The Saints have found equilibrium again in this short season, as the pendulum has swung back to defeat.
As we approach Week Five of the 2021 NFL season, the New Orleans Saints hold a 2-2 record and are currently third in the NFC South division.
For every impressive victory, one to put the rest of the league on notice, they have followed it up faltering at the opportunity to put a streak together.
Quarterback play is what typically comes into question when a team cannot find a rhythm, but how has Jameis Winston held up this season so far?
Winston has been able to control his interceptions to the start of the season. In four games, Winston has thrown eight touchdowns to only two interceptions. This is in part to the limited amount of passes Winston has had to throw per game, currently averaging 21.5 passing attempts per game.
2019 had Winston averaging 39.125 passing attempts per game.
These passing attempts are also closer to the line of scrimmage limiting the opportunity for errant passes, something Winston was far too familiar with during his 30-30 season in 2019. So far in 2021 Winston’s average intended air yards is 7.6 yards per attempt.
In 2019, 10.4 yards was the average for the season, per Pro Football Reference.
Winston has been somewhat mobile in the backfield as well. Week One against the Packers Winston was able to pick up four first downs with his legs, currently has six entering Week Five. On 14 rushing attempts this season, Winston is averaging 4.3 yards per pick up.
In Sean Payton’s offense most of these QB rush attempts go to Taysom Hill. However, having your starting QB be a little mobile can be beneficial as well. In 2020, Drew Brees only converted four first downs rushing.
The team is currently 28th in total yards on offense, and 11th on yards given up per game. There needs to be more offensive production if the team wants to remain in contention for the division. The Saints are bottom in the division when it comes to this, and the Buccaneers have a top-10 offense.
There will be opportunities to try and improve offensive performance in the upcoming weeks. First against Washington, a team that is bottom-six in the league on yards allowed.
Following this the Saints will travel to Seattle, a difficult place to play no doubt, but against a Seahawks team that may be losing Russel Wilson for an extended period of time. Early reports on Wilson’s middle finger looking bleak, with the quarterback possibly missing up to six to eight weeks after injuring it against Aaron Donald and the Rams during Thursday’s game.
The Seahawks defense is a major concern looking disorientated all over the field, a pattern that is starting to repeat itself from last year. They are currently giving up the most yards per game on defense, and after the game against the Rams are averaging 450 yards allowed.
Sean Payton still finds ways to put Taysom Hill on the field. It is great to see Hill take the snap and run QB sweep into the end zone but when he is given the chance to pass fans might rather have Winston on the field at all time.
For example, I present you this gem.
Sean Payton dialed up deep shots on consecutive plays for Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. (First one was called back for off. holding) pic.twitter.com/q8NBURS8qB— Timo Riske (@PFF_Moo) October 4, 2021
The first throw by Winston was what should have been an easy touchdown. Winston was not touched in the pocket, and Kenny Stills had his man beat. The play was called back for offensive holding, and Sean Payton decided to put Taysom in following the play.
Taysom steps up in the pocket, under throws his receiver, and gets picked off. Now why Taysom is attempting a deep shot in the first place following a dime by Winston, I have no idea.
Seven crucial points were lost on that drive, and the Saints ended up losing this game in overtime.
The contrast between the arm strength of the two is right there, and there should be no reason why Taysom should be attempting that throw.
Winston is slowly winning the trust of Sean Payton, and hopefully the playbook opens up a little bit more for him over the next few games.