New Orleans Saints: 4 Things That Must Change in 2013
After an awful 0-4 start, their midseason surge to get back to .500 was just a tease for its fans, giving them false hope. The past few weeks proved the team isn't deserving of the playoffs.
Forget the distractions of Drew Brees' contract negotiations, the one-year suspension of coach Sean Payton or the bounty suspensions, this team just looks lost. A team so accustomed to winning the past few years has seemingly forgotten how to win this season.
The disciplined, quick-strike ability high-scoring team is no more. A shell of its former self, this Saints unit is uncharacteristically bad. This kind of football is something New Orleans or its fans haven't seen the past three years when the team finished with records of 13-3, 11-5 and 13-3.
The big question is: Is this bad football a one-year thing? Or is it something that will go beyond this season.
The following are a few changes the Saints must make in 2013 in order to make this season a thing of the past.
Drew Brees Has to Play Like His Old Self
Once a model of consistency, the record-setting, former Super Bowl MVP quarterback has been mostly ineffective this year, and his mistakes have cost the Saints a few games.
Drew Brees has thrown nine interceptions in the past three games, and has 18 for the season so far. He's been guilty of trying to do too much by himself, forcing the ball down the field and trying to make the big plays.
Yes, that's what he's been doing for most of his extraordinary career, but this season it's just not there. His accuracy is off, and the communication with his receivers isn't as crisp as it was.
In order for the Saints to have a change of fortune next season, Brees has to cut down on the turnovers and get on the same page with his receivers so he can be the lethal weapon everyone knows he really is.
Cut Down on the Turnovers, Be More Focused
Turnovers have definitely been the Saints' Achilles Heel. At this point last season, the Saints only had 14 turnovers. This year they already have 23 , and 11 in their last three games.
They keep shooting themselves in the foot, and it's cost them a lot of wins.
This will most definitely change if/when coach Sean Payton returns next season. Payton's intensity and fire is missing on the practice field and sidelines, and it's no coincidence that the Saints have been playing the sloppiest football we've seen since Sean Payton joined the organization.
Jimmy Graham Has to Play Better and More Consistent
Superstar tight end Jimmy Graham has been wildly inconsistent this year—notice a trend with what's wrong with this Saints team?
Graham blew up in his second year, putting the league on notice and making himself a legitimate threat. He's a tall (6'7"), strong and versatile tight end that did some major damage with 149 receptions for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns.
This season, Graham leads the NFL with the most dropped passes and his numbers aren't what everyone expected them to be. Through 13 games, Graham has 64 receptions for 710 yards and eight touchdowns.
Graham has dropped some critical passes that have stalled or hurt the Saints this year, and he'll have to be more focused and consistent for New Orleans to return to Super Bowl glory. If he can get back to his 2011 form, the Saints can once again be that offensive steamroller they were before Sean Payton's extended vacation.
The Defense Needs to Improve
Whether they give opposing quarterbacks too much time to pick them apart with a lack of a pass rush, or its their the secondary getting burned, the Saints defense has been hard to watch this season.
Yes, they have come up with some major stops in the red zone, but this unit just gives up too much yardage and too many big plays. The defensive unit is ranked 30th in pass defense and last in run defense.
The pass-rush is terrible, not generating much pressure on opposing quarterbacks. First-year Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo needs to look for different personnel that can fit his schemes and make them more effective. In some cases, he had to go back to the Saints' old ways of blitzing often just to generate some pressure.
The secondary is either getting burned or they have just been confused; a lot of miscommunication and blown coverages due to mental errors.
Can't win too many games with this type of defense.
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