It’s hard to measure disappointment, especially after upset losses in the first two games of an NFL season. No franchise expects to lose its first two games, no matter which rung of the ladder the pre-season experts have placed your team. But when you look at the Saints’ performances in two games they were expected to win, some things become abundantly clear.
First, the Saints’ defense is deplorable. The good news is that they will get better, for no other reason than the fact that they could not be much worse. Last in the NFL in total yardage given up. Last in total points given up. Third from the bottom in yards per attempt. Third from the bottom in penalty yardage, and fifth from last in time of possession. That last statistic has left only about 25-plus minutes a game for the Saints offense to play catch-up.
Drew Brees’ offense still ranks fifth in the league in points scored and yardage gained, but the offensive stats are deceiving. Much of that yardage and some of the points were gained playing catch-up as both Washington and Carolina held significant leads in the fourth quarter. Despite the stats, I don’t believe the Brees offense is operating anywhere nearly as efficiently as it did last year when it appeared to score whenever it wanted. Obviously, the pass protection has been poor as Brees has been pressured heavily in both games. It got to the point Sunday when I was cringing every time the Saints would line up with an empty backfield and four wide receivers, because that invited the pressure that inevitably came hard.
The passing game is not what it was a year ago when Robert Meacham or Devery Henderson could go deep and clear out the middle of the field for Jimmy Graham or Colston. Meacham is in San Diego, Henderson is limping and young Joe Morgan has not yet shown he belongs in such company. Consequently, the secondary is cheating up and closing off that once-juicy middle, which has been the bread-and-butter of the Saints passing game. A solution could be in the fact that the Saints offense was at its most effective when a back lined up with Brees, which offered two benefits. It either put an extra blocker back or it gave Pierre Thomas a chance to gain over 100 yards in only nine carries. I know the Saints have made their cabbage on a pass-first scheme, but Thomas, Sproles and Ingram provide some very good options when they are in the game.
Let me say this succinctly, but my advice would be: RUN THE BALL MORE! As we said last week, it is early and not yet time to panic, but that excuse won’t fly too much longer. Thankfully, next week could be the rehab game a limping franchise needs to get well. The hapless Chiefs are coming in at the right time, which will give the Saints their last chance to fix things before they face another formidable foe at Green Bay. However, a lackluster performance in their rehab game and one or two more early losses will send off alarm bells and warning sirens throughout Who Dat Nation.
His new book, "Where the Water Kept Rising," is now available in local bookstores and at his website: www.JWMillerSports.com
With the Saints now 0-2, what's wrong? Has Bounty burst their bubble?
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