Drew Brees and the Saints have gotten off to a pretty rough start
Fast forward to present day, and you'll find the Saints with an 0-3 record. They are arguably one of the most disappointing teams so far, and people have already begun to give up on them.
Not so fast everybody, there is still a lot that can be done to jump-start the season.
Sometimes getting beat up hurts and makes you never want to go out in public again. Other times, it makes you stronger and gives you an opportunity to learn from your mistakes. Now, taking a beating on the playground and on the football field are two completely different things, but they do share similarities.
New Orleans still has 13 games to turn their season around, but it's all going to start against their next opponent, the Green Bay Packers.
Let's take a look at four keys to getting the team back on track.
The Saints will need to forget about being ran over in their last game
In this four-step plan to a healthier and happier team, the first step has to be to forget about how the season has started.
Learning from your mistakes can be a valuable tool. You're able to analyze and critique different aspects of what went wrong, and it gives you a better idea of how to fix it.
That sounds great and all, but it's not the direction that the Saints should be going in.
These losses have been recent, which means they are fresh on the minds of all of the players. On top of that, they have lost all of the games by single digits. Losing like that creates a "nothing is going our way" mentality and will only do one thing:
Cause more things to not go their way.
If New Orleans is going to turn their season around, then it's going to start with playing like the season opener is coming up. Playing with a "new beginning" mindset is certainly one of the harder things to do. If it was easy then you'd see a lot more teams turning 0-3 records into playoff berths.
Sunday's game against the Packers needs to be played without the memory of what happened last week or the weeks before. Accomplishing that task will surely put the Saints back on track toward having a good season.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will be New Orleans' next test
Now that the Saints aren't thinking about the past, let's focus on taking care of business on a weekly basis.
Playing each game one game at a time is going to be crucial. New Orleans could end up beating Green Bay by a score of 86-14 and they would still only win one game. Sure, they'd find their name all over Bleacher Report for the performance that they put up, but it won't earn them any extra wins.
They're not going to get back to .500 in one week, so why think about that?
Effectively separating each week into its own week will lead toward more consistent results because it takes away the overwhelming feeling that every player and fan is currently feeling. People are overwhelmed because teams like the Atlanta Falcons—who are also rivals in the NFC South—are undefeated at 3-0. It feels like the Saints are years behind them, but all it takes is a couple of interesting weeks and who knows, maybe New Orleans will be within striking distance of the Falcons.
The Saints need to remember that those interesting weeks take place one week at a time; not all at once.
Cameron Jordan has to continue to develop into a pass-rushing threat
Let's talk about the Saints' defense and their current mindset.
If you're having problems with your toilet; you call a plumber. If there's something strange in your neighborhood; you call The Ghostbusters.
If there's a problem with your defense; you call, well, there isn't really anyone to call for that one.
This is what the Saints aren't understanding. They don't get that they're the only ones that can help themselves with their own problem. Nobody else can.
New Orleans is last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, giving up 215 yards a game. Yes, 215 rushing yards per game. Their passing defense isn't much better as they come in as the No. 25 team in passing yards given up. It's also difficult to put blame on any one player, because the entire defensive unit has played poorly.
Being able to get to the quarterback is going to be crucial against the pass-happy Packers. Junior Galette recorded two sacks last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, and the task of hitting Aaron Rodgers falls on both Gallete and Cameron Jordan's shoulders. Rushing Rodgers' throws should make the rest of the game easier for the defense.
It won't happen overnight, but slowly filling all of the defensive holes will be necessary for the Saints if they want to have any chance at having a successful season.
Pierre Thomas needs to be considered as the Saints No. 1 back
We get it New Orleans, we get it. You have three good running backs. Now please do us a favor and pick one.
The final step of the four-step plan is for the Saints to decide on who their No. 1 back is and to make a commitment toward giving him the football.
New Orleans has struggled with throwing the football too much over the past few years, but this year it's particularly rough. Through three games, the running backs have 53 combined carries, whereas Drew Brees has 137 pass attempts. There has to be some kind of balance.
On top of the pass/run discrepancy, the run numbers are being split up between three different running backs. Mark Ingram has 27 carries, Pierre Thomas has 19 carries and Darren Sproles has seven carries on the year. If the Saints want to have any kind of consistent running game, then they'll need to decide on who their primary back is.
In case you were wondering, the correct answer to that decision is Thomas, who is averaging 7.3 yards per carry. Having a change-of-pace back behind your starter is an excellent tool, but only when the starter is getting most of the touches.
The running game needs to become a priority for the New Orleans Saints if they're going to turn their season around.