Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
I have a question for you. What signs have you seen from any veteran Saints defensive players over the last year that makes you believe this defense is capable of displaying any significant improvement? Take all the time you need.
The Saints haven't had an interception from a starting safety in 20 games. Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper are what they are and to expect anything different over the next 14 weeks would mean you are lying to yourself.
The Saints could still having a winning season, still make the playoffs, and maybe even still win the Super Bowl and I could write that novel I've been thinking about or win an academy award, or run a triathlon. NOT HAPPENING.
The Saints as a playoff contender or Super Bowl threat are over. Am I making the call early before all precincts are in? Yes. I'm ahead of the curve and readjusting my expectations for the 2012 Saints to hopefully improve my sanity and my liver.
This defense is the worst Saints defense I've ever seen and the statistics back me up. The last time a Saints team gave up this many points the first two weeks of a season Bum Phillips was walking the sideline in the Superdome. This defense isn't even interesting in its awfulness. At least the 2007-08 defenses we could curse Jason David for getting toasted or Gary Gibbs for not blitzing. The 2012 Saints are almost clinical in their ineptitude. It's like they created the perfect formula for pathetic defense: Take no pass rush, add horrible safeties, then sprinkle in injuries at corner and bake at 300 degrees for three hours.
Didn't it seem like Cam Newton was throwing the ball all over the yard? Panther receivers were running free and Steve Smith was so wide open on a critical play in the second half I thought he might make a fair catch signal. Except Newton wasn't really throwing the ball that much, he only completed 14 passes. Lord help the Saints when they play Aaron Rogers and Peyton Manning because the possible horrors boggle the mind.
This defense lacks talent everywhere. Blame Steve Spagnuolo if you want but name me a defensive end on the Saints roster who has done anything impressive the last two years? Martez Wilson and Junior Galette are the sweet smell of hope poured in a pretty bottle but delivered broken and leaking. The only thing nice I will say about the defense is once they start playing conventional quarterbacks I don't think they'll get massacred on the ground. So they have that going for them maybe.
The offense isn't as dynamic as 2011, but it still would be plenty good enough if the defense could be anything other than embarrassing.
The most interesting thing I've noticed about the offense and Drew Brees is the desperation they have hanging over them these first two weeks. They've only looked relaxed and confident during the opening drive against the Panthers.
The rest of the time they seem to be playing with a sense of, 'We absolutely have to score every possession because the defense stinks.' That pressure I think affects their performance. The Saints five first half possessions in Carolina were touchdown, pick six by Brees, field goal, field goal and punt. They had put up 217 yards of offense and yet their one punt in the first half felt like a disaster.
They were trailing 14-13 and my initial thought right after the three and out was, 'Carolina is going to score right before the half and get the ball at the start of the third quarter and the Saints are in huge trouble.'
Drew Brees looks like he is carrying all the weight of this team and guess what...he is.
The only chance the Saints have in 2012 is for him to be perfect and the interception he threw on the Saints second series proves he is just like every other human who ever has walked the earth. Not perfect.
The Saints offense has two main problems right now as far as I can tell. First, they only appear to have about 1.5 competent NFL wide receivers in Lance Moore (horrible drop not included) and a not quite healthy Marques Colston. Joe Morgan wouldn't be on the roster if not for injures and the loss of Robert Meachem and injury to Devery Henderson has drastically changed the passing game. It's become jump balls to Jimmy Graham, screens, and dump off passes to Darren Sproles. Still very good but the homerun threat is M. I. A.
The second issue is the offensive line is having trouble protecting Brees, especially up the middle. The Saints ran for 163 yards, converted on 54 percent of third downs, were in manageable third downs most of the game and yet Brees still got beat up enough to have to get his ankle re-taped. The Saints signed Ben Grubbs to replace Carl Nicks but the middle of the line isn't holding. Maybe it's Brian De La Puente? All I know is if I know where the soft spot on the Saints offensive line is then so does every NFL team.
The really scary thing about the 0-2 Saints is they cleaned up the penalties against Washington, stuck to the running game, came focused and ready to play and still weren't good enough even though the score was close the second half really wasn't.
The Saints aren't going to be a disaster in 2012 because Drew Brees will probably be perfect four to six times. But as currently built, this Saints team is a seven win team. Max.
I understand you don't want to admit a team that has won 37 games the last three years is going to be lucky to go 8-8 but you'll understand when they are tied at 31 in the fourth quarter next Sunday with maybe the NFL's worst team, the Kansas City Chiefs.
It's not even October and the bounties, suspensions, awful defense, and interim coaches already have me exhausted. Watching ex-Saints Tracy Porter and Reggie Bush look fantastic just adds to my sinking feeling about this season. The nightmare that is 2012 is just getting started.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at email@example.com, find him on facebook, follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/MilneMalbrough or download his podcast at Itunes.