The Fleur-De-Lis Report: Saints still searching for answers after reaching the franchise's lowest point since 2005
The New Orleans Saints (3-7) are back home this week to take on the defending Super Bowl Champions, Los Angeles Rams (3-6), in a game with almost little to no significance in the NFC playoff race. Last week, the Saints may have hit rock bottom after a 20-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers resulting in the team reaching its lowest point since before the Payton-Brees era. And with just seven games left in the season, the Saints have a lot to figure out regarding the future of the franchise.
OBSERVATIONS OF THE WEEK
Earlier this week, Coach Dennis Allen addressed the calls for a change at quarterback (QB) after two back-to-back horrendous games by Andy Dalton. As of now, Dalton will remain as the Saints starting QB after the coaching staff gave consideration to both him and Jameis Winston. According to Allen, he discussed the decision with both QBs and believed that the best course of action was to stick with Dalton. He also elaborated on Winston’s health saying he probably won’t be 100% healthy this season.
Winston started the first three weeks of the season and during that time, the Saints offense showed little to no production. I mentioned before in previous Fleur-De-Lis Reports how since Andy Dalton took over the starting role, the team has done a better job at moving the ball. However, in the last two games, the offense has completely sputtered. Andy Dalton has thrown only 2 TDs to 3 INTs, scoring 13 and 10 points respectively. The running game has been completely non-existent averaging just under 40 yards a game. And the offensive line, decimated with injury, has given up 6 sacks in 2 games.
In comparison, Andy Dalton averaged 235 yards per game on 65.2% completion over his first five starts. His TD to INT ratio was 9 to 4 and the offense as a whole scored 29.6 points per game. Complimenting him was a dominant rushing attack that amounted to over 795 yards (159 per game) and an offensive line that gave up only 4 sacks in 5 games.
Given those numbers, I believe Dennis Allen is looking at the ills of his offense as a whole instead of placing sole blame at the feet of Andy Dalton. I think he’s also factoring in the overall health of Jameis Winston, who suffered multiple back fractures and an injury to his ankle early on.
It was a brutal week of injuries as the Saints reported 10 players who didn’t participate in practice. Cornerback (CB) Marshon Lattimore remains sidelined with a bruised kidney. Allen said Lattimore isn’t quite ready to play but believes he’s close to a return. However, it’s possible his injury is more severe than previously thought. Linebacker (LB) Pete Werner also didn’t participate after having ankle surgery. It’s also believed he will return at some point this season.
Mark Ingram (knee), JT Gray (hamstring), Marcus Davenport (calf), and Cam Jordan (eye) were also absent from practice and will miss today’s game. For Cam Jordan, this will be his first ever game missed due to injury in his career.
The offensive line group is in shambles with multiple players down and out. Josh Andrews and Ryan Ramcyzk are both dealing with illnesses, however they did return to practice on Thursday in a limited role. James Hurst was out rehabbing a concussion and will not play today. Andrus Peat didn’t participate for most of the week as he deals with a tricep injury and is considered questionable. And of course rookie Trevor Penning isn’t ready to return fully yet. This week, Penning participated in walk-throughs before working with trainers. Landon Young will likely make a start at Left Tackle today.
Jarvis Landry (ankle), Marcus Maye (abdomen), and Malcolm Roach (ankle) were all present but participated in a limited capacity.
Veteran runningback (RB) David Johnson was signed to the practice squad and temporarily activated to the active roster for today’s game. Defensive lineman Niko Lalos and Prince Emili were also signed to the practice squad.
PREVIEWING THE RAMS
At the beginning of the season, this game may have been heralded as a possible playoff preview. Certainly many thought the Rams would be right back in the thick of things coming off a Super Bowl win. But instead, these two teams have been massive disappointments for a variety of reasons.
The Rams will be without their top offensive weapon in Cooper Kupp. Kupp was on pace for another monster season before going down with a high ankle sprain. Prior to injury, he had 812 yards on 75 receptions to pair with 6 TDs. However, production outside of Kupp has been hard to come by for Los Angeles. I believe this creates a big advantage for the Saints secondary.
Matthew Stafford will return after missing last week’s game against the Cardinals due to concussion. He was cleared to play earlier this week. While having Stafford under center is certainly better than some backup QB, he’s hardly been the same player who helped carry this team to a Super Bowl a year ago. He is tied for 3rd in the league in interceptions thrown and his TD production has dropped dramatically to just 8. It also doesn’t help that he’s the 4th most sacked QB in the NFL at 28 sacks.
The Rams defense also hasn’t quite been the same but make no mistake; this is still a unit that features Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, two of the premiere defensive players in all of football.
For New Orleans, it has to be frustrating coming off a loss to a team they should’ve beat. Hopefully pride kicks in and forces this team to play hard and with some passion. Alvin Kamara has been a no-show the last few weeks and being the All-Pro on this offense, the burden kind of falls on him to lift this unit up. In the last two games, Kamara was held to 62 and 45 total offensive yards, respectively. The fact of the matter is a bad game for him equates to a bad day for the Saints. Similarly, Taysom Hill has also seen a significant drop off with his last two games featuring a combined 4 rushing attempts, 1 target, and 2 pass attempts. Earlier this season, Kamara and Hill played a vital role in making this offense pop but since then we’ve seen how their lack of usage has resulted in a massive drop in productivity. Dennis Allen and Pete Carmichael must find a way to get them back in the mix.
Andy Dalton’s job remains safe for now but I’m not sure how many more bad games he’ll be allowed to have. He simply has to play better and much of that falls on not turning the ball over. He won’t have much of an offensive line to work with, especially going against Aaron Donald, but nevertheless, his decision making will be a difference maker in this game.
Kickoff is at noon.
The Saints are favored by 2.5 points. I feel like this game will be a defense struggle and a battle of field position. Both offenses are riddled with injury and simply aren’t playing up to standard. As I said before, I’m banking on the Saints defense, still featuring a few quality veterans, to show a little bit of pride and make a statement after being humiliated by the Steelers. I have them winning a tough game, 13 to 6.
Furthermore, this is not only a statement game for the Saints defense but also one for Dennis Allen. Allen has yet to win more than 4 games in a season as a head coach. We’ve seen him make questionable decisions and not have his team ready to play in many winnable ball games. We’ve also seen extremely inexcusable performances on both sides of the ball that ultimately falls on coaching or a lack thereof. With that said, I’m not saying he absolutely deserves to be fired after this season but with the way things have gone so far, it's definitely within the realm of possibility. Owners in this league have very little patience for losing and coaches are usually the first to go when things aren’t working. So needless to say, the clock is very much so ticking on Dennis Allen.
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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