But it doesn’t stop there. Michael Thomas, at times the best player on the team, will end his time on the physically unable to perform list during New Orleans’ bye week and be eligible to play in Week 7 against the Seahawks. The next week David Onyemata returns from a six-game suspension to anchor the defensive tackle rotation. Those are arguably two top-five talents on the team returning just in time to provide a spark.
If they can patch a couple of holes and reach the bye with a winning record, they’re set up well to go on a run coming out of it. That’s achievable, but there’s also a world where they have to rally back from a losing record at the bye. They’ve got to get better in a hurry.
Maybe it isn’t realistic to expect everyone coming back from injury or suspension to hit the ground running. But it’s a long season with 15 more games to play. That’s plenty of time for the Saints to figure out their issues, better adjust the offense to Winston’s abilities, and make up for their deficiencies until help arrives. Again, it’s a long season. More ugly games from the Saints will make it feel longer. Here’s hoping they get a handle on things in the weeks ahead before business really picks up.
Payton just didn’t have answers on offense. His squad put up nearly as many total yards (128) as they lost to penalties (115). They didn’t make any pass protection changes in the face of a tenacious Panthers pass rush, they continued trying and failing to run on Carolina’s defensive front, and his untalented receiving corps wasn’t able to make a play when needed. Once the offensive line collapsed the team went with them.
The Saints are built to win in the trenches, and things go completely off the rails when that doesn’t happen. Replacing injured center Erik McCoy with Cesar Ruiz was a disaster, which is surprising given how well he played last week. Ruiz was hesitant to snap on schedule and didn’t look ready to block anyone in the middle of the line.
There were several tackles for loss where he was left standing awkwardly as a spectator. If the offensive line plays poorly, Winston doesn’t have time to find the open man in a receiving corps that lacks players known for creating separation.
That latter point is an indictment of Sean Payton.
His ego has kept Stones New Orleans Saints T-Shirt the Saints from investing meaningful dollars and draft picks at wide receiver for years now, trusting his ability to scheme anyone open. When he does a bad job drawing up the game plan like this the Saints offense is completely defanged. Their only real weapon is Alvin Kamara, and Carolina committed enough attention to containing him without having to worry about any of the Saints receivers stepping up to punish them for it.
Adding Kenny Stills to the practice squad might be too little too late. Through two games, the Saints wide receivers have combined for just 164 receiving yards, 55 of them on Deonte Harris’ late touchdown grab in Week 1.
Let’s talk about the coaching. The Saints spent their week managing a series of breakthrough COVID-19 cases within the coaching staff, which kept guys away from the team in practice and ultimately sidelined eight of them on game day, mostly on offense. The results were a sloppy, low-energy product that was penalized 11 times for 115 yards. The Saints were just spread too thin and were unable to seize on Carolina’s mistakes while creating too many of their own.
And while all of those factors around Winston are important and add context to his bad day in the office, some blame needs to fall on him for simply playing poorly. He didn’t make smart adjustments before the snap or tweak protection calls, resulting in multiple unblocked rushers and subsequent sacks.