One quarter of the 2019 NFL season is officially in the books, and it sure did fly by. With the massive amount of anticipation that comes with gearing up for a season, fans often see the actual season flash before their eyes. It is over before we all know it, and with the Saints sitting at 3-1 after a great win in primetime over the undefeated Cowboys, it is the perfect time for Saints fans to begin seriously savoring the moments of this season. What the rest of the season holds, we have no clue. Drew Brees should be coming back within the next few weeks, but all is still uncertain.
It is smart, though, to gauge how a team will perform in the upcoming 3/4 of the season by taking a look at their statistics on the year and seeing where those marks rank amongst the rest of the NFL. Four games is enough of a sample size to properly begun to evaluate the true potential of any team, and it will only become stronger the more games are played. The Saints find themselves sitting atop the NFC South and tied with five other teams for second-best in the NFC. However, their numbers are not mind-blowing on paper. The team is finding ways to win, and no analytics will show how tenacious New Orleans is on the field. Their numbers can be telling for the future, though, and it is important to view them consistently to finish out the season.
Passing – 24th (218.8 yards per game)
Rushing – 19th (102.5 YPG)
Total yards – 26th (321.3 PG)
Scoring – T-18th (21 points PG)
Turnovers – T-6th (4) 3 interceptions 1 fumble
Sacks given up – T-19th (8)
There should be some sort of asterisk next to the passing category, as star QB Drew Brees has missed the last two and a half games for New Orleans. It’s not that Teddy Bridgewater is a bad backup by any means. In fact, he is the best backup in the league, most people will tell you, but there’s always going to be a drop off in production and talent when Brees is replaced. In Week 1 against Houston, Brees’ only full game so far this season, he threw for 370 yards. After every Week 1 game was finished, Brees and the Saints were 8th in the league in passing yards. The team has slipped back 16 spots since then, but they’ve also been 2-1 and Bridgewater has been a fantastic game manager in all three games. They obviously excel in ball control as well, being one of the ten best teams in the league in turnovers. The only major concern for the passing offense is the lack of talent behind Michael Thomas, as Jared Cook has not had a great start to his Saints tenure and Tre’Quan Smith has dealt with injuries. The only minor concern after Sunday night: the offensive line during pass protection. They drew a total of six penalties on the day, five of them holding calls, and gave up 5.0 sacks. Coming into the game, they were ranked T-2nd in the NFL after only sacrificing 3.0 sacks all season, but now sit at 18th after the ugly Dallas outing.
The part of the offense that isn’t concerning despite being in the bottom half of the league is the run game for the Saints. Alvin Kamara continues to carry the load of the backfield, totaling 16 carries in two separate games so far this season, something he has never done in the NFL previously. His backup Latavius Murray is not having a bad year himself, averaging four yards per carry through the first quarter of the season. Expect their 19th-ranked rushing attack to only get better, especially since we saw the team rush for 10 first downs on Sunday, tied for second most in the league. New Orleans’ interior offensive line, made up of Erik McCoy, Andrus Peat and Larry Warford, needs to improve upon the holding calls but also continue to dominate the trenches. They’ve done so at an elite level weeks 3 and 4, leading to the two wins.
Passing – 24th (279.3 YPG)
Rushing – 20th (112 YPG)
Total yards – 26th (391.3 PG)
Scoring – 16th (23 PPG)
Turnovers – T-11th (6) 4 fumble recovers 2 interceptions
Sacks – T-17th (10)
What a night this squad had on Sunday! They allowed just 10 points and helped Sean Payton win his first ever game as head coach of the Saints where the team does not score a touchdown. Much like the offense is trending down, this defense is trending even more-so up. They’ve jumped six spots in both passing yards and rushing yards after Sunday’s performance. The incredible return of Sheldon Rankins combined with the outstanding talent of David Onyemata, Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport helped the Saints hold standout RB Ezekiel Elliot to a season-low 35 yards. Demario Davis was an equally huge part of that success, and it was fantastic to see Rankins back to form. Also coming back to form, despite the secondary still ranking terribly low, was Marshon Lattimore on Sunday. He held Amari Cooper to just four catches for under 50 yards and zero touchdowns, earning him back a lot of respect and a post-game interview by NBC.
Speaking of the secondary, Sunday night’s defensive MVP against Dallas was Vonn Bell. The ever-improving strong safety came away with two fumble recoveries, including one where he rips the ball out of Elliot’s arm just before his elbow hits the ground. The clutch takeaway eventually helped New Orleans win the game, and the team jumped up seven spots in league-ranking for takeaways thanks to the two fumble recoveries and a garbage-time interception by Marcus Williams. The Saints would even be in the top-third of the NFL in scoring defense had Seattle not gotten those two touchdowns towards the end of the blowout win in Week 3. The Saints came into Sunday as a top-10 team in sacks, but slipped down the list after getting just one against Dallas. Expect that number to improve, though, as the team plays some shaky offense lines these next couple weeks.