The Saints Are Dreadful but Totally Blaming Jameis Winston Is Shortsighted

New Orleans Saints” by Steve Selwood is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

The New Orleans Saints dodged a PR bullet by not trading for Dashaun Watson in the offseason. Unfortunately, now, the Saints cannot dodge the bullets of criticism being lobbed their way.  

New Orleans is 1-2 two as the team limps into London for Week 4 of the NFL season. The offense is a dumpster fire after three games with Jameis Winston failing to spark the team.  

But where did it go wrong?  

Winston led the Saints to a Week 1 win against NFC South rivals, the Atlanta Falcons, 27-26. The quarterback inspired a 17-point fourth quarter and threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns. Saints fans saw the best of Winston in Week 1. He completed 23 of 34 passes and played Drew Brees-esque down the stretch.

However, Winston has been abysmal since leading New Orleans to the fourth-quarter comeback win in Hotlanta. In Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the quarterback threw three picks in a 20-10 loss. One week later, New Orleans fell 22-14 to NFC South rivals, the Carolina Panthers, with Winston tossing two more interceptions.  

The NFL season is still in its infancy, and the Saints are far from out of the playoff picture. Further losses and New Orleans’ season could be over before it begins. One of the best aspects of the NFL compared to the NBA, MLB, or NHL, is the short length of the season. Teams don’t have a lot of time to get things right. The NFL regular season is a sprint, rather than a marathon. New Orleans head coach Dennis Allen must adapt quickly before falling too far behind the NFC South-leading Bucs.  

New Orleans is –17 in points, with the offense averaging 17 points per game. The defense has done its job, for the most part, allowing opponents 22.7 ppg. The Saints’ offense has to get going in London, and a change of quarterback could be the way to spark the offense.  

Back-up Andy Dalton took first-team reps in Wednesday’s practice in London. The company line from the Saints was Winston needed rest due to a back injury, and Dalton got reps to stay fresh if needed. Winston has had a back injury all season, and it is being blamed, to some extent, for his play. 

Dalton played well in preseason, and there are plenty of Saints fans calling for the former Cincinnati Bengal signal caller to get the start ahead of Winston. Dalton opened preseason under center against the Houston Texans, going five for five in passing and completing one touchdown pass.  

Dalton didn’t see action against the Green Bay Packers but returned for Week 3 of preseason versus the Los Angeles Chargers. Dalton went five for five once more. Although he didn’t throw a touchdown pass, Dalton looked confident leading the Saints’ offense.  

Fans that want a quarterback change aren’t likely to get one. Recent quotes from Allen suggest Winston will remain the team’s starter. When asked about Winston following the loss to Carolina, Allen said: 

“I think everybody when you get in these situations, is looking for a place to place blame. There is enough mistakes to go around that I don’t really want to go there. I feel confident with Jameis. Certainly, we all need to do better and that is what we are going to do.” 

Allen may have been protecting his player. No head coach wants to come out after a game and tell the media that there is going to be a quarterback change. Yet, Allen has reason to stick with Winston, even if fans disagree. 

New Orleans signed Winston to a new two-year contract worth $28 million earlier this year. The player has $21m guaranteed. Therefore, the Saints have 21 million reasons to stick with Winston for now. The quarterback also got a $14m signing bonus. New Orleans has sunk a lot of money into Winston, and changing quarterbacks now would be an admission of wrongdoing by the entire coaching staff and front office.  

The Saints go into Week 4 ranked seventh in passing yards in the NFL with 858. Winston’s five interceptions lead the league. However, those five interceptions may not be fully Winston’s fault.  

Sure, the quarterback is struggling to connect with an injury-hit wide receiver corps, but the offensive line hasn’t done Winston any favors. New Orleans’ offensive line has allowed the fourth-most sacks in the NFL (11).  

The team’s run game ranks 16th in the league, with 335 total rushing yards. No Saints running back has tallied a 100-yard rushing game in 2022. Even in the modern NFL where vertical passing is king, the run game is needed to take pressure off the quarterback. So far, the running game has been nonexistent, unless you are talking about turnovers. 

While Winston is struggling to connect with his teammates, throwing five picks, the running game has committed four fumbles. The Saints lead the NFL in giveaways with nine. A team cannot expect to win the division and make the NFL playoffs by gifting the ball away. It doesn’t take a math genius to see that the Saints average 3.0 giveaways per game.  

New Orleans is shooting itself in the foot by giving the ball away. The offense’s struggles are forcing the defense to play catch up. The Saints’ defense has three takeaways, a decent total after three games. Yet, the team’s -6 differential is the worst in the NFL. 

The offense’s struggles aren’t completely down to Winston, and Allen wants to stick with the quarterback. Unfortunately, New Orleans runs the risk of falling further behind in the standings.  

With Michael Thomas likely out this weekend with a toe injury, Tre’Quan Smith dealing with a concussion, and Jarvis Landry nursing an ankle injury, Allen will need the run game to step up. Smith and Landry did practice on Wednesday in a limited capacity. Their participation on Sunday is still up in the air. 

What isn’t up in the air is Winston. He should start against the Minnesota Vikings at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Whether the London smog inspires a renewed performance is anyone’s guess ahead of kickoff.

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