Tuesday, December 22, 2015

New Orleans Saints should resist the urge to go crazy this off-season

Posted By on Tue, Dec 22, 2015 at 3:14 PM

The CJ Spiller signing didn't work out. Let's not make that sort of mistake again.
Last night, the New Orleans Saints' offense started poorly but rallied and produced 27 points — but because it is paired with the Saints' defense, the result was only a quarter's worth of something resembling fun. Nothing new happened, in other words. In the end, the Saints were imperfect but good enough to win on offense and spectacularly bad on defense, so they lost.

Change the point total and you can use that summary for a lot of games this year, so let's move on.

NFL teams skew towards .500 in close games — games decided by a touchdown or less. Often, teams that fall below that mark one year improve dramatically the next. For example, the 2008 Saints went 3-6 in one-score games, but the 2009 ones went 5-2 in them, including the playoffs. 

The 2014 Saints went 3-5 in one-score games — 2-5 if you don't include the season finale win over Tampa Bay that looked suspiciously like a Bucs draft positioning conspiracy. So what happened this year? Why haven't the Saints improved?

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Friday, December 18, 2015

For the Saints, the grass probably isn't greener beyond Sean Payton after all

Posted By on Fri, Dec 18, 2015 at 12:56 PM

Keep the Jimmy Buffett fan after all.

Football Outsiders, the pioneering advanced football statistics site that uses a mixture of math and arcane witchcraft to produce numbers no one understands, ranked the best and worst defenses since 1989. You shouldn't be surprised that the Saints are the worst one.

We already knew this, of course. What'll be interesting to see is whether the Saints improve on these numbers over the next few weeks. If linebacker Dannell Ellerbe stays healthy, maybe they will.

Improvement would give us reason to hope that maybe, despite what I've written in this space over the past couple months, Sean Payton can turn the franchise back around. More and more that seems like the best path, however he may work it out.

The problem with change in the current NFL is that almost every potential coach is a terribly depressing retread.

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Apparently linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is the key to everything for the Saints

Posted By on Mon, Dec 14, 2015 at 12:58 PM

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe has been an enigma since his days with the Baltimore Ravens.

So I sat down to watch the Saints play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers yesterday with the same level of interest I've devoted to most Saints games in 2015: It was something to do. Linebacker Danniell Ellerbe, who is almost always injured, was on the field for the first time in a while. The Saints' defense played pretty well. Eventually, the Saints won.

It was a pretty okay afternoon.

Did you realize the Saints are 4-1 this year in games Ellerbe has appeared in, and 1-7 in games he hasn't? Ellerbe, it turns out, might be the difference between sucking and not sucking. 

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Franchise at a crossroads: What the New Orleans Saints should do this off-season

Posted By on Thu, Dec 10, 2015 at 5:14 PM

The most likely scenario is the Saints will play in the Superdome next year.
The most frustrating thing about being a New Orleans Saints fan these past few years is that everything has been the same every year. The Saints are always pretty good on offense and have a good quarterback, but are always (2009 and 2013 excepted) terrible on defense. The particulars change — Steve Spagnuolo becomes Rob Ryan becomes Dennis Allen; Corey White becomes Brandon Browner; and so on. But the larger story remains the same.

It's pretty tiring. If it's finally going to change, here's what needs to happen — and what'll probably happen.

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Y@ Speak: least popular

Posted By on Mon, Dec 7, 2015 at 1:47 PM

Penalty fan Brandon Browner joins a list of least-liked New Orleans Saints along with Martin "I don't like football" Gramatica and interception machine Aaron Brooks. Browner is disliked more than parking meter rate hikes, the NRA and closing down Royal Street — all in this week's edition.

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

All I want for New Orleans Saints Christmas is two particular wins

Posted By on Thu, Dec 3, 2015 at 2:36 PM

The Saints line up for a play in 2011 against one of the two teams on their 2015 schedule that still matters.

The 2014 New Orleans Saints were a pretty bad football team, but at least they were enraging, frustrating and interesting. "2014 is the worst," a friend told me more than once. He doesn't say that about 2015, because it's hard to feel enough emotions about the Saints in 2015 even to complain about them.

They aren't just the worst Saints team of the last decade. They're also the least-compelling Saints team of the last decade — maybe of the 21st century. Four interesting things have happened: Drew Brees injured his shoulder; Michael Mauti's punt was blocked and inspired a win over the Atlanta Falcons; Brees' seven touchdowns against the Giants; and the firing of Rob Ryan.

That half of that short list consists of bad things pretty much says all you need to know about the 2015 season.

But two more good and compelling things still could happen. The Saints could beat the undefeated Carolina Panthers on Sunday, and they could end their season by beating the Atlanta Falcons.

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Monday, November 30, 2015

Sean Payton's New Orleans Saints enter the wilderness

Posted By on Mon, Nov 30, 2015 at 1:59 PM

Sean Payton at Saints training camp during better days.

So much for even temporary Allenmania.

Against the Houston Texans, the Saints' defense was actually a little bit better than it has been for much of the year. They held Houston quarterback Brian Hoyer to 7.4 yards per attempt, which is a lot better than the 8.8 the team has allowed as a whole. It wasn't enough, of course, as the talented Texans' defense mauled a Saints offense that consists of a quarterback and a running back and not much else.

The Saints just don't have many good football players right now. Their much-discussed $33 million in dead cap space seems as good an indicator of what they're dealing with as anything. The Saints have about 75 percent of a football team. They are like a college program on probation.

And it takes a lot of optimism to envision things getting a whole lot better any time soon.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

My prediction for the Saints? Temporary Allenmania!

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2015 at 4:32 PM

A while ago — I can give you the exact dates, from my chat archives: October 6 and October 7 — a friend and I talked in fascinated detail about how well the New Orleans Saints' defense was doing on third down. 

"It's the only down we don't give up over ten yards per pass attempt," my friend said.

I said, "Yeah, we're actually good on third downs, when we get them."

My friend said, "Once we get them to third down, man, WATCH OUT!" 

Of course, we were both mostly amused, because the Saints were so bad at everything else about playing defense that their third down success seemed mysterious and inexplicable. Some sort of random deviation. A joke from the football gods.

Imagine my surprise when, after the Saints fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and replaced him with assistant coach Dennis Allen, ESPN's Ed Werder reported: Well. Huh.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Would firing Rob Ryan even matter? What comes next for the New Orleans Saints?

Posted By on Mon, Nov 16, 2015 at 4:25 PM

Sean Payton masks in the gutter.

Whatever Sean Payton chooses to do with Rob Ryan — and Ryan should most certainly be fired, as morning reports today indicated he was, before Payton dispelled them, for now — the Saints have bigger problems. All of their problems relate to defense. 

In ten seasons since 2006, the Saints have ranked 20th or worse in total defense an astounding seven times. They have ranked 31st or 32nd three of the last four years. It's a situation that never was good and has only gotten worse.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Here's how bad you should expect the New Orleans Saints' defense to play on Sunday against Washington

Posted By on Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 2:23 PM

The Saints' defense performs terribly on the road against Washington in 2008. The more things change...

This has been the week sportswriters have caught up with how bad the New Orleans Saints' defense has been all year — yes, even back when there were happy delusions that things might be getting better.

Today, the always sensible Mike Triplett over at ESPN added more helpful context to the discussion.
The Saints (4-5) are on pace to allow the highest opponents' passer rating of all-time (112.0), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The current record of 110.9 was set by the 0-16 Detroit Lions in 2008.
The Saints are near .500 even though they have the defense of an 0-16 team, basically. You can thank Drew Brees for that, as I wrote the other day

Another excellent way to evaluate the quality of a defense is to look at how many yards it gives up per pass on average. The Saints are historically bad in that number, too — currently they are giving up 8.5 yards per pass. What makes that number even more damning is they've managed it against a slate of offenses that aren't exactly scary.

So buckle your metaphorical chin strap and let's take a look at what horrors the team with the worst passing offense by yards per attempt, Washington, will unleash on the Saints this weekend.

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