Can the New Orleans Saints’ 2021 season be any worse?
Yes, yes it can. Deonte Harris has officially been suspended for the next three games, which means the Saints will play without their top wideout for the most crucial stretch of the season.
Harris currently leads the team with 523 yards, and he’s also averaging a second-best 16.9 yards per catch.
Behind Harris, Marquez Callaway has 409 yards and Tre’Quan Smith has 251 yards.
For a sobering perspective: the Saints rank 27th in the league in receiving yards per game, worse than the one-win Detroit Lions.
One could add up the receiving yards of the Saints’ top three wideouts (Harris, Callaway, Smith) and the total would still be 183 yards shy of Cooper Kupp’s yardage this season.
With Harris out of the picture temporarily, their next best wide receiver is….Lil’Jordan Humphrey. Humphrey, along with Kenny Stills, remain the afterthoughts of an already tame offense and likely can’t handle any more responsibilities than they already have.
New Orleans Saints have a Harris-shaped hole in wide receiver room
There is a growing consensus that NOLA must go for a wideout in the first round of the 2022 draft, but as for an immediate fix, there is none.
All one can hope for is that Callaway and Smith put on their big-play shoes and start making up for their underwhelming performances of late.
They’ll pair with one of three poisons — Hill, Siemian, or Book — and depending on the signal-caller, could find some semblance of a deep threat game before the season ends.
Spare good news lies in the fact that the Saints’ receivers will face less stingy secondary units than most.
Other than a tough Carolina Panthers secondary that has given up the second-least amount of passing yards per game (176.7), the Saints will be up against the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, and Atlanta Falcons, all of whom rank in the bottom half of the league in opponent passing yards.
Week 14’s matchup against the Jets will be the first test of New Orleans’ ability to adapt — if NOLA can’t generate any passing attack then, they likely won’t for the rest of the season.
The earliest Harris can return to the lineup will be Week 17 against the Panthers, but the Saints’ team morale could run out by then.