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Can the Saints turn things around this season?

With the division wide open, anything can happen.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints are currently a disappointing 5-5 after 10 weeks of football. New Orleans entered the season with the easiest schedule and high expectations. but those expectations have not been met yet.

The Offense

When New Orleans signed free agent quarterback Derek Carr before the season, the expectation was he would help open up the Saints’ offense and take the team to the next level. This has not been the case.

Carr’s famous red zone woes have followed him to New Orleans and the offense has struggled to put points on the board. The Saints averaged just 15.5 points through the first four games of the season. It wasn’t until a 34-0 win over the New England Patriots in Week 5 that the offense would score over 20 points.

The former Las Vegas Raiders quarterback has yet to elevate the New Orleans offense like he was brought in to do. The product the offense puts out on the field is very similar to the Andy Dalton run offense from just a season ago. These issues have many contributors, but the most evident is offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, who has been one of the most predictable play callers all season. Thus, landing him as the worst-rated through 10 weeks.

The Saints added free agent running back Jamaal Williams and drafted Kendre Miller out of TCU to help elevate the Saints’ running game, however, the offense hasn't found a consistent runner outside of quarterback Taysom Hill. Veteran Alvin Kamara still remains a big threat as a receiver but is often stuffed in his rushing attempts.

New Orleans has all the pieces they need on offense to operate at a higher level than their current performance. The offense is being held back by outdated play calling that ranks at the bottom of the league in motion before the snap and play-action. I think at this point that Dennis Allen should hand over the play calling duties to a different offensive mind on the coaching staff. Allen has said multiple times throughout the season that he doesn’t plan on making coaching changes in the middle of the season, but that just seems foolish and contradicting. When talking about a different situation this season, Allen said he understands this is a “grown man’s league” and they aren’t worried about anyone’s feelings being hurt if they have to look at other options. But it’s easy to call Allen’s bluff here as the Saints offense hasn’t performed consistently dating back to last season and they’re consistently reassuring Carmichael of his job’s safety.

The Defense

Head coach Dennis Allen is known for his elite defenses, and the defense looked the part to begin the season. The Saints’ defense allowed more than 20 points only once in their first five games. They have now allowed over 27 points in three of their last four.

Allen’s lack of first-half adjustments is a major problem. Over the last 4 games, The Saints’ defense has allowed 18.8 points in the first half. After halftime adjustments, this number falls to just 6.8 points.

New Orleans’ biggest flaw has been the pass rush or lack thereof. Father time is finally catching up to legendary defensive end Cameron Jordan, who has recorded just two sacks through the Saints’ first 10 games. The Saints have found a pleasant surprise in edge rusher Carl Granderson, even extending him at the start of the season, but have seen little success from other pass rushers. Coming into the season, the Saints defense was always expected to have some holes in their run defense, but their lack of sacking the quarterback has been a major problem as opposing QBs have found lots of success running the ball.

The Turnaround

Despite a .500 record, New Orleans sits at the top of the NFC South with an easy remaining schedule. New Orleans’ offense has looked better compared to their rough start to the season and they have the talent around them to be a great unit. Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael seems to have a secure job through the season, so the offense will have to rely on improvement coming from the long-time Saints’ coordinator to help give the offense the boost they need.

We’ve seen the Saints’ defense perform at a dominant level this season, but as the season goes on, the lack of youth in the unit is beginning to show. Many veteran players heading towards the end of their careers and are being affected by age and fatigue. Dennis Allen can no longer rely on players making big plays and rather should draw up different ways to blitz the quarterback while also getting the young guys involved. The defense needs to make early adjustments to make sure the struggling offense can keep up and not have to play from behind.

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