The Saints are not a good football team. Not now, maybe not the rest of the season.
The group of highly-paid stars on defense is underperforming in a big way.
Safety Jairus Byrd, the former Pro-Bowler, has made one big play. That was a forced fumble in week one. Since then, crickets. The other safety, second-year player Kenny Vaccaro, has been largely invisible.
The Saints let Malcolm Jenkins, a former first round draft pick, walk away during the offseason. General manager Mickey Loomis found a lot of money to spend and decided to “upgrade” the safety position in an effort to emulate the Seahawks suffocating defense. The difference is the Seahawks had a much better defense to begin with. Plugging Byrd into the Saints defensive backfield wasn’t going to be an instant game-changer. Incidentally, Jenkins’ three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) lead the Philadelphia Eagles this season. He’s also tied for the NFL lead.
This is about more than The Greenbrier. People all over the place are yapping about the country club training camp and the team being soft. A lot of teams train in mild weather — the Seahawks, 49ers, Chargers and more. This team has issues reaching far beyond where training camp was held.
This is about no big plays on defense, a turnover drought, no pass rush, suspect pass protection from the offensive line and a lack of explosiveness on offense. Whether training camp was held in West Virginia or the Sahara Desert, those numerous issues would still be crippling problems.
The Saints have played four games and forced one turnover. One. It came on the first drive of the first game. Since then, radio silence. No one has made a big play. For whatever reason, the defense that was the fourth-ranked in the league last season can’t get off the field this season. But it’s not all the defense’s fault. The offense has been wildly inconsistent, too. Interceptions, dropped passes, fumbles and a lack of urgency have plagued the team through the first four weeks. Where are all those weapons? The Saints were supposed to have so many playmakers on offense the other team wouldn’t be able to cover them all. About that…
A team can’t dig a 24-0 hole and expect to climb out of it. The Saints offense has to sustain drives and keep the defense off the field. The Cowboys had the 20th-ranked defense in the league going into Sunday’s game. They hadn’t impressed anyone. The Saints made them look like world beaters.
Saints players spent all week talking about stopping the NFL’s leading rusher, DeMarco Murray. At first they did… and Tony Romo lit them up. The Cowboys’ passing game opened up their running game and Murray finished the game with 149 yards. The Cowboys’ momentum started building on the first drive and the Saints never could stop it. Things began to snowball and before you knew it, the Cowboys had 24 first downs, were 8 of 14 on third downs, had 445 total yards and dominated time of possession — 34:45 to 25:15.
The Saints are now 7-14 in their last 21 road games. Road games the rest of the season include visits to Detroit, Carolina, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Tampa Bay. That’s not easy.
Tampa is up next, then the bye week. After that it’s a brutal four-week stretch in the NFC.
At 1-3, the Saints are running out of time to salvage this season.