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Monday, October 26, 2020

Alvin Kamara: Saints will ‘get back on track and everybody will shut up’

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The sky is not falling in New Orleans. It just feels that way to Saints fans.

After a 1-2 start following Sunday night’s loss to Green Bay, the question buzzing around the league is, what’s the issue with a Saints team that was expected to contend for a Super Bowl? In a year with an abbreviated offseason, one would think a veteran team with continuity like New Orleans would have gotten off to a hot start. Instead, Sean Payton’s team stumbled out of the gate. Again.

Within the building, however, players aren’t fretting.

“When you’re losing it’s easy to point fingers, say this and say that. But we’ll get back on track and everybody will shut up,” Alvin Kamara said, via Luke Johnson of the Times-Picayune.

Kamara has been the Saints’ best player through three weeks, single-handedly keeping them in Sunday’s contest against Green Bay.

The biggest issues surrounding the Saints has been a defense that hasn’t pressured the QB consistently and gotten burned in the secondary. Given the names and players on D, it’s as surprising a poor start as any unit in the league. Cameron Jordan has been on the struggle bus through three weeks, earning just seven pressures, per Pro Football Focus, which puts him tied for 37th among all edge defenders with at least 90 snaps played. With Marcus Davenport out with injury, getting little pressure off the edge has exposed the secondary, which has given up big plays, including Pro Bowl corner Marshon Lattimore.

While the defense has been a problem through three weeks, Drew Brees’ struggles have been magnified with Michael Thomas out due to injury. With Brees unwilling or unable to pull the trigger on field-stretching plays, the Saints offense has been playing in a phone booth.

Drew Brees relied on quick, short passes, which reduced the Packers pass rush, but minimized the Saints downfield passing attack.

➤ 4.6 air yards/attempt

➤ 2.51 average time to throw

➤ 11% pressure rate against#GBvsNO | #Saints pic.twitter.com/1wuSEm0nWR

— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 28, 2020

Without Thomas there to turn short passes into solid gains, the Saints are over-reliant on Kamra’s tackle-breaking ability. Kamara leads the Saints in rushing with 153 yards and receiving with 285 through three games. His 438 scrimmage yards leads the NFL.

The running back, however, defended his QB vociferously.

The good news for New Orleans is they’ve been here before. Rocky starts aren’t anything new under Sean Payton. Zero times in the past three years have the Saints started 3-0, and yet they’ve won the division each time. A 1-2 start might be out of the ordinary, but that one win coming against a division foe is a plus.

Likewise, Brees has struggled out of the gate before and come back strong. Per NextGen Stats, since 2016 Brees has started out a season with an EPA (expected points added) under 30 four times in five years through three games. While his completion percentage is down this year, it was below 70 percent through three weeks in both 2016 and 2017.

Brees has bounced back before. At 41 years old, can he do it again?

The Saints need that comeback to start Sunday on the road against a Lions defense that has been carved up like a Thanksgiving bird. If the struggles continue in Detroit — especially if Thomas returns — then a little more concern will be warranted.

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