Could our long Saints poor drafting nightmare be over? The defense is still terrible and the Saints appear headed for another 7-9 season, but six weeks into the 2016 season, the New Orleans Saints rookie draft class is looking like their best draft since at least 2013, even with number one pick Sheldon Rankins not having played a down yet.
The days of wondering why the Saints drafted a player who had knees as healthy as an 80 year old man, Ronald Powell, and a guy who had trouble getting to and staying awake in meetings, Khairi Fortt, might be behind us.
It's a miracle!
You want to know how NFL teams can get on the road to being fixed in a hurry? Have a draft that's so good, it would grade well without the number one pick contributing.
Every player the Saints drafted, except Daniel Lasco and injured Sheldon Rankins, has played at least 40 percent of the teams snaps. Even the environmental science major and supposed project player, David Onyemata, has quietly played in 41 percent of the Saints defensive snaps, while Vonn Bell has seen action in63 percent of them.
You might be thinking, "So what? The Saints defense stinks, so how do you know these players are any good?" You never know for sure six games in, but my biggest reason for hope is because the Saints have been hit hard with injuries in the secondary and at defensive line, it has forced Bell and Onyemata to get thrown into the fire early, which means by the end of 2016 we will have a much better idea of what the Saints have.
Remember in 2014 when the Saints secondary was terrible, had injuries, and yet second round pick Stanley Jean-Baptiste couldn't sniff the field? It was a terrible sign the Saints would rather sign guys off the street then play their high draft choice. The 2014 Saints desperately needed any cornerback with a pulse to help get them to 8 wins and a division title, and they looked everywhere, except to the guy they spent a high pick on. That wasn't a red flag, it was a giant blinking light and siren screaming "BUST". Sean Payton has never been shy about throwing rookie players in right away. In 2013 Payton got so fed up with Charles Brown at left tackle, he started then rookie 3rd round pick Terron Armstead, and counted on him to protect Drew Brees on the road in Carolina during the Saints biggest game of the year.
Is it ideal to have VonnBell playing a huge part in a Saints secondary? No, as he's struggled a lot, but then you see that third down stop he made in Kansas City and think, "Yeah. He's got a decent shot to be good." David Onyemata has been mostly quiet but there was a moment in San Diego where he just destroyed a Charger offensive lineman and suddenly you see the reason the Saints moved up to get him.
Did I forget something?
Oh and Michael Thomas leads all rookies in receptions, yards, yards per game, touchdowns, first downs, and 20yard pass-plays. Thomas isn't going to be amazing soon, he's amazing NOW. He's on pace for 96 catches for 1,165 yards and 8 touchdowns. You know what Michael Thomas is? He's Marques Colston 2.0 with break away speed.In case you were wondering, Colston's best season was 2007, when he caught 98 passes for 1202 yards and 11 scores. Thomas might equal or beat the best Saints receiver's best season as a rookie. Is your mind blown?
For the decade we've watched Drew Brees, there has always been the sense Drew made the receivers better than they were. Saints receivers like Robert Meachem and Jimmy Graham went elsewhere and either flopped, or were never as good as they were in New Orleans. Thomas is different. He'd be good anywhere because his talent and work ethic is that great. With Brees though, Thomas can be a force of nature.
So let's recap the Saints 2016 draft: They drafted a potentially transcendent receiver, a starting safety, a long-term project defensive tackle who's already playing, and a running back who was looking good on special teams and before he got hurt was getting snaps on offense. All of that, and the supposed crown jewel of the draft, Sheldon Rankins, is scheduled to be back very soon.
Potentially, it's a heck of a draft Saints, now go do it again in 2017.
16 For 50: Coulda Shoulda Woulda
I apologize in advance for the Youtube hole you are about to fall into for 30 minutes watching Jim Mora Saints rants. There are so many fantastic ones, picking my favorite is like trying to decide on a favorite child, they are all perfect in their own special way. Mora is still as passionate as ever; did you catch his rant about the Saints from a few weeks ago? He's 81 and still fiery.
Jim Mora was truly the Michelangelo of the post game coaching rant. The man had no time or tolerance for media he felt asked stupid questions. America knows him for his 'Playoffs?!' rant when coaching the Indianapolis Colts, but Saints fans know Mora's Sistine Chapel of post game rants is 'Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda!', which was 29 years ago this week.
The 'Coulda Shoulda Woulda' rant came after the Saints lost 24-22 to the San Francisco 49ers following the players returning from the 1987 strike. Back then, media and fans sort of had the attitude that playing great teams close was good enough for the Saints. It was almost a patronizing, "That's a really good job guys! You ALMOST BEAT A GREAT TEAM! Here is a cookie." Jim Mora had zero time for that. He had won two USFL championships and wasn't about to be happy 'almost' doing anything.
Mora's post game rant in 1987 is one of four or five defining moments in Saints history. Before it, the Saints had never had a winning season, but after it, they won 9 games in a row and clinched their first ever playoff birth. You can't tell the history of the New Orleans Saints without it.
Last Week: 4-1 Season: 18-12 Seattle (-3.5) at New Orleans: At this point the Saints defense is a late night infomercial miracle cure...
"Do you have an offensive line that can't block? Do you struggle keeping your quarterback upright? Do you have trouble finding the end zone regularly? Well your frustrations ARE OVER with our new miracle cure we call Saints defense! Saints defense is guaranteed to cure ANY OFFENSIVE PROBLEMS you have! Want that offensive line to stop leaking? Add Saints defense and your blocking becomes MAGNIFICENT! Haven't seen what 25 points looks like in a month? Saints defense will SET THE SCOREBOARD AFLAME! Saints defense is guaranteed to deliver 30 points to your door OR YOUR MONEY BACK! Offer not valid in Cleveland or for any team quarterbacked by Case Keenum. "
The Seahawks offenseis 28th in NFL in points-per-game (18.5) and 22nd in yards(336), so the Saints are their dream matchup.
Seattle's offense might be a mess but their defense is as destructive as ever. They only allow 14 points-per-game and 310 total yards. Since the Saints haven't played the Seahawks since 2013, many of you might have blocked from your mind just how Seattle whipped the Saints physically twice that season. It might be three years ago, but does Seattle look any different?
Being at home will definitely help the Saints, especially if Andrus Peat and Terron Armstead are both healthy. In theory this should be a great spot for the Saints, as Seattle just played an overtime slug fest that ended in a tie, so they might have trouble being as focused as they were against Arizona.
The problem is, even with Seattle's horrible and injured offensive line and a banged up Russell Wilson, the Saints have shown us zero ability the last month to hold a team under 27 points and the Saints aren't scoring 27 against the Seahawks. Also, you know Jimmy Graham is going to be featured, score many touchdowns, and dunk the football on the Saints just to enrage us.
This is my LOCK OF THE YEAR and it is not good for us Saints fans...
Green Bay(-3) at Atlanta: The Falcons are beginning another collapse, it's too bad the Saints can't take advantage. The NFC South is again a trash pile and the Saints can't win it with a Hall-of-Fame quarterback. I'm going to be sick.
Carolina (-2) vs. Arizona: If the Panthers can't beat a team that just had the most heartbreaking tie in the history of everything, then the Panthers are going 3-13. I hope the Panthers go 3-13.
Cincinnati (-3) vs. Washington: Maybe NFL ratings are down because they hide these London games like Easter eggs? It took me almost a quarter to remember about the London game last week, and then another five minutes to locate the channel it was on. If not for fantasy football, I'd have totally missed it.
Tampa Bay (-1) vs. Oakland: Did you know Oakland gives up 30 more yards a week on defense than the Saints? Bad defense is the hot new thing! All the kids are not tackling.