The Fleur-De-Lis Report: Andy Dalton expected to take over at quarterback as the teetering Saints face the Vikings in London
The New Orleans Saints (1-2) are in London for week 4 taking on the Minnesota Vikings (2-1). The team is in disarray coming off two bad losses as injuries and offensive inefficiencies have proven to be quite the challenge. Now, after a setback from starter Jameis Winston, the coaching staff is preparing to make a change at quarterback.
OBSERVATIONS FROM THIS WEEK
The Saints may have dodged a bullet with injuries to wide receivers (WR) Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry. Both players were evaluated Monday and their injuries aren’t suspected to be that serious. Although, they could still miss some time.
The injury report from Wednesday’s practice showed that both Thomas and Landry were non-participants. Thomas is battling a foot injury and Landry is rehabbing an ankle injury, both suffered in last week’s loss to the Carolina Panthers. Landry would return to practice under limited participation both Thursday and Friday, making him ‘questionable’ to play Sunday. Thomas did not practice at all this week and will not play in the game.
Andrus Peat (concussion), Paulson Adebo (ankle), Alvin Kamara (rip), Marcus Davenport (shoulder), JT Gray (shoulder), Deonte Harty (foot), Tre’Quan Smith (concussion), Taysom Hill (rib), and Marcus Maye (rib) were also featured on the injury report this week. Many were still dealing with nagging injuries suffered from earlier this season. It was confirmed Friday that Marcus Maye and Andrus Peat will also not suit up tomorrow.
The biggest takeaway from this week's practice was the health and status surrounding quarterback (QB) Jameis Winston. Like Michael Thomas, Winston did not participate in practice at all this week as he still rehabs the fractures in his back and a bad ankle. Friday, Coach Allen elaborated more on his gameday status saying he is ‘doubtful’ to play.
Allen made it clear that if Winston is ruled out on Sunday, it will be purely for medical reasons and not because of his performance on the field. Winston said he felt frustrated that his rehab didn’t go as according to plan this week. Backup QB Andy Dalton will start if Winston is definitively unable to play. Dalton told the media he feels he has a good rapport with the offense given that he spent most of training camp practicing with the first team.
Also this week, Dennis Allen expressed how he wants to get Taysom Hill more involved from the quarterback position. Hill was limited for the first two days of practice but was a full participant on Friday working with the quarterbacks.
PREVIEW OF THE GAME
The Saints opting to go with Andy Dalton has a lot of fans buzzing. The obvious question on everyone’s mind is will this provide the spark needed to kick start a dormant offense? It's been a combination of injuries, unsustained drives, and turnovers that have led the Saints to a poor 1-2 start.
Third down execution has been a major issue this season partly because of bad pass protection and lackluster play-calling. For context, the Saints are 13 of 39 on third down (33.3%) which ranks 24th in the league. They’ve completed just 10 of 26 third down pass attempts with Chris Olave and Michael Thomas being the only ones to catch a pass. As mentioned before, Thomas won’t be available for the game. The offensive line has also allowed 6 sacks on third down which has cost the Saints ball games. The Vikings defense has stood tall so far this year, allowing only a 34.2% third down conversion rate. The Saints will have to do a better job at maintaining drives if they are to keep the Vikings offense off the field.
New Orleans also can’t afford to give Minnesota short fields and extra possessions. So far this season, the Saints are losing the turnover battle with 9 total giveaways to only 3 takeaways (-6 differential).
Points have been hard to come by throughout the first three games as the Saints simply can’t find their way to the endzone. Andy Dalton will be tasked with piecing together drives that end in touchdowns and not field goals. Although, if the situation calls for a field goal kick, Wil Lutz has to knock them through. Last week, Lutz missed two costly opportunities, one of which was blocked, that could’ve helped swing momentum back on the Saints side. Leaving points on the board will get them beat against a formidable Vikings team.
Defensively, I believe the Saints have been solid this season but that’s a far cry from how I thought they’d be. The most alarming thing has been the lack of pressure on opposing QBs. This unit has managed just 4 sacks in 3 games which isn’t good enough. The Saints currently rank among the bottom teams in QB pressures. Hindering the Vikings offense starts with exposing Kirk Cousins inefficiencies and pressure him into mistakes. Cousins can still punish defenses if he has enough time in the pocket to find guys like Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.
Kickoff is Sunday morning at 8:30 cst.
I am cautiously optimistic about Andy Dalton getting a chance to lead this team. The offense has looked lifeless through three games so perhaps a change at QB is necessary to get this season back on track. With that said, I don’t believe Dalton is the long term solution. Hopefully, Jameis Winston can get healthy and back into the starting lineup. Winston has had his issues this season but he’s been playing with one arm tied behind his back. It’s easy to scapegoat the quarterback when things aren’t going well but considering how poorly his offensive line has played along with the injuries to himself and his supporting cast, it would be difficult for anyone to win under those conditions. Things won’t be easy for Dalton but at the very least he’s healthy.
If Alvin Kamara is relatively healthy, Pete Carmichael has to find a way to get him going, especially in the passing game. In the two games he’s played in, he’s caught only 5 passes for 19 yards. What makes Kamara such a lethal threat is his ability to attack a defense both by ground and the air. I’ve said before that he is the most dynamic player certainly on offense so hopefully he can bounce back in a big way for this team.
Lastly, it's worth noting the one of the few bright spots for the Saints’ offense this season is rookie WR Chris Olave. Olave was named offensive rookie of the month for September and what a well deserved honor for this young man. He currently leads all rookie WRs in yards at 268 and is proving to be an emerging star in the league. I expect him to become more of a focal point within the offense, especially with Michael Thomas being out.
Follow the publisher of this post on Twitter @Chris_Lunkin98 for weekly content and up to the minute updates on your New Orleans Saints.
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