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Saints 1st Quarter Review: Can we trust Sean Payton’s team to make the playoffs this year?

Have the Saints shown enough to be considered a playoff team? I think so, and I’ll point out 9 things I noticed that have me feeling really good about this unit.

NFL: International Series-New Orleans Saints at Miami Dolphins Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A team’s personality can tell you a lot about them as you attempt to decipher what they can become as the season progresses. The Saints have already won two games that previous iterations or versions of a Sean Payton-led bunch could not have. We watched them get bullied in Week 1 and 2 by better teams only to bounce back and become the bully in Week 3 and 4. This team can punch, and take a punch along with having a very short memory from week to week and an ability to focus on the task at hand.

They’ve persevered!

We saw this team lose Terron Armstead, Max Unger, and Delvin Breaux to various injuries before a snap was taken. We watched them suffer offensively as they missed the services of their No. 2 WR in Willie Snead due to discipline by the NFL, and also witnessed their biggest free agent signing Nick Fairley potentially be forced into retirement due to a heart condition. This team has gone though a lot of varied adversity in what is still a young season and they’ve been tested in ways other teams haven’t.

They’ve been revamped!

As many have alluded to, this Sean Payton team is closer to the 2006 version than others. It’s not supremely talented, yet they are a very gritty bunch. They have a budding ground game that can take the pressure off of Drew Brees and keep him ahead of the chains. They also appear to have hit on their 2017 draft class similar to how they hit in 2006. Contributions from nearly all of the rookies have been felt. Alex Anzalone (IR) had one sack, Marcus Lattimore is easily the team’s best cover corner, Marcus Williams has an INT, Ryan Ramczyk has been asked to play LT and RT due to injury and done well, Alvin Kamara has been a revelation, and even Trey Hendrickson has a sack and FF. The only member of the draft class to not take the field is Al-Quadin Muhammad (unless you count those five special teams snaps in that one active game), and that has more to do with how raw he is (missed a year of football) than it has to do with a lack of talent.

The 2017 New Orleans Saints, ladies and gentlemen, are playoff contenders, and it’s not too early in the season for me to say that either. In honor of Drew Brees, I’ll give you 9 POSITIVE things we’ve learned about this team to date!

NFL: International Series-New Orleans Saints at Miami Dolphins Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
  1. The speed and tackling on defense are clearly better than it has been in years. If you notice, teams aren’t abusing the Saints with WR screens and quick dump offs to RBs like in the past. Guys are rallying to the ball and making, not missing tackles.
  2. The offense has changed. Yes, the Saints still pass the ball but they aren’t a vertical team anymore. No, this offense is a bit more methodical in its approach and explosive in new ways. A screen to MT on 3rd and 9 that goes for 15 is the new version of the Saints attacking.
  3. We’ve got a new set of triplets in town. I guarantee you by Week 17 that this offense’s identity will flow primarily though three players: Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, and Alvin Kamara. What popped out from the Miami game was MT and AK making clutch plays, and Brees being the guy getting the ball to them.
  4. Adrian Peterson has a role that the first quarter of the movie hasn’t needed to flesh out yet. Peterson is still useful, but it depends on the flow and type of game. When the Saints need to throw uppercuts, Peterson will see the field. As of now, the jab (Ingram) and left hook (Kamara) have been the only tools necessary.
  5. This is a healthy locker room. One of the reasons the Saints jettisoned so many players heading into 2015 was because that important piece of the team no one really thinks about had become toxic. They brought in guys that had the right “makeup” as Sean Payton would say, and it’s lead to a mentally strong unit.
  6. They have a middle class. Robertson, Coleman, Crawley, and Kelemete have been valuable backups and/or role players, as they’ve helped the Saints absorb hits to the depth at each one of these positions. In previous years, that would have been Ramon Humber, Seantavius Jones, Corey White, and Tim Lelito.
  7. Physical has replaced finesse as it pertains to a Sean Payton team. Our first sign of that was in the preseason when Kamara lowered his shoulder at the end of a run play and knocked a charging safety out cold. How about when Fleener layed out Joey Bosa/ran over a DB to free up Coleman on the sideline?
  8. Sean Payton is back in charge. When Payton benched Vaccaro and blandly stated it was his decision, you knew he meant it. Perhaps you missed him disregard AP’s rant and then say to the media “I don’t think we’ve ever discussed featuring him like he was featured in Minnesota.”
  9. The Saints have more moxie than their fanbase. How many of you were ready to throw away the season after the Week 2 loss to the Patriots? I recall the fire Sean Payton articles and discussions very vividly. It’s cool, hop back on the bandwagon, they’ll need your cheers later in the season.

For all intents and purposes, the Saints are basically 0-0 again to start the second quarter of their season, and are in full control of their destiny after surviving a tough stretch of games early on. The youth on the team is starting to gain experience, and the playmakers on both offense and defense are making themselves known. Sadly, fans are the only ones suffering through this bye week, as it comes at the right time for a team that needs to get healthier as they look to make a playoff push. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled routine this week as the Saints attempt to get to 3-2 with a win over the Lions. Drop your thoughts below.

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