To say Monday Night was going to be an uphill climb for the New Orleans Saints was a massive understatement. The team was heading into the game with more than 20 players on the Covid list including starting quarterback Taysom Hill and backup Trevor Siemian. That meant the Saints were turning to rookie quarterback Ian Book to make his first NFL start with a patchwork offensive line and against a team coming into this game on a 6 game winning streak. The game went how most expected with the Saints struggling mightily on offense while the defense held up as best they could, but ultimately the Saints fell 20-3. Here are my biggest takeaways from the game.
The Book of Ian
A quick look at a box score with numbers of 12/20, 135 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and sacked 8 times would have many believe the rookie is just not ready for primetime. Context matters in things and 2 things simultaneously can be true. Considering the Saints trotted out there Caleb Benenoch, James Hurst, Calvin Throckmorton, Erik McCoy, and a struggling Cesar Ruiz as protectors for Book, you can see the recipe for success was not in place. Did Book struggle making reads, holding the ball too long, and not throwing the ball away? Of course he did, but did he have much of a choice at times? He is in fact a rookie making his first ever start and the Saints knew how mighty of a task this would be for him. In fact they made calls earlier in the week for the services of Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers. Couple that with the fact the Saints could not establish an effective running game, you can see how most quarterbacks would have struggled in this scenario. This one game, given the circumstances, should not affect the view of Ian Book with this team or whatever future he may have in this league. Truthfully, the book is still out on him.
Can someone make a play? Anyone....
Not to beat a dead horse here but the lack of playmakers for the Saints on the outside is past sad, it’s almost comical at this point. Week in and Week out we’ve watched the Saints struggle to manufacture consistency throwing the ball to outside weapons. For context purposes the Saints have had only 1 receiver have a 100 yard game this season which was Marquez Callaway who happens to be their number 1 receiver this year with 40 receptions, 601 yards, and 6 touchdowns. He has appeared in all 16 games this season. Conversely, take a guy like Antonio Brown for Tampa Bay who has 39 receptions, 519 yards, and 4 touchdowns and is the team’s number 3 receiver. Oh yeah and let’s also mention that he has missed 10 games this season due to injury, Covid, and suspension. See the issue here? In no way are we directly comparing Marquez Callaway to a future Hall of Famer in Brown, but merely highlighting the struggles the Saints have had all year in finding playmakers on the outside. Imagine how Ian Book would have felt if he had a guy to throw a bubble screen to, run a reverse with, or catch a slant and take it to the house? Opposing defenses know this which is why they stack the box and force the Saints to beat them over the top. Miami stacked the box with at least 8 defenders on over 61% of their defensive snaps on Monday and they cashed in by holding the Saints to just 3.6 yards a rush and sacking Ian Book 8 times. One of the top priorities for the Saints in the offseason should be finding a big play wide receiver to pair with the return of All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas.
Those were a couple of my biggest takeaways. What were yours? Could it be the good play of rookie linebacker Pete Werner or what about the struggles that Cesar Ruiz has been having? Sound off in the comment section below. The Saints will be playing their final game in the Dome this season, where they have only won once, this Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.