently he is 2nd on the team in total tackles with 11 (4 solo / 7 assisted) and has one tackle for loss. There were some concerns heading into the season because Hawthorne had never played in a 3-4 defense, but he looks right at home in Rob Ryan's system.
The Saints could use another tackling machine, and Hawthorne had 338 over three years from 2009 to 2011. He also twice finished in the top 16 of NFL tacklers.
CB Patrick Peterson
Just two years in the league and Peterson has cemented himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the game. His interception total jumped from two in his rookie season to seven last year, and the former LSU Tiger is a huge threat on special teams as a punt returner. This year under new head coach Bruce Arians, Peterson is an offensive weapon as well.
He made his first catch of the season last week against the Lions and then showed off his quarterbacking skills by completing a 17 yards pass where he scrambled away from the D and chucked a nice pass on the run to Kerry Taylor. This guy is going to be a force in the NFL for a while.
S Tyrann Mathieu
All Chris Carter did was catch touchdowns, and all Mathieu does is make plays. The player formally known as the "Honey Badger" continues to be a game changer in the pros the way he was in his days at LSU. In week 1 against the Rams, Mathieu tracked down St. Louis tight end Jared Cook before he could reach the end zone and knocked the ball free to prevent a score. Against the Lions last week, Mathieu stopped Nate Burleson one yard short of converting on 4th down, which sealed a Cardinals victory.
Arizona might have ended up with the steal of this year's draft getting Mathieu in the 3rd round. His stock fell due to off the field issues; but his teammates have praised his work ethic, maturity and dedication since arriving in Arizona. Through two NFL games, Mathieu has 13 tackles, one forced fumble and one pass defended.
QB Carson Palmer
Sorry, I didn't add LB Kevin Minter to my list to complete the Cards trifecta of LSU players. Palmer headed to the dessert after a two year stint in Oakland that wasn't terrible considering who he was playing for, and the lack of weapons he had around him. His top target, Larry Fitzgerald, is not fully healthy. If given the time, though, Palmer will make you pay. If the Saints can get to him with the pass rush, he is susceptible to throwing a bad pass or two, or three, or …well you get the point.