Now the dust has settled from another infuriating Saints loss on Thursday night in the Arizona desert, let’s take a look at some positives and not-so-positives from the game. Let’s start with some good.
Saints Players Tending Up
It was clear after his 44-yard scamper against the Bengals and it’s even more clear now. Rashid Shaheed should get more snaps in this offense.
On the first drive on Thursday night Andy Dalton found Shaheed on a perfect deep ball for a 53-yard touchdown. Then, as in the Bengals game, Shaheed disappeared.
Shaheed played on ten snaps on Thursday night, which is an improvement from the nine he played the week prior but still feels like there’s a lot more meat on the bone in regard to his potential as an offensive playmaker.
Shaheed is the only player this season with a 30+ yard rushing and receiving touchdown. He’s only touched the ball twice. On his touchdown catch on Thursday night he reached a top speed of 21.9mph. That is game-wrecking speed, only the elite speed players reach the 22mph mark, it certainly seems like Shaheed is capable of that.
With that speed teams are going to start playing off coverage on Shaheed which means routes like deep out and in routes, curls and shallow crosses are going to open up for Shaheed and this offense, meaning Shaheed doesn’t have to be an elite route runner to find success.
He doesn’t have to be a player who catches six passes a game (although I really think he could develop into that) but he certainly is a player who the Saints need to make sure gets more touches and targets.
Imagine his deep play ability and speed when Jameis Winston returns as the starting QB (which I think will happen when the Saints play next). Last season Winston showed great rapport with another un-drafted return specialist WR last season Deonte Harty), Shaheed looks like another player that will fit Winston’s skill set perfectly.
Shaheed shares a lot of similarities with Harty, elite return ability and elite speed and deep play ability the biggest difference? Size, Harty is five-foot-seven and 170 pounds, and Shaheed is six-foot-180. That’s huge for his NFL potential and should hopefully help Shaheed sustain a longer and more productive NFL career from an injury perspective, something that unfortunately Harty has struggled with.
Outside of Marshon Lattimore, the cornerback group has been a big disappointment for the Saints this season but, on Thursday night, Taylor looked like a real asset and someone who can develop into a plus starter for this team.
Yes, it’s a small sample size and with an extended playing time it could be different but to only give up one catch from five targets for 17 yards is a great start to anyone’s NFL career.
He was matched up with former all-pro Deandre Hopkins plenty and showed sticky coverage. The one catch Taylor gave up was to Hopkins but was right there with him the whole way, he was also targeted another time in coverage against Hopkins was incomplete.
With Roby potentially side-lined and Paulson Adebo struggling severely to start the season the runway is clear for Taylor to start and develop, if he can continue his form from Thursday night that will go a long way to giving Marshon Lattimore and this Saints secondary the boost they need.
I could put most of the o-line on this list, but frankly, I wanted to shout out one of the most maligned players (for good reason) on Saints twitter for the last two years the spotlight.
Cesar Ruiz’s improvement this year has been astronomical. From a player who was memed regularly on social media for missed blocks and regular quick and dreadful beats, now looks like a player the Saints can build around.
Don’t believe me? Well, listen to o-line expert and Twitter legend Brian Baldinger
If Ruiz keeps this up and Ryan Ramczyk’s knee holds up, the Saints have a legit elite right side of their o-line to build around for years to come. On an aging team, this is a genuine plus for the future of this team. If Trevor Penning comes back and continues to improve at the rate, he was pre-injury? Then look out, this Saints o-line will be back to being one of the best in the league for years to come.
Now for the bad.
Saints Players Trending Down
The Saints thinking safety Justin Evans was able to replace Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was nothing other than arrogant hubris and it’s hurting this team.
Evans can’t cover, tackle or make plays like Chauncey could, frankly other than size and being a safety prior to being played in the slot there are no similarities in Evans’s play. Now, is this unfair to point out considering he hadn’t played in the NFL due to injuries since 2018 before this season? Ordinarily yes it would be. But the Saints have put this spotlight on him by giving away C.J.G.J and expecting Evans to be the same guy.
Per PFF he surrendered seven catches from eight targets for 75 yards and a touchdown. Four of those catches converted into the Cardinals’ first downs. Since a solid Week, One against Atlanta Evans has been a player that other teams pick on when he’s on the field.
He also missed two tackles on Thursday night, yes this is a widespread problem across the Saints’ defense but Evans is a part of that. One of his misses where he had Cardinals RB Keaontay Ingram one on one, the tackle would have resulted in a minimal gain setting up third and medium. Instead turned into a 24-yard gain (yes many other Saints defenders after him whiffed as well) but these are plays you have to make when you are losing games.
Unfortunately, with injuries in the secondary being rife Evans has played a lot of snaps and will continue to be relied upon going forward.
I really believe Dalton had a chance to be the Saints starting QB going forward. Since being the starter, the offense has not been the reason the Saints have been losing games.
He’s moved the ball well, got Alvin Kamara firmly involved and the offense has had the best rhythm by a mile with him under center.
Unfortunately for him, I think he made the Saints’ decision for them on Thursday night. Again, he looked really good, moved the ball well he threw for 361 yards, and threw four TDs. However, he also threw three interceptions, one in the RedZone after a 15-play dive that would have extended the Saints’ lead in the first quarter.
The next two sealed the Saints’ fate, the game was tied 14-14 with 02:28 left in the second quarter. The Saints had a chance to take the lead before the half. In the course of seven plays Dalton thew two pick-sixes, instead of the Saints going into the half at worst tied but probably leading, they were now down by 14.
I will spare Dalton on the first pick-six. The responsibility for that solely falls with WR Marquez Callaway (more on him shortly) the second the drive after was on him- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IdBGMS6WWE
You can see Dalton’s plan; pressure was coming and Olave was open behind Isaiah Simmons but the throw was poor and cost the Saints dearly.
The biggest reason to start Dalton over Winston was interceptions. If Dalton is going to throw them as like that as well, you might as well go with Winston as his upside greater than Daltons and hope Winston’s arm talent steals you some games.
I believed in you Andy, but Thursday night might have made the Saints starting QB decision for them.
I’ve been a firm believer that New Orleans needs to find a way to get Marquez Callaway more snaps, even when Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry return.
That belief took a dent on Thursday night but my main reason for putting Callaway on this list is the first pick-six.
That’s a play you have to make,
It was an easy NFL catch to make, not only did he not make it, he bobbled it up perfectly to the trailing CB for an easy interception that the Cardinals returned for a touchdown. This was the start of the end for the Saints.
To add to it because of some excellent camera work Callaway’s error also turned a terrible moment for the Saints into an awful meme moment for Andy Dalton that he will be seeing for years to come.
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