Unless the Saints offense finds some way to score points its going to be another long season in New Orleans.
The New Orleans Saints dropped their 1st game of the season vs the Vikings in semi familiar fashion. The defensive line couldn’t get pressure, zones were left open in the secondary for Sam Bradford to exploit, and behold a new problem - we couldn’t score in the red zone. Was it as bad as it seems? No, but it was still mediocre wrapped in turkey bacon (oh, the humanity) and fans have a right to be a miffed. Here are a few things we learned about the 2017 Saints from Monday night’s game.
The Offensive Line looked like we thought it would last year
When Zach Strief went down with a knee injury, it was like a gut punch to the Saints offense. The team made a last minute move to cut Bryce Harris to promote Adam Bighill to the active roster, and it left the Saints with guard Senio Kelemete playing RT. While he’s a solid backup that can play every position, he was very much outclassed versus DE Daniel Hunter for the majority of the game. Meanwhile, Ryan Ramczyk looked like the rookie that he is, as he was worked over by Everson Griffen on more than one occasion to the tune of a sack and several other pressures.
There is most definitely a Need 4 Snead
Sean Payton always figures out a way to cover up a loss. That was what fans thought, and it’s usually the case, but since the Saints have taken to trading a lot of offensive pieces over the years to acquire defensive talent, you can now see the toll it’s taken on the offense. With Thomas having a rather quiet (but not awful) game, it seemed as if nobody else really established themselves as a threat. Coby Fleener held on to the ball in traffic, and Tommylee Lewis had the one long bomb, but there appeared to be a lack of viable options for Brees to target. The Saints need to figure out a better way to fill Snead’s role until he gets back, because he was sorely missed against the Vikings, especially on 3rd downs.
3 Points and a cloud of dust
The Saints inability to convert TDs in the red zone was probably the biggest story of the night. 5 trips inside the opposing teams’ 20-yard line produced 4 field goals and 1 TD. That just won’t cut it when you game plan the way the Saints did. This was supposed to be a ball control, mistake free game. And for the most part the team succeeded, until they got too close to the end zone that is. There was even one point in the game where I observed that Michael Thomas wasn’t even on the field. Why? He’s one of your leading red zone targets from a year ago, and him not getting even a single pass thrown his way in that in that part of the field is unacceptable.
Harris Low Lights
For the second year in a row, De’Vante Harris has earned the start in Week 1, and for the second year in a row, he was picked on heavily - and the results weren’t good. Sam Bradford had a QB rating above 100 when throwing in his direction. FWIW, the guy the Saints chased briefly last week in Joe Haden also allowed an opposing QB rating of over 100 in his first start with the Steelers. Ken Crawley was inactive (not sure why) and Sterling Moore rode the bench the majority of the night. Not sure who was responsible for affirming the CB pecking order in this one, but it wasn’t good.
The Defensive Line from Preseason was M.I.A.
Not sure if they were aiding in recovery efforts or what, but the pass rush was hardly there all night with the exception of Cam Jordan. Hau’oli Kikaha doesn’t look explosive at all coming off the edge, and the NASCAR package we used in passing situations (Kikaha, Okafor, Rankins, Jordan) was hardly effective in getting to the QB. Sam Bradford had all day (sorry Peterson) to pick apart the coverage, and he did just that while attacking Harris and P.J, Williams in the secondary
- Adrian Peterson was ineffective and initially does not look like a great fit in the offense
- Rookies Marshon Lattimore, Marcus Williams, and Alex Anzalone had very solid debuts
- Cam Jordan had one more pass deflection than De’Vante Harris did all night. Go Figure
- Play calling wasn’t a problem, but execution was. That needs to be cleaned up!
- Wil Lutz is legit and special teams is much improved from a year ago.
Monday’s game vs the Vikings was a tough loss, and New Orleans has a lot to get cleaned up if beating the Patriots is in the cards on Sunday. They’ll need to keep their collective fingers crossed that Strief isn’t set to miss significant time (which he’ll be gone at least a few weeks) along with finding some way to put more points on the board when they get inside the 20. Drop your thoughts in the comments below!