Saints D Shines in 16–15 Season Opener

Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SACHr 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The season got off to a peculiar start when the Saints fumbled the ball away on the very first play.


Let’s hope not.

The Saints prevailed 16-15, and there was some good and some not so good as in all games.

It’s only one game, but I had pegged this contest against the Tennessee Titans to measure what is to come. 

I am guardedly optimistic after digesting what I saw. The Saints have a really easy schedule on paper. Less than a playoff run in 2023 will be a distinct failure for Denis Allen and his charges.

 What did we learn, or what do we think we learned? 

On one hand, we still have our stout defense. We plugged in two free-agent defensive tackles, and we kept most of the unit intact. We have a new QB who had a mixed debut, but with better protection and a running game that includes Alvin Kamara in the future, plus the addition of Jamal Williams and Keondre Miller, the run game looks promising.

The offense should be improved  with Carr at QB, an emerging Chris Olave, and the return of Michael Thomas giving this Saints team a much better receiving corps  than they have had in years,

Kamara would have made a difference against Tennessee, even though the Titans do have a stout run defense.

However, on offense, there was one glaring weakness: the play of left tackle Trevor Penning, our # 1 draft pick from 2022.

Going forward, the Saints will have to help out Penning by lining up a tight end on his side and rely on a running back to help keep Derek  Carr upright until Penning develops his game.

Opposing teams will try to exploit Penning’s deficiencies as a pass blocker. The Saints believe he can be a good player, but he is definitely not there yet. In his defense, this is, for all practical purposes his rookie year, as he was injured much of last season.

In general, I am disappointed in the Saints offensive line. NFL experts do not highly rank the unit and this is worrisome because the Saints have invested a great deal of drat capital in the offensive line. 

We have four former  #1 picks on our roster, Ramcyk, Peat, Ruiz, Penning, and if you count Erik McCoy, who was a # 2 but the Saints first pick in 2020, 5 premium picks devoted to the OL. With so many #1s along our line, you would want more of a positive result. Having said that, the line, such as it is, is good but not great. They must stay injury-free for our success because  reserves at this position would be a big step downward, 

Defensively, it can’t be overstated that the Saints D did not allow the Titans into the endzone. If the Saints can hold every opponent to 15 points and no touchdowns, we will win almost every game. 

Cameron Jordan and Demario Davi are not getting younger, but if Sunday is any indication, they are still playing at a  high level. Davis led the team in tackles, and Jordan supplied a strong rush and batted or tipped at least three passes by my count.

The good news is that Carl Granderson has come into his own and along with the other players on the DL, supplied one of the best pass rushes I’ve seen from a Saints DL in years. Granderson is an emerging star.

Grupe and Hedley have also upgraded the kicking game. This alone could be worth a couple of wins in close games.

The Titans game is history, so on to next week.

Monday night we play division rival Carolina and their new QB, Bryce Young. This is a two-fer, as a win puts us at 2-0 and gives our division opponents another loss. The Saints need to win these divisional games to get to the playoffs.

My prediction on next week’s game is Saints 24, Carolina 13.

Carr, with better protection, can be if not great at least better than average. The running game will have to wait for Kamara to flourish.

More on my thoughts next week about the Saints in the NFL draft, both positive and negative, in recent years, as this is key to explaining our slippage since Drew Brees has retired.

The bottom line is that these Saints have a real opportunity to make the playoffs and, with some luck, have a home playoff game as a division winner.

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