The conference championship games are now in the rear view mirror (yawn), and the Super Bowl script is now set (who cares). The Saints of course, are not a part of the festivities, thanks to a miraculous play by the Minnesota Vikings to defeat New Orleans on the final play of their divisional round battle. Now that the Saints 2017-18 season has concluded, the Canal Street Chronicles will grade each of the Saints position groups and how they affected the team's NFC South championship run. Today, we start with a New Orleans icon, and the spirit of this Saints franchise.
The Saints continue to be led by one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL in Drew Brees. Some would point out the decline in Brees' numbers in 2017 as supposed proof of a decline in play. Though Brees did turn 39 earlier this month, the fact is that New Orleans did not need the video-game numbers type of production that Brees has produced throughout his career. Remember that he did set an NFL record this year with 72% completion percentage. Brees' 4,334 passing yards and 23 touchdowns were the lowest totals he has produced in his twelve years as a Saint, but he still led the 5th ranked passing attack in the league. Brees instead oversaw a much more balanced New Orleans offense, the Saints also ranked 5th in rushing, and his 8 interceptions during the regular season were also a career low as a Saint. Even in his 17th professional season, Brees still proved that he can be one of the most prolific passers in the league when called upon. He eclipsed 300 yards passing four times during the season, including playoffs, and threw for over 280 yards an additional 4 times. Brees led a stirring comeback over the Washington Redskins in week 11, and torched the Carolina Panthers in the wild card playoff round. One of the stories of the offseason will be Brees' contract situation, but there is next to zero reason to believe that this New Orleans icon will not end his career in a Saints uniform.
Chase Daniel was re-signed this past offseason by the Saints, rejoining the team that rostered him for the first three years of his career. Daniel did not attempt a pass in the regular season, not surprising when playing behind a durable player like Drew Brees. What he does provide is an extra set of eyes and a confidant on the sideline for the future hall of famer. Daniel will be an unrestricted free agent entering this offseason. Given his uneven preseason performances during his Saints career and in brief stints with Kansas City and Philadelphia, Daniel is probably not even a viable short term solution once Brees does retire. Whether the Saints attempt to retain Daniel in 2018 likely depends on if a succession plan for Brees begins to take form.
Rookie Taysom Hill evoked memories in older fans of Miami Dolphin utility player/3rd string quarterback Jim "Crash" Jensen from the mid-80's and early 90's. Hill was among the final offseason cuts by the Green Bay Packers despite the Brigham Young rookie quarterback impressing many during the preseason. After signing with New Orleans as a developmental prospect once the season began, Hill was inserted onto the team's struggling kick coverage units at midseason, where his aggressive play made him a fan favorite. Hill's development as a quarterback this offseason could bear watching, but it is highly unlikely that he will truly be the Saints quarterback of the future.
Drew Brees may have lost some arm strength on his deep ball, and New Orleans did have some uncharacteristic struggles with their 3rd down efficiency, but Brees left little doubt that he is still a championship calibur quarterback. He still has underrated mobility within the pass pocket, the ability to make all the throws with deadly accuracy, and unmatched competitiveness and leadership abilities. Do not be surprised if the team nabs a quarterback early in this draft, but the New Orleans Saints best chance to win another championship is still with number 9 lining up behind center.
QUARTERBACK GRADE = B
How would you grade the Saints quarterback position in 2017?
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