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Forecast: Saints have an elite defense and they need it badly right now

After two weeks, nearly every decision Dennis Allen made for his defense looks like a great choice.
Credit: AP Photo/Rusty Jones
Panthers QB Bryce Young looks to pass under pressure from Saints DE Cameron Jordan on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, in Charlotte, N.C.

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Saints are 2-0 for the first time in a decade. I wouldn’t call watching the first 2 Saints games of 2023 easy on the eyes, but in a month the only thing we’ll remember from Monday night’s game is the Saints won and Chris Olave made one of the greatest catches in franchise history.

The Saints' defense set the franchise record for most consecutive games for not allowing 20 points. When any Saints defense is breaking franchise records that involve the Dome Patrol from 30 years ago, we know something special is happening.

After two weeks, nearly every decision Dennis Allen made for his defense looks like a great choice.

The Saints added defensive tackles Nathan Shepard and Khalen Saunders to help bring back the brick wall run defense, a foundational principle of the Dennis Allen defense. Carolina only had 100 yards rushing, and 34 of that was on 2 Bryce Young scrambles.

Dennis Allen told us Alontae Taylor could play the slot corner position and be special. At this point, questioning Dennis Allen about defensive back decisions is like wondering if Café Du Monde knows how to make a good beignet.

The thing that could make the 2023 Saints defense historically special are two players: Marshon Lattimore and Carl Granderson.

Lattimore, we know about, but he’s suddenly at the peak of his powers. In 2 games he’s allowed 3 catches for 30 yards, forced 4 incompletions, and has an interception. That’s not just good, that’s eraser type level cornerback. 

We’ve already reached the portion of our program where teams aren’t even going to bother throwing at him. Good luck to all the quarterbacks facing the Saints where half the field is off limits.

The second ingredient that can make the Saints defense special is Carl Granderson. He has 2.5 sacks, and suddenly Cam Jordan has a legit tag team partner on the defensive line. Granderson is making himself a TON of money in his free-agent season.

Granted, the Saints were facing an offense without both starting guards and a receiving corps best described as milk past its expiration date, but always remember kids, other teams' problems are not OUR problems.

The next four quarterbacks the Saints face are Jordan Love, Baker Mayfield, Mac Jones, and CJ Stroud. I like the Saints' odds against those signal callers. This defense against what appears to be a very soft schedule is going to pile up regular season wins.

Dennis Allen has the pieces in place to run the defense he wants, and there isn’t a better game-day defensive coordinator in the NFL. Carolina managed just 239 yards of offense, and 75 of that was on their final drive when the game was out of reach.

While the defense is championship-level, the offense is doing things! Well, doing things when Derek Carr isn’t getting buried under an avalanche of sacks. Carr again got sacked 4 times. 

At times it felt like the Saints had settled on the Elon Musk X policy of ‘No blocking.’ Carr getting hit like this isn’t a sustainable business model, and it’s remarkable Carr managed to still make big-time throws when the Saints absolutely needed them.

Chris Olave’s catch, if not the best catch in Saints history, is on the shortlist. The most positive development for the Saints passing game Monday was Derek Carr was looking repeatedly towards Michael Thomas, and Thomas delivered.

It had a very Drew Brees 2018-2019, “There is only one kind of pass I believe in, and it's to Michael Thomas.” It wasn’t all night because Olave and Rashid Shaheed made plays too, but if Michael Thomas can stay healthy and be dependable and ‘get the big first down, the Saints will be fine.

Is there anything Taysom Hill can’t do? The Saints were suddenly down to Taysom, and Tony Jones Jr. at running back, and the running game felt like some sort of single-wing formation from 1953. And it worked cause why not just give the ball to Taysom 9 times for 75 yards?

Taysom being this remarkable player who will happily do whatever the Saints ask is so fun and cool. We aren’t going to see something like it maybe ever again, so enjoy the Taysom party while it’s here.

The NFC South has 3 2-0 teams, because of course it does, but are any of them actually good? The Saints have an elite defense, and elite defense means they’ll be in almost every game unless the offense commits turnovers.

It’s time to embrace defense, Taysom runs, and punching the other teams' offense in the face. It’s not quite what we are used to around here, but there’s joy in watching opposing quarterbacks be tortured every week. Winning, no matter how it is fun. Always and forever.

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Ralph Malbrough is a contributing writer and Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at saintshappyhour@gmail.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at @SaintsForecast or download the Saints Happy Hour Podcast.

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