Why the New Orleans Saints Offense MUST evolve in 2016
Step 1: Let go of the past
The Saints offense has been all about ‘formationing people to death’ for as long as Sean Payton has been here. They have flawlessly taken advantage of Payton’s schematic genius combined with Drew Brees‘ ability to flawlessly execute and carry out his vision for the offense. And they have lit the world on fire without having the kind of elite weaponry that other offenses have.
Despite media narratives to the contrary, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and ESPECIALLY Peyton Manning have consistently had better weapons around them than Brees, and yet it is consistently the Saints who are at the top of the offensive standings. The reason for that is they have the greatest offensive mind in football backing one of its greatest on field performers. However, even geniuses have tendencies.
What was once the deadliest play in the playbook for the Saints has now become their Achilles heel. The Saints don’t catch anyone by surprise when they run screens anymore, and that is in large part because it’s a play they terrorized the league with for a decade…eventually the league always catches up with you.
Reggie Bush is gone, Darren Sproles was traded (and his effectiveness faded even when he was here), and whether C.J. Spiller returns to his former self or not, the Saints must let the past go. I’m not saying don’t ever run screens again (that would be silly), but it can no longer be the staple of the offense because it’s no longer their greatest weapon. The Saints lack the line, the receivers, and the personnel to be a ‘screen team’ anymore.
Rule number one in sports is always know your personnel, and the fact is that today’s team doesn’t have much in common with the team’s of a few years ago.
Mark Ingram is a three down back, which Payton has never really had in New Orleans. Brandin Cooks is a hybrid of the elements brought by Devery Henderson and Lance Moore, and he quietly had a fantastic year in his first year as the team’s No. 1 option with over 1,100 yards and 9 touchdowns. Coby Fleener is NOT Jimmy Graham, and Michael Thomas brings elements to the game that Marques Colston never did or could.
I’m not saying these players are better than the old-guard, but they are without a doubt different, and it is time for the team to not only accept that, but embrace it.
Next: Step 2