The New Orleans Saints are 2-4 and are seemingly far from a team even capable of making the playoffs. The Saints have repeatedly taken a bazooka to their own feet this season, as they could be 4-1 if just five plays ended differently. The Saints have been incredibly close to being a winning football team, but not a good one. The incredible play of future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees has helped to sustain an offense that has battled a patchwork offensive line and a group of young receivers just coming into their own.
The other side of the ball has been its own confusing mismatch of back-breaking mistakes, mismatched parts, and a lack of necessary talent that comes as a result of both time and injuries. The injuries have been covered ad nauseum, and they are simply the sad reality that the Saints have to live with right now, but when I say time I'm not just referring to age, but timing.
The Saints defense is the biggest cause for the team's struggles, and while the offensive line is a close second in my book, it's actually the defense and the issue of 'timing' that I want to focus on. The Saints defense is in a transition phase, and while some of their issues are a direct result of injuries (losing three NFL level corners, one who is a star in the making and Sheldon Rankins is a HUGE blow). However, another part of the struggles is due to the team transitioning from the chaos of the Rob Ryan era to fitting the preferred schema of Dennis Allen.
Allen has the team playing hard, flying to the ball, and trying to resemble an NFL caliber defense. But he lacks many of the key pieces he needs for his scheme to work. Every scheme has its key components, and Allen wouldn't have everything he needs even if the Saints were fully healthy (which they are not). They will need at least one more offseason like the one they just had to improve it. They will need to bring another batch of mid-priced free agent veterans like this year, maybe one upper-mid to upper tier guy, and another solid draft, but if we are able to do that again this defense has a real chance. The key to that though is the development of the young players on the roster.
The Saints upcoming game against the Seahawks is a perfect opportunity for players like Michael Thomas, Daniel Lasco (if he plays), David Onyemata, Vonn Bell, and Andrus Peat to continue their evolution into NFL level starters. Every single one of them has the talent, and each of them have shown flashes, and in Michael Thomas's case it's been a lot more than just 'flashes'.
The Saints choked against the Raiders, beat themselves against the Giants, and shot themselves in the foot against the Chiefs. Those aren't the actions of a good team, but the fact that each game was close is a sign of a team with fight, a team that is still playing together, and maybe a team that can be on the rise.
Getting better is a process, and I don't know how many wins I can predict for these Saints going forward, but the season is only done when they give up and stop trying to improve. Things might look bleak now, but there is actually quite a lot of quality young talent on this roster, and they have the rest of the year to build themselves up from young talent to young studs. Every snap they play, every good play they make, and yes every mistake has value. This season is far from lost right now, and if some of these young kids can evolve just a little bit faster than expected....then this season might REALLY not be done just yet.