Tag Archives: Sean Payton

A Golden Opportunity

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After the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl at the conclusion of the 2009 National Football League season, they suffered a pair of heartbreaking postseason losses in 2010 and 2011 respectfully. Since then the Saints have only had one playoff appearance which can be traced back to the organization’s punishment for “Bountygate” which saw the NFL strip them of several draft picks, and the five-year, $100 million extension that quarterback Drew Brees signed in 2012. These two moves saw the Saints have a huge dip in their depth and overall talent pool as they were now fighting an uphill battle. Each of the last three years have seen the Saints finish with a record of 7-9 as they were a couple of breaks away from getting back to the postseason. But for the first time in a long time the Saints have a chance to put their inconsistencies behind them and get back to the playoffs if they continue to take care of business this off-season.

Brandin Cooks

In a surprising move this off-season the Saints traded wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the New England Patriots. Cooks was a first-round selection of the Saints in 2014 and he led the club in receiving yards in each of the last two seasons. Cooks was rapidly emerging as one of the best receivers in the National Football League; however he was falling out of favor in New Orleans after he began to publicly criticize the routes that he was sometimes asked to run. In exchange for sending Cooks to the Patriots, the Saints received a first and third-round pick, while they are also sending a fourth-round selection to New England. And with this additional arsenal of picks, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis could be ready to knock one out of the park.

Sean Payton

Saints head coach Sean Payton is one of the sharpest offensive minds in the National Football League, while Brees is a future Hall of Famer. And thus New Orleans has been one of the top offenses in the NFL in recent years. But Brees’ golden right arm alone can’t carry the Saints. The Saints issues have been on the defensive side of the football where they have not finished higher than 27th in total defense in each of the last three years which could be finally remedied later this month in the National Football League Draft.

The Saints are scheduled to pick three times within the first 42 selections and they could rack up on some defensive talent. After New Orleans was only able to tally 30 sacks last season with defensive end Cameron Jordan leading the team with 7.5, they have a chance to beef up their pass rush. Quality defensive ends such as Taco Charlton, Derek Barnett, and Charles Harris are all expected to be available when the Saints pick 11th. And as the Saints secondary has been barbecued in recent years, players such as cornerback Marlon Humphrey and strong safety Obi Melifonwu could be in play for them early as well. At some point the Saints are going to have to attempt to replace Cooks and his production. But being that most wide receivers in New Orleans are a product of having Brees throw them the football, I don’t see replacing Cooks as a top priority when the draft begins as their defense must find a way to neutralize Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback if they want to win the NFC South.

Mickey Loomis

In 2015, Loomis took some heat when he traded All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks. In exchange for Graham, New Orelans received center Max Unger and Seattle’s first-round pick. The Saints would use that selection on outside linebacker Stephone Anthony who in a short period of time has become a leader on the defensive side of the football. And if Loomis can find some game changing play makers on the defensive side of the football later this month in the draft, he could make the folks on the bayou forget about Cooks; especially if the Saints can get back to the playoffs.

This is the first time in a long time that the Saints will have a chance to get back on track. And if Loomis and Payton are able to it right, New Orleans could still be playing football when January rolls around.

Source: Pro-football-reference.com

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2015 NFC South Projections

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X-Carolina Panthers 10-6

Generally when teams in the National Football League finish the season with a record of 7-8-1, it symbolizes that you were close to being a playoff team, but you were too inconsistent. That was the record of the Carolina Panthers last season which was actually good enough for them to win the NFC South. And as inconsistent as the Panthers were in 2014, they have the potential to be much more dynamic in 2015.

Cam Newton

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Ron Rivera have done a good job in building around quarterback Cam Newton as they look to win the NFC South for an unprecedented third consecutive year. Newton was only 5-8-1 as the Panthers starting quarterback last season, but he was rewarded by the Panthers as they signed him to a five-year, $103.8 million extension this off-season. Newton threw 18 interceptions last season and his completion percentage was 58.5, but the Panthers believe in him as far as being the quarterback that can get them to the Super Bowl.

Around Newton, the Panthers have big options for him in the passing game. Tight end Greg Olsen is 6’5″ and rookie wide receiver Devin Funchess is 6’4″ as people may confuse them for the Charlotte Hornets. And the size and pass catching ability of Olsen and Funchess will somehow be able to offset the loss of wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin who tore his ACL in training camp.

But regardless who the coach of the Panthers is, their bread and butter has always been their rushing attack. The Panthers were seventh in rushing in the NFL last season and this year running back Jonathan Stewart is expected to get the bulk of the work after Carolina parted with longtime running back DeAngelo Williams. Stewart is entering his eighth season in the NFL, but he has only had one season where he carried the football at least 200 times. And just in case that Stewart is unable to be the feature back for the Panthers, the team did draft running back Cameron Artis-Payne who will give them an element of speed.

Under Rivera, the Panthers know how to wreak havoc on defense as they finished last season ranked tenth overall in total defense which is due to the fact that they can get after teams at every level. Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei plugs up holes on the defensive line which makes the job of inside linebacker Luke Kuechly that much easier. In just three seasons in the National Football League, Kuechly has already been named as the Defensive Rookie of the Year and the Defensive Player of the Year as he tackles anything that moves. In the off-season, the Panthers did sign longtime Chicago Bears cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman. Tillman is 34-years of age and he can be a teacher in the Panthers secondary as he has perfected the art of stripping the football from opponents.

The Panthers first four games of 2015 will not see them face a team that made that playoffs last year, but two of those games will be within the NFC South as they’ll take on the New Orleans Saints which will be followed by a road game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After the Panthers bye week in Week 5, they will travel to take on the Seattle Seahawks as these two clubs have engaged in some physical battles recently and this year’s meeting could have an impact on playoff seeding in the NFC. The Panthers are built to win the NFC South, but the loss of Benjamin could prevent them from making a deep run in the postseason.

Atlanta Falcons 8-8

No head coach in the history of the Atlanta Falcons has won more games the Mike Smith, but the bottom fell out for him in 2015. Smith was 66-46 in seven seasons as the head coach of the Falcons including a trip to the NFC Championship Game in 2012. But in Smith’s last two seasons in Atlanta, the team was 10-22 which led Falcons owner Arthur Blank to fire him. Smith has been replaced by former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn who will look to inject some of that Seahawks swagger into the Falcons.

Matt Ryan

Quinn won’t be starting from scratch in Atlanta as he has a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback in Matt Ryan. Ryan has passed for more than 4,000 yards in each of the last four seasons as he is now the franchise’s all-time passing leader. The Falcons had the fifth ranked passing offense in the National Football League last season and along the way there was a changing of the guards. Injuries limited wide receiver Roddy White last season which saw Julio Jones emerge in the Falcons offense. Jones had 104 receptions and set a Falcons franchise single-season record with 1,593 receiving yards. Jones is beginning to show the talent that made the Falcons trade up twenty spots in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft to select him. White is 33-years of age and coming off of knee problems that hindered him in 2014, but he can still be effective in the Falcons offense.

Ryan was sacked 31 times in 2014 and it will be the job of the Falcons offensive line led by left tackle Jake Matthews to prevent the franchise quarterback from being on his back while looking up at the lights in the Georgia Dome as much as possible.

The Falcons have lacked a strong running game in recent years and the young legs of second-year running back Devonta Freeman and rookie running back Tevin Coleman are going to be needed in order to balance out Atlanta’s offense.

However Quinn will have to start from scratch with the Falcons defensively as they finished last in the National Football League last season in total defense. The Falcons only totaled 22 quarterback sacks last season and that isn’t going to get it done in a division that has Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

Dan Quinn

Quinn is attempting to change the culture in the Falcons locker room and it will take some time. The early part of the Falcons schedule does have an NFC East theme as they’ll begin the season against the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, and Dallas Cowboys. The Falcons won’t have their first divisional game until Week 6 when they travel to take on the Saints as they look to become a playoff contender in 2015.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6-10

A 2-14 record in 2014 earned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the first overall pick of the 2015 National Football League Draft. The Buccaneers made no secret about the fact that they wanted Jameis Winston to be their next starting quarterback and they used the first overall pick of the draft on him this past spring.

Jameis Winston

In two years as the starting quarterback at Florida State University, Winston posted a record of 26-1 to go along with leading the school to a national championship and winning the 2013 Heisman Trophy. Winston has all of the physical tools necessary to be a good professional quarterback, but the Bucs will have to tread with him caution due to the fact that he has had several off-the-field issues while he was in college. But as long as Winston comes in prepared to play, he can have immediate success in the Bucs offense. Last year Tampa Bay had two wide receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans who both had over 1,000 yards receiving. Jackson and Evans are each 6’5″ and they provide match-up nightmares for opposing defensive backs; especially in the red zone.

But the Bucs must get more out of their running game that was 29th in the National Football League last season and their leading rusher was Doug Martin with just 494 yards. And if Tampa Bay is unable to run the football more efficient in 2015, it will mean that too much pressure will be placed on the right arm of Winston this year.

Surprisingly the Buccaneers were 25th in the NFL last year in total defense under head coach Lovie Smith. Smith is a defensive guru when it comes to coaching the “Cover 2”, but he needs players that are going to step up and make plays in his system.

The Bucs first test of the season will come in Week 4 when they host the Carolina Panthers who are the defending NFC South Champions and a victory there could give Tampa Bay the confidence they need to contend for a playoff berth in 2015.

New Orleans Saints 5-11

The New Orleans Saints are coming off of their second losing campaign in the past three seasons and what they are currently cooking up down on the Bayou isn’t going to get them any closer to turning things around. Ever since quarterback Drew Brees signed his $100 million contract extension with the Saints in 2012, the team around him hasn’t been that good which is evident in their record. Brees is coming off of his ninth consecutive season in which he passed for at least 4,000 yards and he also led the National Football League in pass attempts with 659. But as good as Brees is, one man cannot do it by himself in the NFL.

Brees’ security blanket with the Saints the past four years has been tight end Jimmy Graham. But like Brees, Graham wanted more money and with New Orleans unwilling to give him the long-term financial security that he was seeking, he was traded this off-season to the Seattle Seahawks which leaves a huge void in the offense for New Orleans.

Rob Ryan is set to enter his third year as Saints defensive coordinator, but he still hasn’t been able to find the impact players that are necessary for his 3-4 defensive scheme to flourish.

The magic appears to be running out for Saints head coach Sean Payton and Brees in New Orleans as this team is nowhere near ready to compete for another Super Bowl Championship.

X-Clinched Division

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It’s Time For Sean Payton To Rally The Troops

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Sean Payton

Since 2006, Sean Payton has seen his fair share of ups and downs as the head coach of the New Orleans Saints. In his first season in New Orleans, Payton guided to the Saints to an appearance in the NFC Championship Game. In 2009 under Payton, the Saints won their first Super Bowl Championship in franchise history and under him they’ve continued to be a perennial title contender while the Bountygate scandal forced Payton to miss the entire 2012 National Football League season. Payton and the Saints rebounded to make the playoffs in 2013, but things have been shaky at best this season.

The Saints were expected to contend for the playoffs once more this season which they have, but it hasn’t been as pretty as expected. The Saints are currently 5-7 and in spite of this they are tied with the Atlanta Falcons for first place in the supremely putrid NFC South. The Falcons currently own the tiebreaker over the Saints due to the fact that they defeated New Orleans back in Week 1.

The Saints began the season with consecutive road losses to the Falcons and Cleveland Browns. The Saints were 2-4 before they appeared to get it going with victories over the Green Bay Packers and the Carolina Panthers to get them to .500. But after this a reversal of fortune has hit the Saints. The Saints had three consecutive home games in which they surprisingly lost all of them. However New Orleans was able to respond last Sunday with a road victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers which has given them some life. The Saints were able to drop 35 points on the Steelers in spite of the fact that tight end Jimmy Graham was held without a reception. On paper the Saints are the most complete team in the NFC South and now with four games left in the regular season the onus is on them to seize control of it which starts with their defense.

In four of the Saints seven losses this season they had a lead in the fourth quarter only to squander it. In Week 1, the Saints allowed the Falcons to kick the game-tying field goal with under a minute to play before losing in overtime. In Week 2, the Saints defense allowed a 14-play, 85-yard drive in just under three minutes which allowed the Browns to kick the game-winning field goal with just three seconds remaining in the game. In Week 7 versus the Detroit Lions, the Saints blew a 13-point, fourth quarter lead as they lost 24-23. And in Week 10 it was the San Francisco 49ers who tied the game versus the Saints in the waning seconds of regulation before winning the contest in overtime.

Rob Ryan

Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was brought in last season to fix that side of the ball in New Orleans. But this season the Saints are 31st in total defense in the National Football League as they’re surrendering 390.5 yards per game. Ryan’s defensive schemes are predicated on blitz pressure (especially from the front seven). But the front seven of the Saints defense has been unable to supply pressure this season as they only have 19 sacks this season which is tied for 25th in the NFL. So even if the Saints have a lead in the fourth quarter, opponents know that they can pass at will on them and change the momentum of the game.

This is obviously a different defensive unit that the Saints had in 2009 when they won the Super Bowl. Wholesale changes have been made since then for the Saints as former defenders such as defensive end Will Smith, linebacker Johnathan Vilma, and strong safety Roman Harper could always be counted on for leadership and to make big plays. The Saints have moved on from players such as these as Smith and Vilma are out of football altogether while Harper is still chugging along as a member of the Carolina Panthers. Just like Saints general manager Mickey Loomis constructed that title team in 2009, he has put this squad together and he is hopeful that December is the month that they’ll be able to turn it up a notch.

Drew Brees

At 35-years of age Saints quarterback Drew Brees can still get it done which is clearly evident by his 3,748 passing yards and 27 touchdowns so far this season. Brees has thrown 11 interceptions this season with seven of them coming in Saints losses. To make matters worse some of these interceptions have come in the red zone which takes points off of the scoreboard. In the loss to the Niners it was a Brees fumble that set up San Francisco for the game-winning field goal in overtime. But Brees is still good enough and smart enough to clean this up and help the Saints in the final stretch of the regular season.

A few weeks ago on the 300lbsofsportsknowledge Show, I stated that five victories could get it done in order to win the NFC South. But if the Saints can go 3-1 here in December, then that should put them in pig heaven. The Saints control their own destiny to win the NFC South as they have three more games remaining within their division. The Saints host the Panthers this Sunday and they’ll be favored to be victorious as the Panthers have failed to win a game since early October. The Saints will host the Falcons in Week 16 in a contest that will more than likely decide who’ll be the NFC South Champion for 2014. And to finish the regular season the Saints will be on the road to meet the Tampa Bay Buccaneers whom New Orleans needed overtime to get past in Week 5. Sandwiched in between these three divisional games, the Saints have a road game versus the Chicago Bears in which they will more than likely have to deal with the frigid elements.

Mercedes-Benz Superdome

At the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, the Saints enjoy one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL. The Saints were undefeated at home last season and in recent years the Superdome has been a house of horrors for opponents. The Saints need to get back to that coming down the stretch which starts with them scoring early which will put pressure on their opponent while also getting the home crowd energized. Defensively the Saints must find a way to feed off of this by making more impact plays.

The United States of America is famously known as the land of opportunity and it is also a place that is ripe with second chances. After letting opportunites go by the wayside through the first three quarters of the season, the Saints now have chance to put all of that aside and win their division. And if the Saints are able to click on cylinders and win the NFC South, you can rest assured that there will be a 10 or 11-win wild card team in the NFC that won’t be looking forward to making the trip to the Bayou.

 

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