6 New Orleans Saints Who Must Step Up in Week 2 or Risk Being Benched
In the sports world there are going to be a multitude of opinions on different topics, even a team's performance in a given week. Generally people tend to follow their general personality as to how they view performances subjectively.
For instance, a person like myself who tends to be a more positive person by nature, is going to view last Thursday night's season opener as a really good game and one the Saints have a lot to build on. Others who may naturally be more pessimistic—we'll just refer to them as glass half empty people—are more likely to view Thursday night's game through the lens of everything the Saints did wrong, and of course because they did it wrong in one game the whole world is going to end, and the season might as well be over already.
Sadly this seems to be the way that most journalism is written, and even sadder than that, seems to be what the fans want. It's almost as if people want doom and gloom; as if we as a society have determined there is no hope worth hoping in, so instead let's focus on all the negatives, and then argue about them.
And if someone dares try to be positive or see the good in something, then off with their heads! Frankly, this general attitude towards virtually all things in sports has me quite frustrated. And I have to contradict everything I just said and write about six guys who, if their play doesn't improve immediately (in Week 2) should be benched, or at least have their roles seriously diminished on this 2011 team.
I hate this assignment—I'm a positive person for goodness gracious! But even the most positive person would say the Saints have a lot of room for growth from Thursday and that several guys played poorly. Yet, some of the names I mention are going to likely be a bit surprising. You'll understand after I explain on each individual player as to why I chose them, and then will put a positive spin on how they can avoid being benched, and can make a positive impact on the team.
Nickel Back Patrick Robinson
I know what you're thinking—you just promised me a surprise, someone out of the box, and you start out with the guy that every person in America thinks ought to be released and never allowed on a football field again. Well, I started with Robinson because even a glass half full type such as myself looked at Robinson's coverage against the Packers and thought, this guy's horrible!
Robinson couldn't keep up with Jordy Nelson, was out-physicaled and out-thought by Greg Jennings, and couldn't do anything right against any other Green Bay receiver. So we'll start with the bad news for Robinson.
Pat is in the undesirable position of being the nickelback on a team with two other guys possibly more qualified for that role than he is. Leigh Torrence or rookie Johnny Patrick are waiting in the wings ready to fly away with that role. Now for the good news.
Luckily for Patrick, in Week 2 the Saints play the Bears. Why is that good news? It's great news because unlike the Packers, the Bears employ a bunch of wide receivers who are technically lost, so they will not outsmart Robinson, and by and large the Bears' receivers are much less explosive than the Packers' wide outs, so they are less likely to blow by him.
So if Robinson just learns anything and recovers as a glass half full type like myself believes he will, then he should be fine in Week 2, and maintain his nickelback job for at least one more week.
Outside Linebacker Will Herring
For a guy who was starting at outside linebacker, there's not much excuse for not recording a tackle in a full regular season game. Yet, I'm pretty certain Herring somehow accomplished that very lowlight in Thursday's loss. If he did record a tackle, I can't remember it. Granted, when watching a game in real time it is very easy to miss the details and schemes.
But even upon going through the game a second time, I didn't notice Herring do anything. It's almost as if Herring decided he was just happy making the team and making the starting lineup. I seriously doubt that was his actual attitude, but for the common fan it is frustrating to see a career backup win a starting job and then do nothing with it.
I vehemently believe the Saints are going to need to be more athletic in their middle three group, which leads me to believe the starters, as of now, really should be Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Jonathan Vilma and Jonathan Casillas. Athleticism at the position will be especially important when the team is facing offenses such as the Packers who are so diverse and multiple in their attack.
The good news for Herring is that the Saints' Week 2 matchup with the Bears finds an offense that is neither super athletic nor multiple in their attack. Because of this I would expect Herring's starting role to be secure for one more week.
Defensive Tackle Shaun Rogers
Shaun had a tough preseason in his new home, especially against the run versus zone scheme teams. So it's not a complete surprise that Rogers would struggle in Week 1 against another zone scheme opponent.
Yet most fans and football people would've thought that since Rogers has been such a successful pro in both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes, in Gregg Williams' multiple fronts system Rogers would really turn it on.
Who knows, maybe he will? Maybe because he's adjusting back to a primarily 4-3 scheme and had next to no offseason to do it, he's just a little behind, almost like a rookie. Maybe there's something bigger than any fan could possibly know of.
The facts are facts: Rogers continues lose the interior battles that he was brought in to win. He is meant to hold up at the point of attack, create enough penetration that blocking schemes get blown up, allowing other defenders to come up and make attacks at or behind the line of scrimmage.
Additionally, Rogers has failed thus far to create any real pressure on the quarterback. It's not as if he is expected to get huge sack numbers, but we know he's not doing his job because Sedrick Ellis isn't getting any pressure either, which is ultimately what Rogers' job is meant to be.
The good news for Rogers, and one other guy who will appear on this list, is that Chicago's offensive line lacks continuity and frankly is bad, perhaps you could even say it is horrible. And that might be a kind statement. Rogers' level of play should pick up in Week 2 with that gawd-awful line on the other side of the ball this weekend.
Defensive End Cameron Jordan
Jordan's inclusion on this list is less indictment on him, and more on the seriousness and urgency of the Saints defensive woes through one game. It's because Jordan had to know he likely wouldn't be starting a ton this year after Will Smith returned from his two-game suspension at the start of the year.
His inclusion on this list is not because Jordan played horrible; it's more because he wasn't a stud. He didn't make anything happen. The Saints need 11 guys on the field right now who are going to make things happen. They need to get in Jay Cutler's face and create turnovers. They need to take advantage of that porous offensive line.
But it's less about this game and more about the games going forward. Houston and Jacksonville are both teams committed to ramming the ball down your throat with the run and protecting their QB. That's what those teams do, and that's why a player such as Will Smith will be so important to have back for those games.
Jordan is a good young defensive end who simply needs more time to develop. He should play, but he should not start. And that's that.
Wide Receiver Adrian Arrington
One would assume that with the injury to No. 1 wide receiver Marques Colston, who primarily plays the Z position in the offense, that Adrian Arrington would get a chance to see some significant snaps in his stead. I would say in many ways he'll be Colston's replacement, as he's the next tallest receiver on the roster at 6'3".
Meachem, though, is the next big guy and is the thickest. But Meachem plays the X position, whereas Arrington is probably more of a Z receiver. Therefore a spot likely goes to both guys, in addition to Devery and Lance Moore. My guess is that Moore will be back in the lineup this weekend which will aide the entire offense.
My greater point is that Moore and Meachem are the starters, with Devery and Arrington filling in the gaps. For Arrington that is a role he hasn't experienced as a pro. It's a tremendous opportunity, and one he has to be looking forward to. He must be prepared and play his best football this weekend. Otherwise those Randy Moss rumors may turn into reality and/or the Saints may look to sign another veteran receiver, at which point Arrington might be shown the door altogether.
Left Tackle Jermon Bushrod
Bushrod is probably the most unfair addition to this list. Honestly, I didn't want to include him here, because Bushrod actually did a pretty good job against Green Bay. Yet, Bushrod seems to be the most likely omission from the lineup if this unit can't get its act together and improve its overall play.
It's even more unfair to name Bushrod here when you consider the teams and players Bushrod had to face in the first two weeks. Green Bay, and especially Clay Matthews, and the Bears with Julius Peppers are the finest pressure units in all football. With these matchups in mind, Bushrod needs help from David Thomas and/or fullback Jed Collins.
It would also be helpful to run some screens and draws in order to make some plays to take advantage of the pressure and to cause it to back off. This would cause Peppers to think twice before going all out to get to Brees or risk putting his defense in a bad spot.
Those same guys who are going to need to help Bushrod in pass pro also need to help him in the running game. Bushrod is not a dominant lineman in the run game and needs help. In fact, he's probably better suited to play right tackle.
But on this Saints team there is no one better suited for the left tackle spot, meaning Bushrod needs to step it up, and the Saints need to give him as much help as possible. At some point it's possible they might decide it's in everyone's better interests to make a change.