Questions mount for struggling Saints after three games

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Saints sideline at Panthers 2022 by William E Anthony
(Photo: William E. Anthony).

After a second-straight loss, the New Orleans Saints now sit at 1-2 in the early portion of the season. While it is not the time to completely write off the team for 2022, the mounting questions around the future are warranted.

For some, it may feel like the sun is setting in New Orleans, but it is important to keep perspective. The NFC South should remain tight after just three games, and the team has significant talent on the roster. That isn’t to say that it is wise to simply ignore the Saints’ struggles.

The offense has come out flat for three weeks in a row. Lack of any rhythm continues to be a concern and now injuries are starting to rear their ugly heads in the New Orlean receiver room.

The special teams unit, which is usually solid in the Big Easy, has been subpar. Three missed field goals in as many games and a blocked field goal by the Carolina Panthers has not help the cause. Not to mention that the kick and punt coverage units for New Orleans have had some trouble tackling. The Saints also missed several more tackles on the defense side in Charlotte.

These are the signs of a bad NFL team. Or at least a good team playing not-so-good football. We are not accustomed to seeing such poor play in New Orleans.

It is hard to concede that the team is, in and of itself, bad by any means. But if bad football continues to be the product of what on paper should be a good team, particularly on offense, it may become hard to tell the difference.

“Execution” is the word consistently evoked by head coach Dennis Allen and quarterback Jameis Winston. The lack of it is producing poor results. The talent is there, but the execution is often what’s brought into question. This means the Saints believe they have what they need in terms of personnel, identity, leadership and coaching. But until it’s all put together on the field, the sum of the parts will not add up to success.

The good news is that once those things do come together, it will yield an obvious improvement. But how do the Saints get there? Is it coaching that needs to adjust? Is it actually time to start questioning the quarterback decision? From this vantage point, it feels like it’s more about confidence. Sure, the Saints have done a good job not allowing themselves to be completely counted out in any game this season until the clock strikes all zeroes. But the team’s confidence looks to take shots early when they step on their own toes.

For the second straight week, the Saints put together a smooth opening drive until they entered opposing territory and committed penalties that killed their moments. Against Carolina, New Orleans went three and out five times, the most in a game so far this season. On three of those five series, they lost 10 yards to penalties. It’s hard to build any kind of momentum early when you keep yourself from moving forward.

Penalties can sometimes be brushed off to human error or subjective decisions by the official in certain cases. But for the Saints, procedural penalties have been an issue that points directly at the team itself. Outside of a questionable chop block call, the Saints offensive penalties were for holding, false starts or illegal shifts. Those are issues are ones that need to get cleaned up in order to have any hopes of building momentum on the offensive side.

While there were struggles on the defensive and special teams sides, those operations are ones that we’ve seen the units work through before. The place kicker Wil Lutz should be expected to improve. Ooutstanding leadership on the defensive side with Cameron Jordan, Demario Davis and Tyrann Mathieu means the unit will be held accountable and make improvements.

The offense hasn’t done much to just yet to spark confidence for those watching. That will have to be a question, the biggest the team faces, that Allen and the Saints will have to answer on the field in short order.

With a long trip to London against a talented but inconsistent Minnesota Vikings before a return to the Superdome against the Seattle Seahawks, those answers will need to come quickly before the schedule gets much tougher.

  • < PREV Until they demonstrate otherwise, Saints are a bad football team
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Ross Jackson

Saints/Football Analyst

Ross Jackson has been the host of the daily Locked On Saints podcast, covering the New Orleans Saints since 2018. Since then, his host role has expanded to include co-hosting Locked On NFL on Tuesdays with a focus on in-depth analysis on the biggest stories across the NFL and fantasy football. Ross is also a contributor for Saints Wire, part…

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