Hey everybody. It’s that time of year again! Welcome to the 1st edition of the of The Super Bowl Race In The Perspective Of Chase, a close to daily NFL article previewing your favorite team’s season. The biggest problem with the New Orleans Saints these past two NFL seasons has been the quarterback position. Ever since Drew Brees hung up the cleats, the Saints have been unable to find their quarterback of the future. First it was Jameis Winston, then Taysom Hill, then Winston again, and then Andy Dalton. And in case you haven’t watched football over the past two years, it hasn’t quite led New Orleans to a substantial amount of success, with the a 16-18 record over the past two years not exactly clinching a postseason birth.
However, this all may change! The Saints signed Derek Carr this offseason, making him easily the most talented quarterback that the Saints have had since the 13x Pro Bowler decided to call it a career. But is it enough? Is Carr a good enough quarterback to lead this team to success? Or will another talented roster be cut short of its potential?
It has to be answered: Is Derek Carr going to turn this team around?
The Saints 2022 season was very interesting, disappointing and underwhelming. And before we mention the fact that they ran with three quarterbacks that all added very little value, we have to mention that this team had more issues than just the quarterback position. Don’t get me wrong, it was their largest need. But other areas of the roster have to be questioned.
5x Pro Bowl running back Alvin Kamara did not have leave his greatest footprints on the field last year, with off the field drama and surprisingly underwhelming play on the field despite no suspension. The versatile running back accumulated a career low in touchdowns, and nearly a career low in yards. He also ran for only 4.0 yards per carry. For someone that was supposed to be suspended, he did not show that he is worth the money, time, space, saga or issues. And if he gets his way out of a suspension again and underperforms–again!–his starting spot could be in jeopardy!
And neither did Michael Thomas live up to expectations. It has been a rocky road for the 3x Pro Bowler, as after a 2019 campaign that saw him with a historical receiving season–Thomas led the league in receptions and receiving yards, which awarded him an Offensive Player of the Year–he has played just 10 games (in three seasons), and only accumulated 609 receiving yards during this time. There is no evidence to prove that Thomas is not valuable when he is healthy, but we haven’t been given the chance to see him on the field, nor on the field with a good quarterback.
So the New Orleans Saints went 7-10 in 2022, and are now in what us fans like to call NFL purgatory. And during this offseason, New Orleans didn’t do much to get out of the worst position in sports. But they did make the big move of their offseason by signing Derek Carr to a four year, $150 million dollar deal. Carr is actually a very solid quarterback in this league. While his Pro Bowl appearance in 2022 was completely idiotic and stupidly funny, he still threw for over 3500 yards and 24 touchdowns while only being taken down in the backfield 27 times, with the most mediocre offensive line the game has to offer.
Some Saints fans may be concerned about his 1300 yard drop in passing, but that could have been due to a few factors. The first being his lack of playing time towards the end of the season (since Las Vegas was tanking). It could have also been because Josh Jacobs was the NFL’s rushing leader last season, and took a lot of touches and yards away from No. 4. Now, I will not deny that Carr significantly dropped off last season, especially in the interception category where he had a career high 2.8% interception percentage.
But at the same time, Carr is a very solid veteran who has proven he is able to play with any sort of offensive scheme and system, not to mention one that is run dominant but with talented receivers, like with the Saints’. New Orleans will be putting that talent and scheme around Carr. Plus, he has proven he can come up and play in big moments, as he has the 2nd most comeback wins amongst active quarterbacks and 3rd amongst active QB’s in game winning drives (a category he led in during the 2015 season and came close to leading in 2021)!
So now that New Orleans thinks they have ‘their guy’ at the quarterback position, it was time for them to build a decent core around him. The position New Orleans improved most at surprisingly is the running back position. The Saints added the NFL’s rushing touchdown leader from 2022, Jamaal Williams, and drafted TCU running back Kendre Miller, two pickups that I really liked.
Williams finally was given the opportunity to break out last season in Detroit, and that’s why he was able to run for over 1,000 yards and 17 touchdowns. But what makes Williams such a good running back is his versatility. When D’Andre Swift was out last season, Williams ran for 81 yards per game but only two total touchdowns. But when Swift was in, and Williams was the backup, he had 15 touchdowns in 12 games as a red zone threat. That is perfect next to a guy like Alvin Kamara, considering Kamara’s touchdown rate has decreased significantly over the past two seasons, and because of Kamara’s shaky injury history. Knowing that Williams is the insurance plan as New Orleans’ RB1 should be very pleasuring for Saints fans.
But I also wouldn’t sleep on Kendre Miller, who I think is going to have a larger role as the season goes on due to what I think will be consistent development from the rook. Miller ran for close to 1400 yards and 17 touchdowns in 14 games with TCU last season, including seven games where he ran for over 100 yards. As a speedy guy with insane elusiveness, I would expect him to be a special teams monster, and to continue to gain a larger role as time goes on in New Orleans.
Even though they didn’t improve drastically, they did improve the team in other areas outside of the running back group. New Orleans drafted Bryan Bresee and Isaiah Foskey to add to the defensive line last April, which are good pickups; Bresee has some of the largest un-tapped potential of any front seven defender in the class. But that’s the problem, neither of these players are win-now players, which is not a knock on Bresee and Foskey. Few guys are at this age. But when a team pays a quarterback $150 million and adds players that don’t show significant value to that team this upcoming season, it’s a problem. Neither of those guys, who happened to be the Saints first two picks in the draft, will start at the beginning of next season, and unless they develop fast, I doubt they’ll start at the end of it either!
They also added very little depth at the wide receiver position, only signing James Washington and Bryan Edwards. And while those guys are good receivers (don’t get me wrong), they don’t exactly fill their need at WR. They will have Chris Olave, who I expect a big season from, an injury prone Michael Thomas and an unproven receiver going into his second season, Rashid Shaheed, starting for them next season at wide receiver. And when you have a quarterback like Carr at the helm, one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks in the game, you need to put consistent receivers around him. I personally feel they don’t have that. If Michael Thomas goes back to even 75% of his old self and Chris Olave becomes one of the best No. 1 WR’s in the game, forget everything I was just mentioning. But considering Thomas hasn’t proven to stay on the field since before COVID was in America and considering the fact that Olave may not be ready for that major of a jump, I wouldn’t get your hopes up.
New Orleans does have one thing going in their favor…their schedule. The New Orleans Saints not only play in the worst division in football, but they have the easiest strength of schedule in the entire NFL according to Sharp Football Analysis. And that is true. Combine six games against teams that all went under .500 last season (divisional games), but they also play a ton of teams that have major question marks, like the Packers, Bears, Vikings, Buccaneers and Patriots. And considering I see only one of the teams I just mentioned making the postseason this upcoming year, the Saints should be in good shape. Where even though they have all of the weaknesses I have pointed out, the talent alone that they have may at least get them a postseason birth.
But New Orleans is not the only team in the NFC South that has talent. The Bucs, despite losing Tom Brady, still have Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and very good offensive line and a surging Rashaad White in the backfield on offense, with Shaquille Barrett, Lavonte David, Devin White and Antione Winfield Jr. on the defensive end. For Carolina, rookie phenom Bryce Young is stepping in with now Adam Thielen and Miles Sanders on the offensive end. And for Atlanta, Bijan Robinson is receiving some of the largest running back hype EVER, and the Falcons were a decent team last season with only room to improve. So, talent may NOT get you there for New Orleans.
IF Derek Carr goes back to being a good quarterback, IF Alvin Kamara stays suspension free and bounces back to the old Kamara we all knew, IF Michael Thomas can stay healthy and pair a monster receiving duo next to Chris Olave, IF young squads like Carolina and Atlanta just aren’t ready to make that playoff leap, than yes New Orleans could over-perform expectations. But the chance that a ton of those things, let alone all of those things happen, is very slim. New Orleans has talent, but just like everyone else. An easy schedule could carry New Orleans. But a division up for grabs could not. A lot can happen in New Orleans this season, I’m just not sure which outcome it will be!
Prediction: New Orleans wins a very tight division with an around .500 record, but exits early to a very good No. 5 seed.
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Twitter: Chase Coburn (@coolsportskid)
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