The New Orleans Saints finished the regular season winning four of their last five games. In a season where New Orleans was projected to win an NFC South while facing the league's easiest schedule, the Saints failed to make the playoffs for a third consecutive season.
Up: Young Talent
One of the Saints’ biggest knocks going into the 2023-2024 season is the lack of youth talent. Many of their best talents are aging vets on the verge of retirement. The 2023 season saw the step-up of young players who will represent the future of the team.
The Saints immediately signed former undrafted free agent defensive end Carl Granderson to an extension to start the season. Granderson would end the season leading the team in sacks. Second-year wide receivers Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed had solid seasons and added on from the year prior. Third-year cornerback Paulson Adebo had a breakout season and looks like he has the potential to take over for the Saints as CB1 if need be.
Paulson Adebo this season:— PFF NO Saints (@PFF_Saints) January 9, 2024
19 forced incompletions (t-1st in the NFL)
69.9 passer rating allowed
The Saints 2023 NFL draft class didn’t see much action to start the season. First-round pick Bryan Bresee started week 1 and showed potential from the jump. Bresee ended the season with 4.5 sacks despite often facing double teams. Second-round pick Isaiah Foskey didn't see the field much during his rookie year as he dealt with injuries and was a healthy scratch the majority of the weeks that he was available. Running back Kendre Miller also dealt with injuries throughout the season but showed lots of potential in the games he appeared in. Miller displayed his electric speed and high-level balance in the season's final game where he ran for 73 yards averaging 5.6 yards a carry. Wide receiver A.T. Perry was given the chance to start when veteran Michael Thomas went down for the season. Perry mimicked Thomas’ game perfectly providing a big body presence for the Saints offense.
The 2023 draft class is the best since 2017. Lots of guys who look like they can be successors to aging players.— Kyle ⚜️ | 504.Saints (@KyleBesson504) January 12, 2024
The biggest steal of the draft for New Orleans looks to be Safety Jordan Howden who the Saints drafted in the 5th round. Howden took over for Marcus Maye during Week three when it was announced Maye would be suspended. Howden played at a high level as a first-time starter and looks to be the future for the Saints at safety.
Many times, throughout the season the Saints felt like they were out of it. Many times, it felt like the team was too far away from where they needed to be, and it was too late to fix. Many games felt the Saints lost in the first half and they should just pull starters to protect health. Through all the games that felt like the team already lost, they fought back. Often falling short, but fought back nonetheless.
The Saints finished the season winning four of their last five games with mass improvement in what has been their biggest weaknesses they faced all season. The team’s biggest win came during the final game of the season when there was still hope of being in the playoffs. The players fought for what was a slim chance of going to the next level. Throughout the season when negativity surrounded them, questions of the team's locker room health loomed at all times, and their heart for the game was questioned, they fought through it all finishing above .500 and a chance at the playoffs.
Down: Cameron Jordan
Long-time defensive end Cameron Jordan is coming off his worst season as a pro since his rookie year. Jordan sacked quarterbacks just two times. The 13-year vet signed a contract extension with the Saints before the season started to solidify, he will end his career in New Orleans. Jordan will turn 35 before the start of the 2024 season and has regressed a lot since his prime.
One of the biggest knocks for the Saints during the 2023 season was the lack of pressures and sacks on quarterbacks. The Saints secondary as a whole played at a high level throughout, but the pass rushers often failed to finish when it came to taking down the quarterback resulting in broken plays going for big gains for opposing offenses.
Down: Coaching Staff
Many people outside of the building were surprised when the Saints continued with offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael after the offensive issues that were presented during the 2022 season. These same issues appeared in the offense's biggest struggles during the 2023 season. Carmichael’s play calling has been very boring and predictive. The Saints ranked at the bottom of play-action and motion before the snap for the majority of the season. It wasn’t until the Saints’ final games that these concepts were made more prominent.
Head coach Dennis Allen ended the season in the worst way possible. The Saints just finished with a 9-8 record in the easiest division in the league while facing the easiest schedule in the league and still failed to make the playoffs. New Orleans’ final game of the season was a 48-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons, but the dominant win was overshadowed by Allen’s post-game press conference.
While up 41-17 with one minute remaining in the fourth quarter, backup quarterback Jameis Winston approached Allen with a question. Winston and other guys on offense wanted to run another play to get running back Jamaal Williams his first touchdown of the season. Allen denied the player's request, but the offense would audible from the victory formation and run a play anyways, resulting in Williams scoring. Allen would go into the post-game press conference apologizing to the Falcons and their former head coach Arthur Smith. This is fine, as a head coach you are expected to take the high road. It was Allen’s comments after that made the situation sticky. Allen openly admitted the players going against his word and ran the play anyway. After the game, many players came out to Jameis Winston’s defense on social media due to negative comments attacking Winston because of Allen seemingly “throwing him under the bus.” Since this event has taken place, fans have been vocal online about their feelings and there has been a negative connotation surrounding the Saints organization and uncertainty in the future.