With the Saints bewildering 22-14 loss to the Panthers, many fans, critics, and pundits have forgotten the notoriously slow starts of the Sean Payton- Drew Brees connection in New Orleans.
TWEAKING OFFENSE NEEDED, NOT BENCHING
Besides the convenient amnesia, the calls of benching starting quarterback Jameis Winston have risen to a feverish pace, mind you, two weeks removed from praising him with the comeback win in Atlanta.
The Who Dat Nation is an enigma, and so is the Saints' offense and the playcalling.
In 2012, three seasons after Super Bowl 44, a Pete Carmichael-Drew Brees offense (without Payton) stumbled out of the gate to an 0-4 record. In 2017, Payton-Brees were 1-2, completed the season at 12-6, made the postseason, and eventually lost to the Vikings in the NFC Divisional Round.
Hence, it's not time to throw out Winston for Dalton. Neither should Who Dats consider skydiving from the Crescent City Connection. Dennis Allen is correct not to have an overreaction. However, should the team lose and the New Orleans offense underachieved across the pond against the Vikings, Allen should consider significant changes.
SLOW STARTS IN THE FIRST-HALF
I understand most of the fans' frustrations, but even Stevie Wonder could see and feel that the New Orleans offense is out of sync and lacks rhythm — especially in the first halves of games.
Winston appears stifled to conform and work within a system tailored for a short-range QB. Proof? The second-halves. Once the team is down and needs points, the game plan adjusts to allow Winston to be the gunslinger.
Compare Winston's first-half and second-half stats:
- Winston in the 1st Half at Carolina: 112 yards (32%); compared to 241 yards in the 2nd Half. Total 353 yards
- Winston in the 1st Half vs. Tampa Bay: 70 yards (30%); compared to 166 yards in the 2nd Half. Total 236 yards
- Winston in the 1st Half at Atlanta: 24 yards (9%); compared to 245 yards in the 2nd Half. Total 269 yards.
He thrives as a gunslinger. It is fair to critique that he tossed a few errant passes, especially to an open Kamara and Adam Trautman in the Carolina game.
If you rewatch the games, you will also notice 300-lb defensive linemen, blitzing linebackers, and cornerbacks barreling down on him from missing blocking assignments with the Saints' offensive interior.
The offensive line needs to improve and provide Winston more than the 2.4 seconds they're giving him in the pocket.
McCoy, Ramcyzk, Ruiz, Peat, and Hurst have faced 42 blitzes from opposing defenses and allowed 32 quarterback pressures (24.8%), 10 hurries, and 11 sacks in 3 games.
Compare his seven games in 2022. Winston was blitzed 68 times, 18 hurries, 18 hits, 47 pressures (24.9%), and given 2.5 seconds to pass the football.
The line on special teams has become an issue. Newly signed guard Wyatt Davis was utterly bulldozed and allowed the blocked Wil Lutz field goal.
His connection, or lack of, with Alvin Kamara, is a concern. Has Carmichael installed the plays for Kamara to get rolling? He's not a check-down guy where Kamara thrived under Brees. Still, Kamara hasn't made it easy for Winston. He's dropped receptions, fell on routes, and his fumble gave Carolina early momentum. It's time for their chemistry to get cooking for New Orleans to get back on track.
Jameis Winston is an easy target to aim criticism for the New Orleans' offensive woes this season. His four fractured bones, under intense pressure, inconsistent play-calling, and his skill players fumbling have been the foremost issues for the quarterback.
Returning to New Orleans Saints football is about executing high-percentage plays and converting on third downs. The Saints have converted a paltry five first downs in 3 Weeks of first-half action. Drives are halted when the team has 3rd or 4th and long' situations. They cannot extend drives in the first half because the play calls on 1st and 2nd downs have yet to get the offense into a rhythm.
Pay attention to the Jarvis Landry, Michael Thomas, and Tre'Quan Smith injuries. Chris Olave has been fantastic; besides his fumble in Week 2, the rookie has been productive with 17 receptions and 268 yards. The young wideout is handling the rigors of the National Football League. Could he become a primary target if Landry, Thomas, and Smith are unavailable in Week 4?
Last, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and the Saints running backs have to protect the football and continue their early involvement in the offense to help alleviate the pressure in executing 3rd and longs.
New Orleans will have difficulty rebounding from a 1-3 start versus a 2-2 start of the season. Most of the Saints' issues are mental more than physical. The defense is playing well and keeping the team in games. A win in the U.K. over the Vikings could rectify plenty of their ills. Will the Saints get their offensive groove back Sunday?
We shall see.
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