METAIRIE, La. — The New Orleans Saints’ offense has a problem, and that problem is bigger than just inconsistency.
The Saints (1-1) are eight quarters into the season with only one good quarter to prove it. They rank 17th in total offense, 18th in passing offense, and 9th in running offense.
That could be attributed in part to a good defense by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week without running back Alvin Kamara, who sat out with a rib injury. It could be a matter of chemistry between the new faces on offense.
“I think it’s all going to be something we can work on, but I feel like we’re starting to put together our identity of what some of our guys can do, what they do best,” quarterback Jameis Winston said. “I think we can start putting that later.”
The most pressing concern is Winston’s back.
Winston said Wednesday that he’s preparing to start like he would any other week, but he’s been playing injured since going to the medical tent for checkups in the fourth quarter of a 27-26 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the Week 1. Ironically, that was the best quarterback the Saints have played thus far, as Winston threw two touchdown passes and had a 40-yard pass to set up the game-winning field goal that erased a 16-game deficit. points.
While it’s hard to know how much the injury affected Winston against the Buccaneers, there were times when it certainly seemed to have been a factor in the 20-10 loss. Winston seemed almost shy on some of his scrambles and knocked down several deep passes.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Winston completed 2 of 11 passes that went for at least 15 yards through the air, up from 8 of 11 the week before. He didn’t complete his first such pass until 5:17 into the fourth quarter.
Winston threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter. One was a deep pass to receiver Chris Olave with good coverage, another was significantly wide to tight end Juwan Johnson and the final one was returned for a touchdown after he attempted to pass a pass to receiver Jarvis Landry between two defenders.
“Impatience. That was the biggest thing,” Winston said of his throws to Landry and Johnson and said he should have checked.
He said he could live with the shot to Olave because the cornerback made a good play and didn’t give the Bucs good field position.
The Saints also came up empty-handed on one of their best drives of the game after running back Mark Ingram II lost a fumble at the Tampa 20-yard line in the third quarter.
“We knew it was going to be a field position game,” Allen said. “We knew we were playing really good defense, and I thought for the first 3 1/2 quarters we played the game the way it was meant to be played. I thought we missed some opportunities on some big plays down the field.” field, and I thought maybe we tried to go to the pot too often in terms of making those shots on the field.
Allen admitted that Winston missed some shots that he would normally be able to make, but has said repeatedly that he didn’t think Winston’s injury played a role. He also said he never considered sitting Winston before or during the game because of the injury, noting Monday that Winston was in no more pain than usual.
“The pain and discomfort is the pain and discomfort of losing a game,” Allen said. “That was the pain and discomfort for all of us.”
Winston, who was limited in practice all of last week, did not appear to participate in individual drills during the open portion of Wednesday’s practice. He was officially listed as limited, and Allen said that he would be on a similar schedule to the previous week.
As the Saints head out on a 10-day road streak, first against the Carolina Panthers and then immediately to London to face the Minnesota Vikings, Winston will have to shake off that awkwardness if the Saints are to develop their full offensive potential.
They’ll also have to find a way to allow fewer sacks, especially given Winston’s injury situation. The Saints have allowed 10 sacks in two games, which is second in the NFL, but not quite on the offensive line. Of the six sacks allowed against the Bucs, Allen said he could only blame two on protection issues.
Allen was “surprised” by the six sacks, but maybe that had more to do with the renewed offense. Thomas’ three receiving touchdowns are tied for second in the NFL, Landry led the Saints in receiving yards in his debut against the Falcons with nine receptions for 114 yards.
A concerted effort was made to engage Olave against the Bucs, targeting him 13 times but connecting with him only five times for 80 yards.
“The more we know [each other]the more we feel like we have all our pieces,” Winston said. “We had a great piece last week that wasn’t with us with Alvin [out]. Much of our offense revolves around him. I think the more games we have together, the more practices we have together, it’s going to be beneficial for all of us.”