The Saints have already endured a devastating season in terms of injuries, through Week One.
The injuries have been even more costly because they have predominantly affected the defensive side of the ball, the area the Saints most needed to improve to be successful.
It seems Hau’oli Kikaha’s injury this summer was an omen of what was to come.
Keenan Lewis (who was later released), Sheldon Rankins, and now Delvin Breaux are among the starting defenders who have gone down to injury.
Injury concerns led to the surprise release of Lewis, leaving the Saints with an incredibly inexperienced group of corners moving forward into 2016.
Saints fans can be forgiven if they don’t yet know all of the groups names, seeing as none of them played a down for the Black and Gold a year ago.
Last year’s third round pick, P.J. Williams is now the number one corner moving forward.
Sep 11, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper (89) is tackled by New Orleans Saints linebacker James Laurinaitis (53) and cornerback P.J. Williams (25) during the second quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
He will be joined by rookies De’Vante Harris and Ken Crawley. The Saints have also attempted to add some experience to the group by signing Sterling Moore last week, and recent reports indicate that they have come to terms with cornerback B.W. Webb.
While it makes sense that they would look to make this type of move, there’s a reason that neither Webb nor Sterling Moore were on NFL rosters when the Saints came calling.
It’s a stop-gap measure, one that hopefully gives some relief to their young corners, whose development is now on the fast track, for better or worse.
The Saints’ one glaring weakness — inexperience at one of the NFL’s most critical positions — has now been exposed, and New Orleans is now desperately left to seek ways from preventing the water from completely bursting through an open and leaky hole.
More from New Orleans Saints
- New Orleans Saints: Three biggest questions heading into the offseason
- New Orleans Saints: Three positives to take from playoff loss
- New Orleans Saints: Bold predictions for Wild Card Round vs. Vikings
- New Orleans Saints: Complete roster breakdown vs. Minnesota Vikings
- New Orleans Saints: The one overarching reason why the Vikings will lose
The injury to Delvin Breaux in particular is heartbreaking; as he was on track to be the Saints’ best defensive player in 2016, and had a real shot at making his first Pro Bowl.
However, as the old NFL mantra goes, its time for the “next man up” in the Saints locker room.
Unfortunately for the New Orleans, most of the corners ready to fill the void are playing their first season in the NFL, either due to injury or because they are rookies.
Sep 11, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Delvin Breaux (40) is carted off the field after an injury in the second half against the Oakland Raiders at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Raiders won 35-34. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Thus far, the Saints are exactly who they have been, and exactly what they were expected to be.
They have one of the most potent offenses in the NFL, and after week one, they lead the league in total offense, and rank third in scoring offense.
34 points should be more than enough to win a home game in the NFL. Unfortunately, the Saints porous defense once again raised its ugly head, as the Saints suffered a horrendous 4th quarter collapse.
The young defense failed its first test, as Amari Cooper torched the Saints all day, including a back-breaking reception for over 40 yards late in the 4th.
Ken Crawley was unable to save the game on a daring two-point conversion by the Raiders with just over 40 seconds to play. Derek Carr threw a fade to the wily veteran Michael Crabtree, and Crabtree was able to box out the rookie to secure the win for the Raiders.
Even more disturbing for the Saints, they were unable to sack Derek Carr even one time during the course of the game. The inability to generate pressure with a four man rush is going to be the thorn in Dennis Allen’s side all year long.
It puts the young corners in an impossible situation, no matter how good the coverage is, NFL receiver will get open if they have all day to work their routes.
Sep 11, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Kasim Edebali (91) pressures Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) in the first quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Ultimately, Dennis Allen is going to be forced to bring extra pressure to affect the passer. He has said repeatedly that he wants to employ an aggressive style of defense.
Blitzing will put extra stress on the secondary as they will likely be matched up in one on one coverage. The alternative is worse for the Saints, sitting back in coverage may initially take plays away from opposing offenses, but if a quarterback has all day to throw, his receivers will get open.
The offense has shown it has the potential to be an elite unit this season. However, the Saints’ ultimate success or failure when it comes to wins and losses will be determined by what they do on the defensive side of the ball.
A large portion of the answer to that mystery will be how quickly the young corners go through the growing pains of adjusting to life in the NFL.
It doesn’t get any easier as they face Odell Beckam Jr. and a potent NY Giants receiving group this coming Sunday……..