On Tuesday Drew Brees’ son Baylen dressed up as Ted Ginn Jr. for Halloween and it got me to thinking, “How good a year is Ginn having for the Saints?” Did you know Ginn is on pace for the most receiving yards of his career? He’s on pace for 960 yards, the most he’s ever had in 11 years in the NFL.
In the offseason when the Saints signed Ginn, my expectations were he’d catch a bunch of long passes, probably drop a few, and be both exciting and terrifying as a kick returner because that’s been the perception of Ginn his entire career, but he’s been a lot more so far for the Saints. With Willie Snead recovering from an injury and suspension and the Saints tight ends mostly spending 2017 on a milk carton, Ginn has turned into a major weapon on offense. He’s currently fourth on the team in catches with 24 but he’s second to Michael Thomas among non-running backs.
Nick Underhill of The New Orleans Advocate alerted everyone in March “Ginn isn’t just a fast guy who runs straight lines and occasionally catches a curl or out route. He did much more than that.”
In Carolina, Ginn did a lot more and it’s carried over to New Orleans as the Saints are throwing all sorts of different passes to him. Don’t get me wrong, Ginn is still going deep, as evidenced by his 53-yard fourth quarter catch against the Bears, but he’s become a guy Brees looks to in critical situations. Is it just me or does Ted Ginn seem to have no trouble making ridiculously hard catches look easy, but struggles when he’s wide open with no one near him? The most nerve-racking Ginn-play is when he’s five yards behind the entire defense and waiting on the ball.
Ted Ginn is just the latest guy who Sean Payton plugged into his offense and turned out a great year for or revitalized a career. Payton managed to pull 33-year-old David Patten off the scrap heap in 2007 and got him 54 catches for 792 yards. In 2008, tight end Billy Miller had the second best season of his career at 31 with the Saints when he caught 45 balls for 579 yards. In 2009, the Saints traded with New England for backup tight end David Thomas and he promptly caught the most passes of his career (35). Sean Payton can just take guys and know exactly how to maximize their skill sets on offense. The two major misses Sean Payton has had in New Orleans were C. J. Spiller and Coby Fleener. The rest of the time he’s been correct about selecting offensive guys to plug into his system.
Coby Fleener is still on the team right? I forget sometimes.
The 2017 Saints aren’t as prolific on offense as we are used to seeing under Drew Brees and Sean Payton but they would be in a lot of trouble if they didn’t have the 32-year-old guy who was supposed to be a one-trick pony, but is turning out to be so much more. The Ted Ginn Experience so far has been incredibly enjoyable and was a very worthy choice by Baylen as a Halloween costume.
Saints Fan Mood and Meditation Music: George Harrison This Is Love. Harrrison’s Cloud Nine was one of the first records I ever bought. I was 11 years old and loved the video ‘Got My Mind Set on You’ because the animals on the wall talked. I didn’t know George Harrison was a Beatle and didn’t really know anything about music. Crazy thing is I still love this record 30 years later. Finding George Harrison exposed me to Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison because they were all in a super group in the 1980’s called the Traveling Wilburys. It just proves what people love at 11 years old, they probably will love at 40.
How does Harrison’s ‘This is Love’ relate to 2017 Saints fans? It’s just a fantastically happy song, which is where all Saints fans are at the moment, plus with lines like, “Since our problems have been our own creation, they also can be overcome.” George might as well be talking directly about the 2017 Saints defense.
Last Week: 2-3
New Orleans (-6.5) vs Tampa Bay: If the Saints can’t fire up the offense against the 30th ranked pass defense in the NFL and defense with the fewest sacks, we can officially start to wonder if the offense just isn’t going to be really good in 2017.
After games, Drew Brees seems kind of annoyed. I’m sure he’s thrilled the Saints are 5-2 but the guy seems frustrated the Saint offense isn’t clicking like usual. Against the Bears he was incredibly efficient, didn’t put the ball at risk, but also couldn’t keep the offense moving on third down, which brings us to maybe the 2017 Saints biggest issue- third down. The Saints are currently a complete disaster on third down when compared to the last three seasons. From 2014 through 2016 the Saints offense was the best in the sport at converting third downs, but in 2017 they are 17th. Expecting to be the best at something in the NFL four consecutive years was probably asking a lot, but if they remain middle of the league, 2017 will become more difficult.
If the Saints can’t convert third downs, they can’t sustain drives. If they can’t sustain drives, they can’t score points. Plus, if they are bad on third down, suddenly their young defense will be on the field more.
I love the way my Saints Happy Hour podcast co-host Andrew Juge explains third down:
“Offenses can’t hide on third down. If it’s third and four or more, then defenses know Drew Brees has to throw the ball and it’s all about pass protection and receivers getting open. Sean Payton can scheme mismatches on first and second down, especially if Saints run ball well, but on third down it’s all about guys getting open.”
The problem for the Saints is no Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead mean their receivers group, besides Michael Thomas, lack a dynamic player who get open consistently on third down. Maybe Snead returns to his 2016 form and Saints get on track, but it’s also possible the Saints offense is what it is and they are just going to be league average on third down. It’s not a fatal flaw during the regular season and when the Saints are 5-2 and their major issue is being better on third down life is good people.
As for Sunday, I expect Drew Brees to have his best game of the year, and he’ll need it, because I have a feeling the young defense will struggle. Jameis Winston might be less than 100 percent but he’s better than the quarterbacks the Saints have faced the previous two weeks and the Bucs have some really nice weapons on offense with Mike Evans, Doug Martin, and Desean Jackson. Isn’t it about time we had a good old-fashioned Saints shootout game where Brees throws for 350 and four touchdowns and saves the day?
LSU (+24) at Alabama: I get Nick Saban has built a Death Star in Tuscaloosa, but I also think the Crimson Tide have played nothing but terrible teams. I’m not saying LSU can win because Alabama’s strengths, running game and destroying quarterbacks will to live, are two things LSU isn’t great at stopping, but the Tigers can keep it close if they don’t turn the ball over. In the middle of third quarter we’re going to believe a miracle is possible, then Alabama’s depth will crush our hopes and dreams, but it’ll be fun for a while.
Carolina (-2) vs Atlanta: Is it ok to just root for sadness and disappointment?
Philadelphia (-7) vs Denver: The Eagles decided to go all in for 2017 and traded for Miami running back Jay Ajayi. I applaud teams that see their shot and take it because the NFC is mediocre in 2017 so why not go for it?
Los Angeles (-3.5) at New York: Here are two controversial opinions; the Rams are the second best team in the NFC and candy corn is delicious.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at Saintshappyhour@gmail.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes.