By Zachary Junda
The Saints are in a hole after dropping consecutive games at Atlanta and at Cleveland. And because they’re the Browns, a loss to them is like the equivalent of ten losses. There’s still 14 games to go, but Who Dat Nation collectively can’t help but feel like their Super Bowl aspirations are gone before the season ever really started – especially with Carolina looking just as good as they were last season and Atlanta (maybe?) being a tad improved. Good thing Tampa Bay’s awful or New Orleans would risk finishing last in the division.
The Saints have certainly been bad to start this 2014 season, but I’m not selling my stock. Not yet at least.
So what’s gone wrong so far through these first two games? Well the offense has some to shoulder some of the blame. The most potent offense in the NFL the past seven years isn’t living up to their standard as The Greatest Show on Turf 2.0. Is it blasphemy to say Brees looks like he might be on the decline? I mean he is 35 after all. Age has to catch up to him eventually, right?
The running game has been the most consistent part of the Saints offense through the first two games. Through two games, the Saints are averaging 156.5 rushing yards per game on 5.7 yards per attempt. Mark Ingram of all people is having the best start to his career, and leads the league in rushing touchdowns with three. So of course he has a broken hand now and he’ll miss about a month. Cool.
Then there’s the receiving corps who is deceptively shallow in terms of playmakers right now. Brandin Cooks is living up to the hype and Jimmy Graham’s still Jimmy Graham, but look at the rest of the team and honestly, who really scares you?
Marques Colston is 31 now and had all of zero catches (and targets) against Cleveland. Kenny Stills is battling a quad injury right now, keeping him from being the one trick pony that he is. Robert Meachem is somehow still on the roster. I mean, what’s the point of keeping a guy who’s supposed to be a deep threat when he’s, you know…not a deep threat anymore? But with all those question marks surrounding the offense, they’re still fifth in the league in passing and rushing and are averaging 29 points a game.
The defense, though.
Through these first two games, Rob Ryan’s crew is looking more like Steve Spagnuolo’s 2012 group, which, in a word, means “awful.” The Saints are 31st in points allowed (63), dead last in passing yards allowed (323.5 yards per game) and are 21st in rushing defense.
Other than that they’ve been pretty stout.
The defense has also barely registered any impact plays in this young season. The Saints have only forced one turnover and have two sacks to their name. If anyone has seen Cam Jordan, please alert him that the season’s started. He’s been a total no-show so far. Do I even need to say anything about Patrick Robinson? Watching him try and defend the pass is as painful as eating a pizza roll straight out of the microwave. How bad was Champ Bailey in training camp to where the Saints felt like they’d rather have Robinson than him? If the Saints couldn’t stop Cleveland without Josh Gordon and Cameron Jordan, how are they going to stop Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson? Or Aaron Rodgers? Or Atlanta a second time? You hate to say it, but unless the defense improves, they’ll yet again be the reason why the Saints keep from winning another title.
All things considered, I still have hope for this 2014 season. There’s too much talent on the roster for this team not to put it together and go on a winning streak. They’re in a hole now but teams have climbed out of it before. Just last year the Panthers were 0-2 and they won the division. Plus three teams have won a Super Bowl after an 0-2 start: the 1993 Cowboys, the 2001 Patriots and the 2007 Giants. And remember, they haven’t even played a game in the Superdome yet. The Saints have three winnable games before their bye-week in week six: home against Minnesota, at Dallas and at Tampa Bay. Win those games, which you’d like to think they will, and the Saints are back in it.
Keep calm and bring on the Vikings.