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Why the New Orleans Saints will make the playoffs: No. 6, Unpredictability

hispandrix
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Stop me if you’ve heard any of these before, but the New Orleans Saints offense is being counted out this season. Quarterback Drew Brees is on the decline. Without Jimmy Graham, the offense will not have nearly the type of success from previous seasons. Trading away Kenny Stills, one of their rising weapons, was not smart. The offensive line is old, and the defense can’t be trusted.

No one is ignoring the fact that the Saints offense will look different this season. However, the debate enters that moving off of someone like Graham was a smart decision. There were suggestions that the offense became too predictable over the past few seasons, and that may have led to some of their respective struggles when it counted most.

Despite a 7-9 season, the Saints were still able to put up points. Of the New Orleans Saints 401 points scored last year, which was good for eighth in the NFL, the team finished with 49 touchdowns and 19 field goals. Brees led the way through the air with 33 passing touchdowns, and the Saints had 16 rushing touchdowns collectively. Graham finished with ten touchdown receptions last year, which led the team.

So, why would someone suggest that the Saints became too predictable? Here’s some food for thought. Of Drew Brees’ 62 interceptions from 2011-2014, Pro Football Focus credits 19 interceptions when targeting Jimmy Graham.

  • 2014 – Brees interceptions (17), credited to Graham (3)
  • 2013 – Brees interceptions (12), credited to Graham (6)
  • 2012 – Brees interceptions (19), credited to Graham (5)
  • 2011 – Brees interceptions (14), credited to Graham (5)

You could technically knock one interception off of that, as Graham did not play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 6 of the 2012 NFL season. However, for the math majors, that’s 31 percent of all Brees’ interceptions credited to when Graham was targeted.

Arguably, Brees may have relied on Graham more than he should have over the past few seasons. Since 2011, Graham had no problem seeing triple digit targets from Brees.

Jimmy Graham – Targets by season

2014 – 121 | 2013 – 145 | 2012 – 131 | 2011 – 164

There’s no denying that Jimmy Graham was a staple in the Saints offense over the past several seasons, and he had tremendous success. Graham took tight end play to another level with his size and abilities, and lest we forget to acknowledge his basketball ground helped him.

This year’s New Orleans Saints offense brings the element of surprise. You can’t say that the team will feed to the ball to just one single player. More importantly, you have no idea who will get the ball. Some of the successful elements for the Saints in 2006, 2009, and 2011 were because of the surprise factor they posed.

On one hand, it’s unsettling to see the Saints have to rely on receiver production from younger players that aren’t exactly known to the masses. However, that’s the exact trait that makes this team scary on offense. Unpredictability. Opposing defenses aren’t that familiar with players like Josh Hill, Seantavius Jones, and Brandon Coleman. There’s not a lot of film on someone like Nick Toon. It’s not the same C.J. Spiller entering the picture, and he’s arguably in a completely different style of offense. Joe Morgan won’t necessarily be used in the same way he has been in previous seasons.

The weaponry and talent are there for the New Orleans Saints offense, and possessing a high level of unpredictability with a mastermind like Sean Payton makes this unit’s potential high. Don’t count out the Saints offense, and it could be a major reason why they make the postseason when it’s all said and done.

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