Will one long night turn into a long season for the Saints?by J.W. Miller on 09/12/17
After watching the Saints fall helplessly to the Vikings on Monday night, I can’t help but think that the new edition of the Black and Gold is a lot like the new edition of the IPhone that will debut any day now. Think about it. Fans/customers have a team/product that they love but that could use some improvements. The new phone is supposed to be so much better than the ones we now carry in our pockets, and although it might cost upwards of $1,000 each, it’s supposed to do everything but toast your morning bagel. When you take it out of the box, it looks shiny and new and improved, but when it slips out of your pocket and falls into the toilet, it still stops working just like the old phone.
That’s kind of what happened to the Saints last night. An offseason of improvements through free agent signings and a draft that produced several immediate starters, all wrapped around a reliable operating system, in this case the Brees.9, but it fell into a Minnesota toilet. So the question that members of Who Dat Nation are asking themselves this morning is: “Does one long night of misery mean a longer season of misery ahead?” There’s no answer to that right now outside of upsetting an angry 0-1 Patriots team next Sunday at the Superdome. That certainly would relieve our “morning after” hangover, but in order for that to happen, some problems that rose against the Vikings need to be addressed and fixed. Quickly!
The most immediate area of attention is what to do about the offensive line. When Drew Brees gets time to operate, he can put 30 points on the board. Roughly broken down, that’s four touchdowns and a field goal, or five scoring opportunities. The Saints had five scoring opportunities against the Vikings, but the mix of four field goals and a late touchdown came up short on the scoreboard. Lay that one on the offensive line.
Brees was pressured all night by the relentless Minny pass rush, and the running game went absolutely nowhere. We’ll probably learn what free agent pickup Adrian Peterson said to head coach Sean Payton that was captured on national TV, but if the offensive line is opening holes, Peterson, incumbent Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara would all have gotten more carries and likely been more content. A 9-yard gain by Peterson on the first play of the game was encouraging, but it turned out to be the longest gain of the night after running-game snowplow Zach Strief left the game with a knee injury.
Who Dats had better say their prayers that Strief is not sidelined for the rest of the season or that aspect of the game could get worse. Brees needs an adequate running game to be effective. Last night, it appeared Brees didn’t have time to wait for his young receivers to get open. When your best receiver is TE Coby Fleener, it is apparent they need Willie Snead back in uniform to take some pressure off second-year WR Mike Thomas, who was blanketed all night. Tommylee Lewis made one great catch on a 52-yard gain, but that was the extent of the Saints’ longball game, and Ted Ginn Jr. was not a factor in the offense. And after three years of watching him, my take on Brandon Coleman is that he looks good coming off the bus.
Believe it or not, I am not as concerned about the defense. Young defensive backs such as Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams too often looked like rookies but showed ability and will get better with experience. Delvin Breaux needs to heal up quickly to provide some stability at corner, although the secondary received little help from the pass rush. The Viking receivers had too much time to run free for all-world QB Sam Bradford to find them. Cam Jordan had the Saints’ only sack, and defensive coordinator Dennis Allen needs to create more schemes to help free agent Alex Okafor and DT Sheldon Rankins apply more pressure. The new linebackers were decent, including rookie LB Alex Anzalone and free agent A.J. Klein, and I believe that unit will get better playing together.
So as I said earlier, does one long night mean another long season ahead? Look at it this way: The Patriots also are 0-1 and are asking themselves the same questions. Both teams will find answers on Sunday.