NFL kickoff week will reveal Saints’ true selves
If there is a better Sunday on the sports calendar, I am not aware of it.
No, not Super Bowl Sunday. But, no-spin Sunday. The big reveal, the first Sunday of the NFL regular season, is here.
And, it won’t take long for the real to surface, and the phony to be exposed.
If you are a Saints fan, after a very shaky preseason, you approach no-spin Sunday with trepidation.
At training camp, Saints head coach Sean Payton rolled out one of his favorite axioms, often: “Confidence comes from demonstrated ability,” said Payton. A year ago, that confidence was fractured early and never really found.
The Saints lost their opener at Arizona by 12 points, lost at home by 7 to Tampa Bay, and then by 5 on the road at Carolina.
An 0-3 start turned into a record of 4-8 after 12 games.
Throughout the preseason, Payton has talked about the importance of getting off to a good start. And, that is especially true this season.
The Saints’ first four opponents – the Raiders, Giants, Falcons and Chargers – won a total of 25 games in 2015. The next three opponents – the Panthers, Chiefs, and Seahawks – won a total of 36.
The Saints 0-3 start in the preseason revealed several things.
One was the immense struggles of the offensive line. Two was a lack of depth. Avoiding a slew of injuries is a must if the Saints are to have any tangible success.
The 2015 draft is coming under fire for being subpar. But the criticism is premature.
Last year’s first pick, offensive lineman Andrus Peat, has been shuffled between left tackle and right guard.
Peat needs to play one position, and he needs time. Peat doesn’t turn 23 years of age until Nov. 4. To call him a bust, as many have, is just plain silly.
Linebacker Stephone Anthony, the other first round pick in 2015, has come under fire. Why? I have no idea. All Anthony did was lead all rookies in tackles.
He was voted to the Pro Football Writers’ Association all rookie team.
Cornerback P.J. Williams, a third round pick who missed the entire season with a torn hamstring, looks like a player.
And fifth round pick, Tyeler Davison, is a starter at defensive tackle.
However, the angst by the fan base in the preseason is well founded. It tell us, almost seven years after the Saints won the Super Bowl, the bloom is officially off the rose. For the NFL’s highest paid coach, 2016 will be his biggest challenge since coming to New Orleans.
Payton and his staff will have to coach up a young roster, and hope for another big year from his 37-year-old quarterback, still one of the game’s best.
Was the preseason real or was it a mirage?
No-spin Sunday is coming up. Call it the NFL’s version of the big reveal.