New Orleans Saints: Which offense will show up in week 3?
The first two weeks of the New Orleans Saints‘ season could not have gone any more different.
After a Week 1 blowout victory over Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, the Saints came crashing back down to earth this past Sunday, scoring just one touchdown in a hard-to-watch 26-7 loss against the Carolina Panthers. This offensive performance may very well have been the worst showing from a Sean Payton-led team since he started in New Orleans in 2006.
It was so bad that the Saints now rank dead last in the NFL in both total offense (225 yards per game) AND passing offense (115 yards per game). The offense was a complete mess from start to finish, with the offensive line looking downright offensive at times. What’s even more embarrassing is at one point the Panthers sent the same exact blitz three straight plays in a row and the Saints had no answer whatsoever to stop it.
Now let’s be clear, the Saints were faced with an extreme amount of adversity this week, even compared to their standards.
As if being displaced from Hurricane Ida for the first three weeks of the season wasn’t enough, the Saints were faced with a COVID-19 outbreak, forcing eight coaches to miss the game due to close contact and safety protocols. Throw in the eight additional players who were ruled out due to injury and you begin to wonder how this team even managed to keep the game close for so long.
Clearly, the biggest hit out of all the injuries was being without starting center Erik McCoy. The third-year pro was obviously responsible for calling out blitzes and making adjustments at the line of scrimmage this year, something that Saints fans haven’t had to worry about with Brees at quarterback for 15 years.
With McCoy out, Cesar Ruiz filled in and did not perform anywhere close to expectations, to say the least. The whole line looked lost from start to finish and the offense never had a chance to get off the ground.
Jameis Winston has already been declared back to his old 30 interceptions throwing self, according to some on Twitter who clearly think they know more about the team than the Saints coaching staff. To put the sole blame on Winston for this offensive disaster is just downright wrong and unfair.
The quarterback unquestionably had a game to forget, going 11-of-22 for 111 yards and two interceptions to go along with a fourth-quarter rushing touchdown, but what support did he have? He had no time in the pocket at all, no open receivers to throw to, and only half the coaching staff to work with. Yes, Winston deserves some of the blame for how badly the offense performed, but let’s give the guy a little longer than two weeks of play before we start to run him out of town.
Whether we want to admit it or not, the Saints receivers are a huge problem, and it showed up again in Charlotte. It’s extremely obvious how much New Orleans misses Michael Thomas, with seemingly no one stepping up at the position to hold down the fort so far to date.
The biggest disappointments have to be Marquez Callaway and Adam Trautman, who have combined for just six catches for 40 yards this season. These two players arguably had the most hype going into training camp to start the season, with Callaway even adding fuel to the fire with his fantastic preseason play.
So far, there has been nothing to justify that sort of excitement. Can Kenny Stills help spark the offense when he makes his debut? Only time will tell, but he at least deserves a long hard look.
The Jekyll and Hyde display of offense to begin this season has to have fans wondering what New Orleans really is. We have literally seen both the team’s ceiling and floor in a span of only seven short days, but which offense can we expect to see going forward? Well, if the offensive line continues to play like it did last week and the receivers still can’t create any separation, the Saints will be lucky to win another game this season.
But there’s no way Sean Payton lets his team play this poorly again. The communication on the offensive line will undoubtedly get cleaned up with the staff getting most, if not all of its coaches back for this week’s game against the New England Patriots.
I expect the Saints to look similar to what they did in Jacksonville throughout the season, but don’t be surprised if there are still some growing pains to be had as the team figures out its offensive identity with a new starting quarterback for the first time since 2006.
This team just needs to keep its head above water until it can get some of its starters back, including star wide receiver Michael Thomas, after the Week 6 bye.