METAIRIE, La. – The New Orleans Saints offense has a problem, and that problem is bigger than a simple inconsistency.
The Saints (1-1) are in their eighth quarter of the season and have only one quarter to go. They rank 17th in overall offense, 18th in passing offense, and ninth in rushing offense.
That could be partly due to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers playing a good defense last week without pushing back Alvin Kamara, who was out with a rib injury. It could be a matter of chemistry between the new faces on offense.
“I think we can work on anything, but I feel like we’re starting to gather our identities about what some of our guys can do, what they do best,” said quarterback Jameis Winston. “I think we can start to push that further.”
The more urgent concern is Winston’s back.
Winston said Wednesday he’s preparing to start like any other week, but he’s been playing injured since going to the medical tent to recover in the fourth quarter of a 27-26 win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1 Ironically, this was the best quarter the Saints have played yet, as Winston threw two touchdown passes and had a 40-yard pass to set up the game-winning field goal that closed a 16-point deficit.
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While it’s hard to say how much the injury affected Winston against the Buccaneers, there were times when it certainly looked like it could have been a factor in the 20-10 loss. Winston seemed almost shy on some of his scrambles and tumbled several deep passes.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Winston was 2 of 11 on passes that went at least 15 yards through the air, down from 8 of 11 the week before. He completed his first such pass at 5:17 in the fourth quarter.
Winston threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter. One was a deep pass to receiver Chris Olave with good coverage, one was well off target to tight end Juwan Johnson and the final was taken back for a touchdown after attempting to fit a pass to receiver Jarvis Landry between two defenders.
“Impatience. That was the big thing,” Winston said of his throws to Landry and Johnson, noting that he should have checked.
He said he could live with the shot at Olave because the cornerback made a good play and it didn’t give the Bucs good field position.
The Saints also went blank on one of their best drives of the game after running back Mark Ingram II lost a fumble at the Tampa 20-yard line in the third quarter.
“We knew this was going to be a field position game,” Allen said. “We knew we were playing a really good defense and I thought we played the game the way it needed to be played for the first three and a half quarters. I thought we missed some chances in some big games on the field, and I thought maybe we were trying to go to the fountain a little too often to get those shots on the field.
Allen acknowledged that Winston missed some throws that he would normally make, but repeatedly said he didn’t think Winston’s injury played a role. He also said he never considered putting Winston in before or during the game because of the injury and he noted on Monday that Winston was not in any more pain than usual.
“The pain and discomfort is the pain and discomfort of losing a game,” Allen said. “That was the pain and discomfort for all of us.”
Winston, restricted in training all of last week, appeared not to be participating in individual drills during Wednesday’s open portion of practice. He was officially listed as restricted, and Allen said he would have a similar schedule to the previous week.
With the Saints heading away from home for 10 days, first against the Carolina Panthers and then immediately heading to London to face the Minnesota Vikings, Winston will need to shake off that uneasiness if the Saints are to realize their full offensive potential.
They also need to find a way to give up fewer sacks, especially given Winston’s injury situation. The Saints have given up 10 sacks in two games, which is second in the NFL but not quite on offense. Of the six sacks dropped against the Bucs, Allen said he could only really attribute two to protection issues.
Allen was “shocked” by the six sacks, but maybe that has more to do with the upgraded offense. Thomas’ three receiving touchdowns tie for second in the NFL, while Landry led the Saints in his debut against the Falcons with nine catches for 114 yards.
A concerted effort was made to include Olave against the Bucs, aiming for him 13 times but connecting with him for 80 yards just five times.
“The more we learn [each other]the more we feel like we have all of our pieces,” Winston said. “We had a big play with Alvin last week that wasn’t with us [out]. So much of our offense revolves around him. I think the more games we have together, the more practice we do together, which will be beneficial for all of us.”
https://www.espn.com/blog/new-orleans-saints/post/_/id/35602/concerns-continue-to-mount-for-saints-offense-as-jameis-winston-battles-injuries Concerns continue to mount for Saints’ offense as Jameis Winston battles injuries – New Orleans Saints Blog