The Cleveland Browns and the San Diego Chargers aren't exactly "world beaters", but after yesterday it was suggested that perhaps only 2 weeks into the NFL Pre-Season --- neither are the New Orleans Saints.
Among even some of the very most devotedly loyal followers within the Who Dat Nation yesterday, the prevailing thought was the team which we've seen finish 7-9 for the last 3 straight years and has subsequently missed the NFL Playoffs all 3 of those years as a direct result; doesn't appear to be any better than any of those previous seasons so far.
Lucky if they win 5 games this year
— Macky and Zey (@mackynzey) August 17, 2017
After watching the saints today this gonna be another 7-9 season the secondary looking like straight trash
— 225 🔥❄️ (@Karlan225) August 17, 2017
@Saints if y'all don't fix the cb problem we're doomed. Crawley and Harris are trash.
— da real TDIRTY (@TDIIRTY) August 17, 2017
Now before we go any further, let's be blunt: the only thing that the Saints have really done up to this point is practice throughout the off-season, and have had 3 weeks worth of Training Camp.
So to label them as a "bad team" or even a mediocre one at this point in time, is getting way ahead of ourselves.
They've only played one Pre-Season game thus far (a loss to Cleveland) and had a joint practice yesterday against the Chargers in which it could be said wasn't totally favorable to the team dressed in Black and Gold.
They still have another joint practice with the Chargers scheduled for later today, as well as Pre-Season Game #2 of the 2017 schedule, this Sunday Night at the Stub Hub Center in suburban Carson, California.
After that, it's back home to New Orleans for the remainder of Training Camp; with Pre-Season Game #3 vs, the Houston Texans (where the starters see the most action) and Pre-Season game #4 against the Baltimore Ravens still left to play before making their final roster cuts on Sunday, September 3rd.
So in essence, the Saints still have some time to get any and all of their "problems" worked out before the season opener on Monday Night, September 11th, at Minnesota against the Vikings.
Many Saints fans have been wanting to see signs of MAJOR IMPROVEMENT from this year's 2017 version of the team, and if we are to be perfectly honest and "trust our eyes" thus far, it's a bit hard to say that this year's team will be markedly better than anything that we've seen in the past 3 seasons.
As of this moment, it would be fair to say that nothing that we've seen so far should give anyone a great degree of confidence that this 2017 Saints team is going to be any different than the same one we've seen the past 3 seasons.
Injuries are beginning to pile up already, and the play from the CB position -- thought to be one of the most improved positions on the roster thanks to the addition of top 2017 Draft pick Marshon Lattimore and the return from injuries of P.J. Williams and Damian Swann, seem to be very mediocre to below average at best.
Even worse (and perhaps just as concerning), the team's pass rush is still only originating from one player (the incomparable Cam Jordan).
Unless we see more in the next few upcoming days and weeks from either free-agent defensive end Alex Okafor or recuperating 3rd year player Hau'oli Kikaha, it appears the Saints STILL have issues with getting adequate pressure on opposing QB's from the side opposite of Jordan.
Now of course, the team's offense will be as good as they always have, and any team that's actually been as fortunate enough as the Saints have been; to have had a living legend and a future Hall of Fame QB on their team for the past decade like Drew Brees is, will always be a legitimate threat to win games in the NFL.
And this season, the additions of RB's Adrian Peterson and rookie Alvin Kamara to the team's running game to go along with returning veteran RB Mark Ingram; will complement the annually top-ranked receiving game which features young star WR's Michael Thomas and Willie Snead --- which no doubt should make the Saints offense difficult for any NFL defense to stop.
But in the NFL, DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS. Always has, always will.
And if we are being perfectly honest with ourselves, it's very hard to say (at least at this point) that the Saints are any better on defense than the one that's finished ranked near the bottom of the NFL in 4 out of the past 5 seasons.
Are the Saints better overall, as an entire roster?
Maybe in a few ways, but so is every other team in the NFC South division.
The Atlanta Falcons are only a few months removed from a Super Bowl appearance, and have actually gotten better through the Draft.
The Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have also improved their rosters this off-season as well, which explains why some are picking this year's Saints team to finish dead last in one of Pro Football's most competitive divisions.
Nevertheless, let's also keep in mind:
This is still only just Pre-Season; and in what personally for me will be my 44th season of first watching and now covering Saints / NFL football (since the first game I attended as a 6-year old boy at the old Tulane Stadium in uptown New Orleans in 1973), I can most definitely assure you that what a team "looks like" in the Pre-Season, usually never translates over to the regular season.
I've seen Saints teams (and other NFL teams) look like dominant world-beaters in the Pre-Season, only to go out in the regular season and play like total crap.
On the flip side, I've also seen teams that looked horrible and seemed as if they couldn't beat a Pee Wee / Pop Warner League team full of 5 and 6 year old kids, go out and KICK MAJOR ASS during the regular season.
As a Saints fan, just remember that until you see this Saints team actually go out and lay a big gigantic egg on the night of Monday, September 11th, in Minneapolis, Minnesota; then there's no use in getting yourself all "worked up" over what you see in the Pre-Season.
My good friend, Under The Dome Podcast co-host Allen Ulrich, (who's seen just as many Saints seasons as I have) shares that same view-point; and yesterday he posted this great video of legendary former Saints head coach Jim Mora talking about a joint practice that the Saints had looked HORRENDOUS in, following a 1992 scrimmage against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Just a reminder about instant takes on scrimmages w/other teams: https://t.co/vfz71asjg6
— Allen Ulrich (@79Saints) August 17, 2017
The Saints would go on to finish 12-4 and make the Playoffs that year, which was just months after after a sizable portion of the Who Dat Nation was aghast by the results of hearing about that scrimmage, and the terrible performance which elicited such an unrelenting (but brutally honest) assessment from Mora.
It very well could be that some of those same Saints fans from 25 summers ago, were the very same fans who were upset on Saints-related Social Media yesterday afternoon.
@Saints how do you have one of the best QBs of all time in Brees and still be garbage?! Patriots and Packers don't go through this
— Damani Gardner (@dashd11) August 18, 2017
It's always important to have perspective at this point of the year, when trying to assess what you are currently seeing and hearing, and comparing it to what you originally had thought or were led to believe.
But also remember this as well: "the eyes never lie".
And if we are to be perfectly and bluntly honest with one another, then the eyes reveal -- at least so far anyway -- that this 2017 Saints team won't be all that much different from the one we've seen the past 3 years.
Which is exactly why after only 2 weeks into the 2017 Pre-Season, the Who Dat Nation is already panicking.
Let's all hope that the Saints can eventually put their minds at ease, once the 11th of September rolls around........