NFL

Ian Book set for uncharted waters as Saints face Dolphins

By Sports Desk December 23, 2021

Ian Book is used to the big stage.

As the starting quarterback for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Book played in one of the most high-profile environments in college football.

But more often than not during his career in South Bend, Indiana, the cards were stacked in his favour.

On Monday Night Football in Week 16, they will be firmly against him, with Book asked to make his first NFL start against the Miami Dolphins after both Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian were reportedly placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

It means that the Saints' playoff hopes hinge largely on Book's ability to rise to the occasion against one of the hottest teams in the NFL.

The Dolphins have won six straight games to move to 7-7, catapulting themselves into the playoff race in the AFC.

And, with Miami's defense ranked sixth in the NFL with 80 opponent negative plays forced, Book is sure to come under plenty of fire.

The Saints will likely, therefore, look to make use of Book's mobility, perhaps with a similar gameplan to the one they would have drawn up for Hill.

Book rushed for 1,031 yards across his final two seasons with Notre Dame, good for 10th in the FBS in that span.

In his final collegiate season in 2020, Book had a pickable pass percentage of 2.12, the sixth-best among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts.

However, though, he excelled at avoiding turnover-worthy plays in college, the Saints may look to decrease the risk factor substantially.

A healthy dose of running back Alvin Kamara should be anticipated. His big-play rate of 19.5 per cent as a receiver is the third-best for backs with at least 50 targets.

Kamara's versatility should be a significant help to Book, as will the coaching of Sean Payton, who has his team in the hunt despite a raft of injury issues, and the play of a defense that shut out Tom Brady last week. 

Book is a player used to having it all on his shoulders at the collegiate level, however, for the Saints to move to 8-7 on Monday, they will surely try to attempt to take the pressure firmly off their fourth-round pick.

Related items

  • Drew Brees comeback talk tough to take seriously Drew Brees comeback talk tough to take seriously

    After a year away from the sport and with his broadcast career seemingly suffering a setback, Drew Brees teased a potential NFL return on Sunday.

    Future Hall of Famer Brees posted on Twitter that he was "undecided" on his future amid reports of his time as an analyst for NBC coming to an end.

    He wrote: "Despite speculation from media about my future this fall, I’m currently undecided.

    "I may work for NBC, I may play football again, I may focus on business and philanthropy, I may train for the pickleball tour, senior golf tour, coach my kids or all of the above. I'll let you know."

    Brees called it a career after the 2020 season - his 15th with the New Orleans Saints - and, while the competitive fire may still burn for an all-time great, the numbers suggest the correct course of action for the 43-year-old would be to stay retired.

    Unlike Tom Brady, who swiftly unretired 40 days after announcing his decision to quit in the wake of one of the best seasons of his storied career, Brees endured one of his most underwhelming campaigns in 2020.

    Brees remained extremely accurate, completing 70.5 per cent of his passes and delivering an accurate, well-thrown ball on 81.1 per cent of pass attempts.

    However, he averaged only 6.41 air yards per attempt, the fourth-fewest among quarterbacks to attempt at least 50 passes.

    His 31 completions of 20 yards or more were fewer than that of then-San Francisco 49ers backup Nick Mullens (33). Brees attempted just 21 passes of 21 air yards or more, illustrating an inability to push the ball downfield as his arm strength faded in the final years of his career.

    Were Brees to make a comeback, he may not be able to do so with the Saints, who re-signed Jameis Winston to a two-year deal this offseason.

    Saints head coach Dennis Allen said of Brees' tweet about a possible comeback: "I think it was a comment made in jest, and we certainly haven't had any conversations in that regard."

    Given the age and the numbers from his most recent season, talk of a Brees return is indeed tough to take seriously.

  • Packers make Jaire Alexander highest-paid corner in NFL Packers make Jaire Alexander highest-paid corner in NFL

    The Green Bay Packers have agreed a four-year contract extension with Jaire Alexander to make him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.

    According to multiple reports, Green Bay and Alexander have come to terms on a deal worth $84million.

    The Packers have made that commitment to the 2018 first-round pick despite him playing just four games last season.

    Alexander suffered a sprained shoulder in the Week 4 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and underwent surgery.

    He did not play again in the regular season. Alexander was activated for the Divisional Round game with the San Francisco 49ers but played only eight defensive snaps as the Packers lost 13-10 at home.

    Despite his injury-hindered 2021, Alexander is still tied for 14th among all corners for pass breakups since 2018, registering 44 in that time.

    In his last full season in 2020, Alexander was arguably the top corner in the NFL.

    He allowed a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted, on just 30.6 per cent of targets, the second-best ratio among corners with at least 50 targets.

    Alexander was first in burn yards per target (5.22), burn yards per snap (0.84) and second in big-play rate allowed (13 per cent).

    And he will now be paid at a rate that reflects his importance to the Packers, Alexander's deal set to pay him $31m in year one, $45m through year two and $61m through year three.

  • Five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Jarvis Landry signs with New Orleans Saints Five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Jarvis Landry signs with New Orleans Saints

    After being released by the Cleveland Browns, wide receiver Jarvis Landry has signed with the New Orleans Saints.

    Landry, 29, has the third-most receptions and fourth-most targets in the entire NFL since his arrival in 2014.

    Drafted in the same year as arguably the best receiver in the league, Davante Adams, Landry has 19 more catches (688 to 669) and 33 more targets (1,045 to 1,012) in just seven more career games (123 to 116).

    The five-time Pro Bowler has spent the past four seasons with the Browns after playing his first four years with the Miami Dolphins, but his production tailed off badly in 2021, posting career-lows in games played, targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns as the Browns sputtered.

    Landry joins a receiver group in New Orleans consisting of new first-round draft pick Chris Olave, and 2019 Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas, who missed the entire 2021 season with a serious ankle injury but is expected to be back in action at the start of the 2022 campaign.

    The Saints also boast one of the best running backs in the NFL in the form of Alvin Kamara, and with quarterback Jameis Winston returning from a torn ACL, new head coach Dennis Allen may have the makings of a well above average offense.

    It is a homecoming for Landry, who grew up in Louisiana and attended Louisiana State University.
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.