Saints begin evaluating what went wrong in 2022

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Alvin Kamara
(Photo: Parker Waters)

METAIRIE – Cameron Jordan just completed his 12th season with the New Orleans Saints.

Those seasons have ended in a variety of way.

One ended with a loss in the NFC Championship Game (2018). Four ended with a loss in a divisional playoff (2011, 2013, 2017 and 2020). One ended with a loss in a wild-card playoff (2019). And six ended with the regular-season finale (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2021 and 2022).

The most recent ended with a 10-7 loss to Carolina on Sunday in the Caesars Superdome to conclude a 7-10 season.

Jordan, a defensive end who became the Saints career sack leader this season, said he had the same message for his teammates after the finale that he has always had for himself at the end of the season: “Whatever you’ve done it’s not enough. You have to do more (in the offseason).”

His point was that anything short of a Super Bowl title is a failure and he has yet to win a Super Bowl, having been drafted by New Orleans in the first round in 2011, two years after the franchise won its only championship.

So more must be done by everyone in preparation for the next season.

Jordan spoke to reporters Monday as teammates scurried about, cleaning out their lockers – most for the last time until offseason workouts begin in the spring, some for the last time period.

Guard Cesar Ruiz wheeled himself around with a leg scooter to support his surgically repaired left foot.

Linebacker Demario Davis toted around a large trash bag filled with items he removed from his locker as he prepared to meet his wife to fly to New York for vacation.

Davis noted that the team “played to our capability” during the three-game winning streak that ended Sunday, “but we didn’t do it enough times.”

No. 1 draft choice Chris Olave reflected on a season in which he had the second-most receiving yards (1,042) of any rookie in franchise history after being thrust into the No. 1 receiver role after injuries to Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry in September.

But the youngest player on the team noted that beyond his impressive statistics “I know I left a lot of yards on the field,” adding that he intends to add “a few pounds of muscle” in the offseason to improve his yardage after catches.

Monday marked the beginning of everyone in the football operation evaluating what they can do individually and what the entire group can do collectively to improve in 2023.

To that end executive vice president/general manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Dennis Allen had a preliminary chat about evaluating a season that fell short of everyone’s expectations before turning the page to offseason preparations.

The Saints made no official announcement that Allen will be retained as head coach, but Allen said, “that’s the indication that I’ve been given.”

He said he will sit down this week with “the powers that be” – Loomis, Michael Parenton (director of pro personnel), Jeff Ireland (assistant GM – college personnel) and Khai Harley (VP of football administration) – and take “a deep dive into the season.”

“We’ll look at every aspect of our team, of our operation,” Allen said. “Where are areas we need to improve? And then we’ll come up with a plan moving forward.

“It’s certainly not the standard that we want to have here. Our goal is to win championships here. So this year in that regard was not good enough.”

Allen said it was too early to answer specific personnel questions such as whether there would be any changes to his staff, the status of wide receiver Michael Thomas, who recently agreed to a restructured contract that would make his offseason release more salary cap-friendly, or the plans for quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton.

Winston, who lost his job to Dalton after being injured, is under contract for next season, and Dalton, who remained the starter even after Winston was healthy enough to return, is not under contract for next season.

Dennis Allen
(Photo: Parker Waters)

Allen said the Saints will take “a methodical approach to what we want to do” in the new league year that doesn’t begin until March.

“The key is making sure that whatever decisions we make, we make the right decisions,” Allen said. “And I don’t think there’s a timetable on making right decisions.”

The head coach added that “we’re not as far off as maybe some might think,” citing the improvement of young players in general and the play of the defense in particular down the stretch.

“I think there’s a young nucleus of players that we can build on going forward,” he said. “The last half of the season I thought we were one of the better defenses in our league. So I think there are some foundational pieces that we can build on.”

The Saints’ across-the-board evaluation of the operation will include Allen’s self-evaluation.

“You sit down and you think about it and you write down things,” Allen said. “What did I do well? What did I not do well? Part of that is not just self evaluation but I’ll ask Mickey, Michael, Jeff, coaches, ‘Hey, what did you think? What did I do well? What did I not do well? And I’ll take that information and try to grow from it.”

Allen noted that he has been with the Saints for 13 of the last 17 seasons and experienced the team going from a division title and trip to the NFC Championship in 2006 to 7-9 and 8-s seasons, from those consecutive non-winning seasons to the Super Bowl title in 2019, from multiple 7-9 seasons to four consecutive division titles (2017-20).

“I’ve seen how you can turn that around,” Allen said. “So, that’ll be our focus and what we’re trying to do moving forward.”

Allen said that rookie tackle Trevor Penning, who was drafted eight spots after Olave in the first round and made his first start Sunday, suffered a Lisfranc injury and will undergo surgery.

As injured players rehab, others focus on conditioning and sharpening their skills and the brain-trust makes personnel changes there are opportunities for optimism – linebacker Pete Werner said.

“But,” Werner added, “we’re still cleaning out our lockers.”

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Les East

CCS/106.1 FM/Daily Iberian

Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s blog on was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…

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