2017 New Orleans Saints: Biggest Mid-Season Surprises and Disappointments

2017 New Orleans Saints: Biggest Mid-Season Surprises and Disappointments

0

After an 0-2 start to the season, the New Orleans Saints have gone on a six-game winning streak to finish the first half with a lofty 6-2 record. There has been plenty to celebrate in the Big Easy and expectations are high for this young, exciting team. It’s crazy to think the Saints haven’t played 60 minutes of great football yet. The Saints are playing their most exciting football in quite some time, but are nowhere near perfect.

2017 New Orleans Saints: Biggest Mid-Season Surprises and Disappointments

To better understand where the Saints stand at the mid-way point of the season, we asked some Saints writers and media members to tell us what they view as the biggest surprises and disappointments of the 2017 season. What’s amazing is how different some of the opinions are.

Tyler Raymond (Writer for WhoDatDish.com and Host of the WhoDatDish Podcast @TheWDDPodcast – Twitter @RaymondTylerM)

Biggest Surprise

I believe the biggest surprise of the New Orleans Saints so far in 2017 has to be the defense, more specifically cornerback Marshon Lattimore.

Lattimore, who was selected 11th in the 2017 NFL Draft, was projected eventually to have an impact on this defense, but nobody expected his impact to come so soon. Lattimore’s confidence, immediate presence, and overwhelming playmaking ability has been something this Saints defense has never seen, especially out of a rookie cornerback. Here’s a couple of statistics to further prove the incredibleness that is Lattimore.

Marshon Lattimore has more interception return yards this year (52) than yards given up in man coverage (48).

Recently Lattimore was recognized as the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month (October).

Here are Marshon Lattimore’s stats in October

  • 16 tackles (12 solo)
  • two interceptions, including a pick six
  • five pass deflections
  • one forced fumble
  • one fumble recovery

The whole world is finally watching the greatness that is this talented rookie cornerback.

Biggest Disappointment

As of right now I believe the biggest disappointment for the 2017 Saints has to be wide receiver Willie Snead. Once upon a time, Snead played a large role in this dynamic offense. Being heavily utilized as the go-to guy, especially on third down conversions, Snead was the man with the plan for the Saints. Unfortunately this season, Snead was not only suspended for the first three games but is slowly coming to form after a persistent, nagging hamstring injury.

The Saints play their best football offensively when they have all of their playmakers present, and that most definitely includes Snead. Hopefully as he recovers, Snead will be re-acclimated into this offense that will surely help to fix the woes, and kinks that causes stuttering at times.

 Allen Ulrich (Host of the Under the Dome Podcast @underthedomepo1 – Twitter @79Saints)

Biggest Surprise

Marshon Lattimore. In arguably the best draft class the Saints have had since the legendary 1981 and 1986 classes, Lattimore has not only proven to be the crown jewel of the class, he is in contention to be rookie of the year and one of the best players selected in the first round. He has shut down every receiver he has faced, and it has gotten to be the point where quarterbacks stay away from his side of the field.
Biggest Disappointment

Coby Fleener. The popular myth is that Drew Brees and Sean Payton’s offense makes the Saints receivers. However, as we have seen with draft picks such as Nick Toon and Adrian Arrington,  Fleener has failed to take advantage of opportunities presented to him in a tight end friendly offense.

With Snead out due to suspension and subsequent hamstring injury, Fleener has been unable to win that job as the third receiver –and it shows as the Saints are either at the middle or near the bottom of the league on third down conversions (when they have traditionally been a leader). Likewise, the Saints have been struggling in the red zone, settling for too many field goals.

Fleener’s struggles helped fan the flames of Jimmy Graham returning to the Saints trade rumors last month.

Chris Rosvoglou (Host of WhoDat in NYC Podcast @WhoDatinNYC – Twitter @ChrisRosvoglou)

Biggest Surprise

I know everyone is quick to talk about Lattimore and the job he has done as a rookie. However, as great as he’s been I’d say the biggest surprise for me has to be the play of Ken Crawley. The second-year corner has been fantastic since stepping in for an underperforming PJ Williams. Last season it was Crawley who was the scapegoat for several Saints losses including the ones against the Raiders and Giants. Fast forward to 2017 and he has turned into an unsung hero for this revitalized defense. In fact, Ken Crawley has been such an important part of the secondary that it takes away the sting of losing Delvin Breaux.

Biggest Disappointment

While the Saints have seen success from several new faces on offense, the lack of production from Snead has to be frustrating for Sean Payton. This is a guy who had over 1,800 receiving yards and 141 receptions over the last two seasons. Not only did he get suspended for three games, but he also has been dealing with a nagging hamstring injury. Even though Payton expects to use him down the stretch, Snead has been a dull spot in a bright offense.

Ian Riise (Writer for LastWordOnSports.com – Twitter @HomesickWhoDat)

Biggest Surprise

The rookies. There were plenty of signs in preseason that the Saints 2017 draft class had potential, but no one could have predicted the type of success they’ve had. On offense, running back Alvin Kamara makes explosive plays every week, and Ryan Ramczyk has filled in nicely at both tackle positions.

The defensive rookies have been outstanding as well. Lattimore is playing as well as any cornerback in the league, and opposing quarterbacks haven’t been throwing near safety Marcus Williams much either. Defensive end Trey Hendrickson has two sacks as a rotational player, and linebacker Alex Anzalone made some good plays before his injury.

Biggest Disappointment

Run Defense. The Saints are giving up 4.7 yards per rush, which ranks 29th in the NFL. This hasn’t become a glaring issue yet because New Orleans has played with a lead in most of their games, forcing opponents to play catch-up by passing the ball. The Saints will face a top-15 rushing offense in six of their remaining games, making improvement in this area crucial.

Sean Williams (Feature Analyst for ProFootballSpot.com and Host of the Under the Dome Podcast @underthedomepo1 – Twitter DrewsDad3721)

Biggest Surprise

Maybe the biggest surprise of this young season thus far has been the play of the cornerbacks. Obviously there’s the budding superstar in Lattimore, who may easily be the best draftee at the position in a a decade. But second-year un-drafted free agent Ken “RipGadget” Crawley, who a year ago was pressed into the line of fire following Breaux’s broken leg, has played like a seasoned pro as well. And that has truly made a difference for this suddenly resurgent defense.

Biggest Disappointment

Let’s be honest. At 6-2, atop an NFC South division most thought you’d be in the cellar of this season, disappointment has been largely limited to this point. But if there’s one thing that I would love to see improved upon, it would be the efficiency of this offense. Improvement on such things as third down conversions could almost make this team unstoppable. If there’s a concern there, it’s that this hasn’t been an issue in recent memory.
It’s been an incredible, sometimes white-knuckle ride as we sit at the halfway point, only one more win away from matching the win total from the previous three seasons. But the biggest takeaway from the first half of this 2017 season is that for the first time in a long time, the possibilities for the Saints seem endless. And that their destiny is almost completely in their own hands.

Matt Ulrich (Featured Guest of the Under the Dome Podcast – Twitter NFLUlrich17)

Biggest Surprise

My one surprise is the huge contributions from players like Williams, Lattimore & Alex Okafor.

Biggest Disappointment

My one disappointment is Alex Anzalone getting hurt, really want to see more from him.

John Butler (Writer of LastWordOnSports.com – Twitter @SaintJohnButler)

Biggest Surprise

In my opinion, the biggest surprise of the 2017 Saints is the pass rush. The off-season leading into the 2017 season was riddled with pressure to address this aspect of the defense. The theory was the added pressure would relieve some of the stress on a young and unproven secondary. Nick Fairley‘s contract extensions seemed to help address the issues up front, but the revelation of his pre-season medical issues eliminated him as an option for the Saints. With the draft playing out the way it did, the Saints didn’t address the defensive line until their sixth pick (albeit a late third round selection) in Hendrickson. Saints fans curbed their enthusiasm.
Aside from a good interior rush, 2017 free-agent signing Okafor has been a presence on the outside and has eased the blow of losing Fairley. Okafor has been exactly what the Saints needed opposite Cam Jordan. Jordan is playing at an All-Pro level this season with that help on the other side of the line. He is currently on pace to set personal highs in sacks, interceptions, tackles and forced fumbles and also tallied his first career touchdown this year.
The Saints young secondary, Kamara and the receiving hands of Ted Ginn Jr. are also worth mentioning as great surprises thus far.

Biggest Disappointment

The Saints offense has had incredible success on third down in recent years. In fact, they have ranked in the top four in the NFL for the past six seasons (see my article earlier this year about the topic).
As it stands right now, the Saints rank 13th in the NFL in offensive third down efficiency in 2017. There may be a couple reasons for this. The three-game suspension to start the season, along with injury issues have virtually eliminated a sure-handed receiver in Snead from the 2017 Saints offense thus far. Also, the underwhelming production at the tight end position, one that can exploit physical mismatches, has contributed to the Saints decline in third down efficiency.
What the balance of the 2017 season will bring to the WhoDat Nation remains to be seen. If one were to guess, they’d have to assume there will be a lot more surprises and disappointments before it’s all said and done.

Embed from Getty Images

LEAVE A REPLY