Many challenges await Allen as Saints open training camp
So far, it has been a seamless transition of New Orleans Saints head coaches from Sean Payton to Dennis Allen.
But for Allen, crisis is around the corner.
That’s no knock on Allen. That is reality in what the late Saints owner Tom Benson liked to call the National Football business.
Last fall, Payton did his best job in 15 seasons of coaching the Saints. Yep, the best, even though his team went just 9-8 and didn’t make the playoffs.
Payton was able to keep his club together and fashion a winning record despite an avalanche of bad news.
Before the season kicked off, the Saints relocated to Dallas in August due to a hurricane. New Orleans won its season opener, crushing Green Bay in what was a designated Saints home game in Jacksonville.
The Saints lost Jameis Winston to a season ending knee injury in week 7. New Orleans started four different quarterbacks.
The team also had four place kickers boot either a field goal or an extra point in a league game.
Former All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas did not play a down, nursing an ankle injury that has him starting 2022 training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform List.
New Orleans got a negligible contribution from its first round pick, defensive end Payton Turner, who played in only four games.
The Saints lost five games in a row mid-season, but then won four of their last five. If not for a COVID outbreak ahead of their home game against Miami, the Saints would have likely won that Monday night contest and finished with 10 wins, good enough for a playoff berth.
What the Saints were not able to weather was an injury to running back Alvin Kamara.
With Kamara last season the Saints were 9-4. Without, they lost all four. Those statistics are germane to a team’s most valuable player.
With Kamara, the Saints scored at least 30 points in five regular season games. Without Kamara, the Saints were unable to reach that threshold once.
Kamara’s current status, very much unknown, due to a pending criminal charge in Las Vegas, makes the Saints an iffy proposition this season.
If the Saints lost Winston for a time, or if he performed poorly, the team could function well with veteran Andy Dalton at quarterback.
Yet, it would be very difficult to replace Kamara. He is that rare player in the NFL that each team must game plan against.
In 73 career NFL games, Kamara has scored an eye popping 68 touchdowns, 67 from scrimmage. That is rare production, both in unwavering consistency and excellence.
The Saints chose not to select a running back in the 2022 draft. General manager Mickey Loomis, when asked about that, noted that the middle rounds is often when a runner is drafted, but the Saints traded those picks to Washington in the deal that netted wide receiver Chris Olave.
As the Saints open training camp, you can make an argument, a compelling one, that they are still a very good team.
In the draft and in free agency, the club improved.
In the NFC South, the Saints look superior to the Falcons and Panthers, and the Bucs appear to have taken a step back.
But this is only today before camp begins. Before the first injuries happen in the preseason, and before the real games begin in September.
Sean Payton loved to quote Bill Parcells. One of his favorites was certainly true of the Saints 2021 season.
“Each week, it is either a crisis or a carnival,” said Payton, via Bill.
Dennis Allen’s first crisis is right around corner.
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WGNO Sports Director/106.1 FM
Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…