We just had one of those weeks when it comes to the New Orleans Saints. The team had a less-than-stellar performance in Denver Oct. 28 and the fan base openly questioned two of the worst things you can question in an athlete: effort and heart.
The Black and Gold faithful have seen a team they hoped would vie for a Super Bowl slot playing more like a team that was hoping it could make strides merely to reach the playoffs. Occasionally the offense shows signs of the group that set records only a season ago. As for the defense — well, that's where the effort has been questioned by the Who Dats.
Heading into the Monday night game against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Saints defense is giving up an average of 304 yards per game — putting them 30th in the NFL. Opposing teams are averaging 170.1 yards on the ground — again, 30th in the NFL. Together, those stats rank the Saints defense dead last in the league.
In Denver, the defense gave up 530 yards of offense, with 225 of those yards coming via the Broncos' running game. The number of yards given up this season? A total of 3,323 yards, for an average of 474 yards per game.
I'm not ready to paint the defense as one that isn't trying; as a unit, I think they are showing some effort. I think they simply aren't very good. The defense lacks speed, playmakers and the ability to win one-on-one battles.
Twice during the last three weeks, the Saints have played in prime time, which allows you to watch the other games live during the day. It's alarming how slow the Saints' team speed is compared to many teams in the NFL. Opposing teams consistently catch the ball in space and runners hit full speed way too often once past the defensive line.
Among the Saints, there isn't a player that can get that big sack, knock a pass down in a key situation, or get that turnover that can turn a game around or, at worst, slow down the other team's momentum. The New York Giants' and Seattle Seahawks' defensive linemen look like pro wrestlers. The Saints simply don't have men of mass who can push their way to making impactful plays.
Too many times this season you see a Saints defender at the point of attack in position to make a play — and then he doesn't. How about the times where the right defense is called upon, only to see a player whiff on a tackle. My goodness, how many times have we seen an opposing player gain yards after first contact?
Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said last week that effort wasn't the issue; rather, it was poor angles, missed tackles and fundamentals. Why is that?
Some may say it's due to lack of effort, lack of heart or players who just don't care — but I say it's lack of talent.
When a player or team has mailed in a gridiron performance, it's pretty obvious. I just haven't seen or sensed that inside the Saints locker room. Judging from players' comments, they're bewildered and embarrassed by what they haven't been able to do.
I believe, as a whole, the Saints are trying — mainly because of the type of high-character men the organization has brought in. But it's time to bring in another crop of young players in the 2013 offseason.