Step 3: Play YOUR GAME
This can’t happen unless Step 2 has already occurred, and I fully expect early parts of the year to be a bit of a discover phase as they get to know just what their game actually is. Regardless of when it happens though, they must go back to being a team that dictates to the DEFENSE what they are going to run, not the reverse. You lose the battle the moment you change who you are, and the Saints have the pieces to be able to dictate to ANYONE how the game will be played.
That doesn’t mean they will always WIN those games, however sticking with their identity will lead to far more wins than not.
It is my belief, unfounded as it is, because we have yet to even see a preseason snap, that this year’s Saints offense will be unlike any other before it. The reason for that is because Payton and Brees have two things they have never had before: a defined lead running back, and elite receiving talent.
The first is something that they have slowly worked on committing more to, and Ingram for the most part has delivered when called upon. Certainly he would be better with better line play, and a more consistent running game would actually help the passing game and the pass protection. However, Ingram has done a very good job of being consistent and versatile, especially as he’s quietly become a great pass blocker.
It’s the second element that I think isn’t getting enough attention, and that will lead to the Saints’ evolution. The Saints have always been a spread the ball around offense that uses formations and subterfuge to create mismatches and attack the defense. But what if they were able to shift that from being a necessity to a perk. The fact is that the Saints offense was by committee, because they never really had anyone who the defenses had to account for (outside of the satellite backs, which as I’ve already said needs to change).
The Saints now have three receivers on the roster who all can LEGITIMATELY pull double teams, which could allow them to go from an offense by committee, to a pick your poison offense….like the one they had in 2011.
That is all predicated on Michael Thomas being able to live up to the hype and proving that the bloodline is true (remember that his uncle is Keyshawn Johnson). Cooks is proven, Fleener is proven (on film more than in fantasy football), and if Thomas can prove that he’s a legit threat not only in the middle of the field, but down the field and after the catch it changes everything.
Those three would give the Saints the ability to FORCE the defense to over commit to one, probably two, of those players, and then kill them with the other. The thing about having great weapons, and I love Brees’ unprecedented ability to make something out of nothing, is that they can make their own plays. When you have players who actually scare the defense you can force them to adapt to you, to play YOUR GAME, and as I said before…the team who changes who they are is the one that loses.
The existence of ACTUAL weapons on the offense for the first time in years in combination with the brilliant mind of Sean Payton and the ultimate competitor in Drew Brees can be deadly. It’s not that the Saints merely should evolve, but that they MUST evolve if they want to maximize what they have. And if they do….the rest of the league should be very, very afraid.