At this point, before the season started, I saw us at 2-2. I expected a loss at Carolina and a loss at Green Bay. (Just to finish off the prediction of the "Kromer era", I saw us winning the next 2 games hosting San Diego and at Tampa).
I expected trouble getting through the first 6 weeks, but wanted to stay optimistic thinking that the coaching patchwork would work itself out. Losing Payton was tough, but to go through preseason with Vitt as the head coach and then all of a sudden going with Kromer when the games counted would present a tough challenge. Didn't think it would be this tough...I was thrilled to add Spags to the defense. There's no question that everyone was pumped about adding Hawthorne, Lofton, and Bunkley as well. But what has happened defensively the past 4 weeks has been so incredibly frustrating and somewhat surprising. The Saints have been a punching bag against the run and the pass. In 4 weeks, 17 players have had a play go for 20+ yards against our defense. Ouch.
In the past 2 weeks, we have won the turnover battle (+4). But still sit at 0-4. What's the deal?
In my opinion, our pass rush is still awful. 6 sacks in 4 games. The Rams had 9 sacks against an undefeated team tonight. The Seahawks had 8 sacks AT HALF against the Packers a couple of weeks ago. Until we can establish some sort of pass rush, our mediocre secondary will continue to get torched.
Pierre Thomas: 28 carries, 152 yards, 5.4 YPC
Darren Sproles: 12 carries, 82 yards, 6.8 YPC
Mark Ingram: 32 carries, 90 yards, 2.8 YPC
What's with the love affair with Mark Ingram? I just don't get it. Sproles had ZERO carries in the first 2 games of the season. But here's Ingram, leads the team in carries and has done absolutely NOTHING to earn that spot. Forget the fact that Pierre has 11 catches to Mark's 1. It's painfully obvious that it's time for Ingram to take a seat and go with a duo of Pierre and Sproles from here on out. Let's go ahead and admit it. Ingram has been a bust. Move on and play the guys who are performing in the run and pass game. Ingram can be a back up. It's OK.
It's hard for a team to find its chemistry with all of the crazy variables that our Saints have to endure. New D Coordinator. Defensive captain suspended for the year. Multiple new defensive starters. Head coach gone, interim head coach suspended as well, so the guy under Carmichael is now the coach. My bosses are the owner and his daughter. It's as if they were both not allowed to work for 6 weeks and the head job went to one of the employees who work for me. That would not lead to much success for our business, I can tell you that.
But I'm still not worried.....yet. As time has gone by, the defense is slowly improving. If we can find any sort of pass rush, the results will be better. The Saints can not depend on the secondary to make plays without pressure on the QB. They just simply are not that talented or athletic. I still believe that Spags will make this right. He just needs a little more time. In the first 2 weeks of the season, we faced arguably the 2 most athletic QBs in football. Two wild cards that can beat you with the legs and the arm. Not exactly the easiest of challenges for a relatively new look defense. There was no excuse for Jamaal Charles killing us in week 3, but he was a dynamic rusher before missing most of the season last year, so that may get a pass. Then A-Rod and the Pack week 4.
But here's why I think things are about to turn around....
Hosting San Diego: The Saints at home at prime time have been magical during the Payton era. The Chargers have issues/controversy with their running game, Gates looks slow and the Saints have actually defended the TE quite well. The defense isn't scary, so I think this matchup could be the start of the turn around.
At Tampa (following the bye): Two weeks to prep for a team that has a below average passing attack. Doug Martin has not been scary at all and hopefully by this point, Spags starts to figure it out anyways. Tampa always plays us tough, but i feel we should squeak by this one.
At Denver: Vitt returns. This could be something to rally around. Payton's right hand man is back controlling things. I worry about the WRs that Denver brings and the pass rush that they are capable of bringing, but this seems like a high motivation type game that we may be able to squeak out. Another prime time game too. Lots of Peyton vs Saints hype I'm sure.
Hosting Eagles: Prime time again. I have not been pleased with the inconsistent play of our tackles, so this one can be dangerous. The Eagles have a dangerous front 7 to go with some pretty talented corners. I predicted a loss here before the season started, but by then, Foles may be Philly's QB. Vick has been taking a beating and hasn't looked spectacular to start the season.
Hosting Falcons: Always a close game. Regardless of records. I hate to say this, but Atlanta looks scary good. I hope to at least split the series with them this year.
At Oakland: By now, I hope the defense has figured out how to stop elite quick RBs. Shady will test us against the Eagles, so hopefully DMC won't tear us apart like Charles did. Very winnable game against a porous secondary.
Hosting Niners: Revenge game. The OL has to be sharp in this one. We've done a decent job against Finley, Olsen, and Fred Davis so far. Maybe we'll give Vernon hell this time. Not overly optimistic about this game. It does help that we're at home though.
At Atlanta: See above.
At Giants: We have owned them lately. This currently is a beat up team. But when healthy, they are a tough team to beat on the road. Nicks and Cruz scare me.
I think the last 3 games are wins. Hosting Tampa, at Dallas, and hosting Carolina. Three inconsistent teams. By now, I hope the Saints have found their groove. And can pull off a sweep of these 3 teams.
It sucks being 0-4. Finishing 9-3 makes us a 9-7 football team. With the success of the NFC West and the talent of the NFC East, 9-7 might not make the playoffs. At this point, it seems like we will have to go 10-2 to have a shot. Tough schedule ahead, but hopefully the pieces will come together when Vitt returns.