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Ups and downs from Saints vs. Buccaneers

Which Saints players are on the rise and who is falling?

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints dropped to 2-2 after a tough-to-watch divisional matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. New Orleans’ offensive problems continue to plague them as they end the game on Sunday with only nine points.

Up: Alvin Kamara

Running back Alvin Kamara returned from his three-week suspension against Tampa Bay, and he looked to form. Kamara had 13 receptions in his return alongside 11 carries for 51 yards equaling 4.6 yards a carry.

The Saints offense has been struggling to run the football since the season started, but that quickly changed when Kamara got the ball. The 5x Pro Bowl running back showed his elite vision by being patient and hitting gaps perfectly. With the offense failing to find any rhythm in four games, hopefully, Kamara’s return will provide the help the running game needs.

Up: Bryan Bresee

Rookie defensive tackle Bryan Bresee has looked solid all season for the Saints, but he may have had his best game on Sunday. The Saints’ first-round pick was making plays for the defense recording a sack and a big play tackle for loss shedding off a block and blowing up Buccaneers’ running back Rachaad White. Bresee’s one sack came on third down when Buccaneers’ quarterback Baker Mayfield tried climbing the pocket before getting pulled down by Bresee. The Saints’ defense struggled to get off the field on third down, but the rookie’s efforts helped them do that.

Down: Derek Carr, Pete Carmichael, and the offense

The offense has struggled all season, but Sunday’s showing exemplified that. Quarterback Derek Carr looked off on many throws, often over/underthrowing his receivers. Carr opted to play this week after suffering an AC joint sprain last Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, but that isn’t an excuse for the product Carr put out on the field. Carr has been holding on to the ball too long, taking bad sacks, and his pocket presence has looked off.

Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael’s play calling feels “boneheaded” to put it nicely, often looking for the deep ball in short-yardage situations or shying away from the running game when it's working. Instead of calling quick get-the-ball-out-fast plays such as screens and quick slants when the offensive line is underperforming, Carmichael is opting to go for the big plays, usually backfiring and ending in a sack.

The Saints haven't been able to get any help in the running game. Alvin Kamara looked great running the football Sunday, but he needs help. Outside of quarterback Taysom Hill’s 75 rushing yards in the week 2 win over the Carolina Panthers, the Saints haven't been able to find a successful running game. Kamara is a big-time playmaker in the passing game and he can’t be the only back who can run the ball successfully. Rookie Kendre Miller has appeared in two games for the Saints but has only rushed the ball 10 times, nine of them in the week 3 matchup versus the Green Bay Packers. Getting Miller more involved after free agent signing Jamaal Williams went down in week 2 seems like the best way to take some of the running duty off of Kamara, who is in his seventh year in the league.

The offensive line had their best game on Sunday, but that's not saying much. The offensive line has allowed 15 sacks in only four games this season. Sacks are drive killers often hard to overcome, so to help with this issue the Saints will bring in an extra lineman or have a tight end to chip block a defender at the beginning of the play. These adjustments that are used to compensate for the offensive line’s struggles have implications for the offense's playmakers as you're often taking a player off the field to add that lineman or delaying a tight end’s route in that play.

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