The New Orleans Saints quarterback situation was always going to be precarious after Jameis Winston’s injury against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but it has quickly plummeted into dire territory. The Saints didn’t win a game in the month of November with Trevor Siemian at the helm, ultimately losing four straight games to the Falcons, Titans, Eagles and Bills.
As a result, the once 5-2 Saints are now 5-6, on the outside looking in of the NFC Playoff Picture. To make matters worse, there’s no evidence in play that the Saints can be a playoff team with Winston sidelined, as they have looked largely hapless. Each game has gotten progressively worse, and it’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
To Siemian’s credit, he hasn’t been working with a ton on offense. While that worked to his benefit early on, defenses have quickly figured out the Saints gameplan under him. He is averaging 7.9 intended air yards per attempt, putting him right around league average, while his completed air yards of 6.3 is also about average. But starting in the Eagles game, defenses shaded him underneath, and the Saints suffered for it.
We can lead off with what may the most egregious example. This is the fatal flaw of being a one-read quarterback. Adam Trautman crashes inside to feign a block on play action before digging out in a zag route. The Eagles never really bite on the play action and run bracket coverage on Trautman.
It doesn’t take an NFL quarterback to know you absolutely cannot, under any circumstances, make this throw. Trautman has a man running his route for him, and another defender at his back. The best case scenario is a two yard gain. It is simply inexplicable to go ahead and throw this pass.
We all know what happens next. He throws the pass. And the doomsday scenario happens. Trautman gets tangled up with the defender on his hip, the ball sails over his head, and T.J. Edwards has an interception fall into his lap. There is an option here. Look at No. 81 Nick Vannett running the over. He’s the speck of white over Edwards’ head.
This is the peril of the one-read quarterback. Siemian has pre-determined where he’s going with this pass, but the Eagles defense has pre-determined the exact same thing. The result is an easy interception, and a quick-change situation for the Saints defense.
One thing that is not so much Siemian’s fault is that the Saints receivers couldn’t lose the defensive backs on them if they were invisible. If you’d like to know why the Saints have been so completely horrendous going for two this year, look no further than what happens when the field shrinks. More on that shortly.
This 3rd and 4 playcall pretty well encapsulates how hard it is for the Saints offensively right now. The playcall here is a stick, pretty standard for third and short to mid. The inside slot runs towards the sideline, while the receiver outside runs a curl and rubs off the defender. That’s mirrored on the bottom of the screen.
The problem with the stick playcall is that at this point, the play is over. Siemian’s pocket is folding, he can’t extend plays with his legs, and TreQuan Smith and Marquez Callaway are no where near a place to make a play. Once again, the Eagles are reading the Saints playbook. Watching a Packers game, on third and short Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur love to take shots downfield to counteract this thinking of playing the sticks. There is no inkling of that being a possibility in defense’s minds when it comes to the Saints, and as a result the Eagles are able to play under in this situation.
The play results in an incompletion, and the Saints are forced to punt it away. Another easy stop for the Eagles.
Returning to 2-point conversions. The Saints are 0 for their last, 10, which sounds like an anomaly. They have the NFL’s leading active 2-point conversion-getter in Mark Ingram. They have a coach who has called some of the best situational games in NFL history in Sean Payton. So what is going on?
While it isn’t always the case, a condensed field near the goal line gives receivers no where to hide. Saints receivers can’t get separation or sit in a zone, and it has hurt them all season. However, when they do flash open, they aren’t getting hit.
This missed conversion to Lil’Jordan Humphrey is a good example. There are previous few chances to fit this ball in, but at the top of Humphrey’s route, a more experienced quarterback can make this throw. Siemian, however, misses the opportunity and airmails it, resulting in a failed conversion.
While Siemian isn’t a bad backup quarterback, he simply isn’t a longterm solution. His numbers don’t jump off the page as being awful. He has a 3:1 touchdown to interception ratio, his rating is an even 86, and he’s thrown for 1,086 yards in four-plus games. However, on the eye test, he isn’t passing muster. Defenses are cheating down on him, and his game is suffering for it. You can last 2-3 games starting him in an emergency situation, but once film is out on Siemian, he’s easy to gameplan against. The Eagles and Bills proved that, and even with all of the injuries, there’s been an inability to adapt.
Taysom Hill might not come in and fix everything for the Saints. He might not even fix anything. But he will add another dimension to the Saints offense that it desperately needs. The worst thing an offense can be is predictable. And predictability has been the name of the Saints offense for the past two weeks.