With the season ending a little more prematurely than the Saints hoped, it is now time to sit and reflect on what should overall be considered a successful season. The offense was its normal self, ranking 4th overall in the league. Drew Brees was dynamic posting prolific passing numbers, most impressive of which being throwing only 12 interceptions after coming off a 19 interception last season. Overall, the return of Sean Payton was felt in a positive manner. Now, for some bullet points to help summarize the season for the offense and preview its future going forward.
MVP (besides Drew Brees)
Graham made the Pro Bowl, received First Team All Pro honors, and posted a career high 16 touchdowns. He started out the season on a record shattering pace, but then after injuring his foot in the New England Patriots matchup, his production slowed down a bit. Despite that, his value was still felt as defenses constantly were keying in on him which opened up the field for the rest of the players. Graham will definitely be the Saints’ top priority this offseason as he is due a new contract.
I was going back and forth on this one between the rout of the Cowboys and the narrow win over the San Francisco 49ers. After mulling it over, I ultimately decided the win over the 49ers was more impressive. Granted, the beat down given to the Cowboys was record setting, it was against one of the worst defenses to have played this season.
What makes the 49ers performance impressive was the way it was won. Up until that point, the Saints were a finesse team that couldn’t handle a physical, smash mouth team. The Saints were able to out rush them, averaging four yards a carry; and they won the time of possession battle, both of which are staples of the 49ers’ smash mouth style of play. And though Brees’ numbers weren’t gaudy, they were efficient. This game was a turning point for the Saints offense, as they finally exercised they 49ers demons, and boosted their confidence against similar style teams.
The offense sputtered at time this season, especially late. One could argue for either Seattle game as being the low point, or possibly the anemic performance in Carolina during a monsoon. However, the game that truly was the dud was Week 15 against the St. Louis Rams.
The Saints did absolutely nothing right that game against an inferior opponent. Brees turned the ball over 3 times, was sacked 4 times, hit 7 times, and pressured more than that. The running game was non-existent, and it was probably Sean Payton worst game as a play caller this season. This game then led to the benching of Charles Brown at left tackle.
What hurt the most about that game were the circumstances. Coming off a win against Carolina, the Saints still could have kept themselves in the driver seat for a first round bye against an opponent they should have beaten.
This goes to Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs, who were both selected to the Pro Bowl. However, the nature of their position makes them unsung. The Saints, unlike other teams rely more heavily on their guards than tackles due to Brees’ height. Though the offensive line got off to a shaky start, it eventually got it together despite changes to the left tackle spot.
Evans and Grubbs provided the stability for the unit and solid play. And Evans was playing injured a good bit for the first half of the season. With both players coming back next season, the Saints will expect continued cohesion along the offensive front.
Drew Brees will be back next season so one can expect the same prolific numbers that we have gotten used to. However, this offensive unit is aging a little bit and even Brees acknowledged the window is shrinking. The Saints will need to do something to shake up the offense, but the first priority is making sure Graham is signed.
Other than Graham, the main decision point will be Zach Strief who played well at the right tackle spot. Through the draft or free agency hopefully the Saints can grab a playmaker at receiver. There were too many games where the receivers were getting no separation from single coverage. With all the attention on Graham and the middle of the field, the Saints must get a receiver who can take advantage.