The New Orleans Saints - the players, the media, and their fans - should be thrilled with a 3-2 record at the bye week, all things considered.
When Drew Brees decided to call it quits after the 2020 season, if you were told the Saints would be able to go 3-2 during their first five games against the Packers, Panthers, Patriots, Giants, and Washington, with Jameis Winston as the starting quarterback, you would have easily signed up for that.
If I told you the Saints would deal with the after-effects of a Category 4 hurricane, have a preseason game cancelled, be displaced during the final portion of the preseason and start of the regular season, and play their first “home” game against the Green Bay Packers in the city of Jacksonville, you would have definitely signed up for a 3-2 record. If I then told you that in their second game they would be without eight assistant coaches due to Covid issues, meaning fourth-round rookie quarterback Ian Book would be responsible for managing on-field substitutions, 3-2 would sound like a blessing.
But that’s not even the half of it.
The Saints de-facto number one wide receiver through the first five games of the 2021 season, Marquez Callaway, was so far down last year’s depth chart that he was a healthy inactive for Week 1 in 2020. The Saints have been without the 2019 Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas for every game this season after starting the year on the physically unable to perform list. The Saints’ number two receiver, Tre’Quan Smith, has also missed the first five games of 2021.
Erik McCoy, who made the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie team in 2019 has missed four games due to injury. Marshon Lattimore, the 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year, tore a ligament in his thumb and has missed time. Three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead has missed multiple games. First round rookie Payton Turner has missed multiple games. David Onyemata, the team’s best interior defensive lineman, was suspended the first six games of the season due to PEDs. Pro Bowl kicker Wil Lutz has yet to appear in a game this season after being placed on injured reserve. Pro Bowl linebacker Kwon Alexander has also been placed on injured reserve, along with former
two first round pick Marcus Davenport.
And the list goes on and on. Over the course of the 2021 season, the Saints have been without their Week 1 projected WR1, WR2, C, LT, RB2, K, DE2, DE3, DT1, LB2, CB1, and CB2.
Beyond simply injuries, hurricanes, pandemics, and suspensions (as if that wasn’t enough), the Saints have had even more issues that could otherwise cause distractions for a lesser-caliber team.
Drew Brees retired. Assistant General Manager Terry Fontenot left to become the General Manager of the Atlanta Falcons. Tight ends coach Dan Campbell left to become the head coach of the Detroit Lions. The Saints had to promote Ryan Nielsen to the position of “assistant coach” to keep him from joining LSU. The Saints dealt with a highly-publicized quarterback battle that went down to the wire. Sean Payton publicly chastised Michael Thomas to the media for failing to undergo surgery earlier in the offseason. Marshon Lattimore was arrested for possession of a stolen handgun. Deonte Harris was arrested for a DUI. Marcus Williams and the Saints were unable to reach a contract extension.
With all of that in mind, everything the Saints have gone through, if you were promised anything other than a winless record at the bye, you would think that would be more than fair. To be given a winning record, you should be ecstatic.
The New Orleans Saints have a lot going on right now and definitely have a lot of areas where they could improve. But when you consider everything the Saints have dealt with over five games, and you think about the return of injured/suspended players, you should only get excited. If the Saints can win three out of five games with all of this, what can they do when the storms have died down and they can just focus on playing football?
The sky is the limit.
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