Are Saints Last-Minute Moves Too Little, Too Late?


Nov 15, 2015; Landover, MD, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton answers questions during the post game press conference after an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Less than two weeks away from the kickoff to the 2016 regular season, the Saints have made a flurry of personnel moves in recent days. But clearly they are not content with the current state of their roster.

The question is, why did they wait until now to do something about it?

Are their last minute moves before the start of the upcoming NFL season in 11 more days, now too little, too late?

It’s no secret why the Saints didn’t make the playoffs last season. Their defense was historically bad (allowing the most passing touchdowns in NFL history), and the offense struggled to put up points in crucial situations.

The reasons for these struggles isn’t a mystery, either.

The Saints lacked any form of pass rush outside of Cameron Jordan, and the offensive line needed to get better.

To be fair, the Saints did take steps to address their defense in the off-season.

They added veteran linebacker James Laurinaitis to provide much needed leadership and veteran savvy to young and promising playmakers.

They drafted Sheldon Rankins with their first round pick, and signed Nick Fairley to help provide some form of interior pass rush. The Fairley signing looms even larger with the injury to Rankins.

As a result, the Saints have undeniably improved on defense. They had a poor showing in the third Preseason game against the Steelers, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Aug 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Daryl Richardson (38) is tackled by New Orleans Saints cornerback Cortland Finnegan (21) during the second half of a preseason game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Steelers defeated the Saints 27-14. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

It brings everyone back to earth and reminds a young defense of the importance of the grind. But it’s hard not to like the flashes fans have seen thus far, especially from players like P.J. Williams and Nick Fairley, who are getting their first chance to introduce themselves to WhoDat Nation.

Overall, there’s no denying the Saints look better on defense.

Yet, clearly the Saints were still not happy with the overall performance of their pass rush so far this Preseason, and moved to act quickly when recently released veteran outside linebacker / defensive end / pass rusher Paul Kruger became available, bringing him in for a visit and then not allowing him to leave New Orleans by inking him to a 1-year, $3 million to a deal,

Kruger can immediately step in at defensive end for the Saints 4-3 defensive scheme, and be featured in sub packages designed to generate that much-needed pressure on opposing QBs.

Nov 30, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger (99) against the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Ravens won 33-27. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Now it appears, the defensive side of the ball is set for the Raiders in Week #1. At the moment, at least.

Unfortunately, the offensive side of the ball is another story.

Expectations were sky high this season for the normally prolific offensive unit, especially after acquiring speedy tight end Coby Fleener, and drafting a “true number one” receiver in Michael Thomas.

Despite the shiny new toys, the offense has looked stagnant, and the running game has been atrocious.

That’s because at its core, football is a game that is still won in the trenches, and the Saints seem to have been complete negligent in making any attempt whatsoever to improve their obvious achilles heel on that side of the ball, the O-Line.

It would actually be a lot less concerning, if the Saints appeared to be satisfied with the personnel they currently have.

If Sean Payton was steadfast in his comments to the press and asked for time for the unit to jell, it would be much easier to have more faith.

Sadly, they are doing the exact opposite.

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The Saints are clearly in scramble mode to find some way to adequately protect their best asset, 37-year old Drew Brees.

This have left many Saints fans left scratching their heads, given that nearly everyone saw this coming. Everyone but Saints management.

The level of urgency from the organization is palpable to fans right now.

Less than a week after announcing that Andrus Peat was going to get a chance to settle in as the right guard, Payton announced that Peat would potentially be moving to left guard.

At this point I feel bad for the player, and it will probably only be after he is inevitably cut in the next two seasons that he goes to a team and becomes productive, an all too common theme among ex-Saints.

Oct 15, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Andrus Peat (75) blocks Atlanta Falcons defensive end Vic Beasley (44) during the first half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to flip-flopping on Peat, the organization signed journeyman offensive lineman Khalif Barnes.

Jun 9, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders tackle Khalif Barnes (68) at minicamp at the Raiders practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

While he has proven to be versatile in his career, the best the Saints can hope for is a capable backup at the tackle or guard position.

Barnes is not going to turn out to be the anchor of the line, and there’s a chance he doesn’t even wind up on the 53 man roster come next week.

However, the most disturbing fact regarding where the Saints stand right now is that Sean Payton has announced his starters will play in the 4th pre-season game, including Drew Brees.

This is astounding news, considering the injuries to starting quarterbacks Tony Romo and now Teddy Bridgewater, combined with the appalling play of the starting offensive line thus far.

At this point, Saints fans should just be praying Brees makes it to week 1.

Dec 6, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) is sacked by Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis (58) in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Panthers won 41-38. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Let me be clear, I’m not knocking the Saints for trying new things on the line, or bringing in new players to evaluate.

I’m just wondering: what the hell took so long?

Next: 7 Saints With Jobs On the Line vs. the Ravens

We all knew full well the limitations of this line last season.

If they had been as proactive about improving the line as they were about the defense, we might be having a much more optimistic conversation.

I just hope this flurry of activity doesn’t fall under the category of “too little, too late”…….