By Josh Barrett
After dropping their home opener 26-19 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and falling to 0-2, it appears that it might already be time for Saints fans to look forward to the 2016 draft.
Drew Brees and Brandin Cooks were a popular tandem in daily fantasy leagues this week, but the diminutive duo had a rough day in the Superdome. Brees shook off two bizarre fumbles, one of which pinned the Saints at their own goal line, to throw for 255 yards on 38 attempts and a touchdown. Cooks lead the team with five receptions, seven targets and a terrible commercial for Rouses Market. I’m a fan of bad puns, but there were far too many cooks in that kitchen to be taken seriously.
The lone foot hole of optimism for the Saints might have come from their ground game. As a team, New Orleans combined for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Leading the pack with 53 yards and a score was Mark Ingram. The former Alabama product ran strong between the tackles, and proved himself capable of catching swing passes out of the backfield, lowering his pad level and plunging forward for five yards a pop.
Despite being a surprise active this week, running back CJ Spiller had a minimal impact, doing his only real damage through the air with a 19-yard reception. Khiry Robinson stood out from the pack with 48 yards on five carries, but did little else to distance himself on the depth chart.
On the defensive side of the ball, rookie linebackers Stephone Anthony and Hau’oli Kikaha proved solid stopping the run, but further revealed their weaknesses in pass coverage. Safety Kenny Vaccaro led the unit with nine tackles and a pass deflection. Former Seattle Seahawk Brandon Browner matched up well against the Buc’s giant receivers, but needs to work on his focus as his day could have been much worse had the Buc’s tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins not dropped a wide open pass which could have been a touchdown.
Tampa Bay’s rookie quarterback Jameis Winston looked comfortable in the pocket all game, going 14-of-21 for 207 yards and a touchdown as the Saints pass rush failed to pressure the first overall pick on a consistent basis. Also benefiting from the strong play of the Buc’s offensive line was the Muscle Hamster, running back Doug Martin.
Martin, who shed weight in the offseason, scampered for a bruising 78 yards. Despite briefly leaving the game after being lit up by Saints’ safety Kenny Philips, Louis Murphy led the Bucs with 82 yards and three receptions.
The Carolina Panthers won the NFC South last year with a record of 7-8-1, so the season isn’t completely over for the Saints. However, an 0-3 start would be disastrous for New Orleans and could be the first nail in the coffin of the old guard. Here’s hoping things turn around next week when the Saints travel to Bank of America stadium in Charlotte to take on the Panthers.