The Saints From Seven Angles

admin Thursday, August 24, 2023 Comments Off on The Saints From Seven Angles

You’ve heard of the Magnificent 7, right? Those are the seven high-flying, high-tech stocks leading the stock market’s resurgence of late.
Well, I have my Saints 7 ready to go, but unfortunately it won’t make you any money. It’s just my annual preseason view on the team. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the team has added the right players in the necessary positions and the coaches have a different and better plan as Dennis Allen preps for his second season as head coach.
Allen’s first year in command ended with a disappointing 7-10 record. But in search of a positive undertone, four of those losses were by 4 points or fewer.
So here are my 7 critical keys to the Saints 2023 season. And I would bet many, if not all, of these are also on Allen’s white board in his office. Let’s get started.

#1. Derek Carr needs to play like a Top 15 quarterback (which he is, by the way) for this offense to finally get back on track after two dismal post-Drew Brees years.
During the off-season, I envisioned owner Gayle Benson sending GM Mickey Loomis one of those nicely embroidered, personalized cards in a fancy envelope with one handwritten line … “Get me a damn QB.”
Loomis did just that, signing Carr to a 4-year, $150-million dollar contract and reuniting him with his former Oakland Raiders head coach in Dennis Allen. The two have a relationship and a certain comfort zone that will help. Look, Carr is a four-time Pro Bowler, with more than 35,000 passing yards over 9 years, a career completion percentage of 64 percent, with an impressive 92 passer rating. All this while playing for the mediocre and at times dysfunctional Raiders.
Carr needed to get out of the Silver and Black and looks rejuvenated in the Black and Gold, showing his deep ball skills and accuracy through early training camp workouts. I’m not overlooking the fact he had a couple of stars at his disposal in Las Vegas last season in super receiver DaVonte Adams and running back Josh Jacobs. But the offensive line was sketchy, as was the defense, and Josh McDaniels won’t win coach of the year honors anytime soon.
Carr needs to up his game by improving his progressions and reads and finding the right receivers and putting them in positions to make plays downfield. He should cut down on knucklehead throws into coverage (his career TD to interception ratio is 219-99) and move the chains. The Saints defense will be the best he has played with over his NFL career, so he won’t be forced to try to win games with many of his patented, frenzied, fourth quarter comebacks.
One of Carr’s best traits is his durability. He is a solid 6 feet, 3 inches, 215 pounds, and rarely misses games due to injury. He was the best quarterback option for New Orleans to sign besides chasing Aaron Rogers or Lamar Jackson. For the Saints, at this stage, with this roster, Derek Carr was my top choice, and I think he will prove it this season.

#2. The Saints receivers need to stay healthy, get open and stretch the field.
Look, my bromance with Carr won’t mean anything unless he has reliable receivers who produce at a high level this year. Yeah, I’m talking to you Michael Thomas. I’ve been banging the table for the Saints to trade or cut the oft-injured Thomas. He has missed nearly every game over the last three seasons with various foot, ankle and toe injuries. They’re all legitimate, no doubt (I think, anyway), but you know what they say in the NFL about “availability.” Three years of draining the payroll with nothing to show for it is getting really old and irritating.
Thomas knew that, and the best move he’s made on or off the field in three years was his decision to accept a reduced salary and a restructured contract to try to reclaim his former glory. He hasn’t played much in three years, so his legs and hands are well rested. If he can avoid the dreaded injury list, Thomas can still be a weapon on those shorter, intermediate routes and in the red zone. If he can’t and is sidelined again, this will be his final season in NOLA.
Carr won’t be short of other receiving options. Second-year receivers Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed are fast, nifty and can get behind the defense. The pair combined for 100 catches and 1,530 yards with six touchdowns in their rookie seasons. Olave was a Rookie of the Year contender last season and stayed healthy, which was huge.
And speaking of huge, the Saints have one of the top tight end combos in the league with Taysom Hill and Juwan Johnson. Word is the Saints offensive brain trust got the message from the front office to fix the playbook and use Hill better and more often in the passing game. Duh. Hill may not be a Travis Kelce type talent downfield, but he is a force in that 10 to 15 yard box at the line of scrimmage.
Staying on the tight end front … He’s back. Former Saints All Pro tight end.

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