It wasn’t the season that Saints fans were hoping for heading into the 2022 campaign. New Orleans finished the season at 7-10, marking their worst record since the 2005 season. There were a lot of question marks heading into the year with Dennis Allen getting promoted to the head coaching position after Sean Payton decided to take a year away from New Orleans. Allen’s last stint being a head coach was with the Las Vegas Raiders where he went 11-37 during three seasons with the franchise. New Orleans had a chance to take a lowly NFC South, but too many mistakes cost them down the stretch. Here are some key takeaways from Allen’s first season as head coach with the Saints:
Saints Offense Couldn’t Find Their Stride All Season:
There was a lot of optisims going into the season with how this Saints offense was going to perform. New Orleans was able to bring back Jameis Winston as the starting quarterback and they were able to add weapons around them.
Winston only started in one game for New Orleans, the season opener against the Falcons. The Florida State product injured his back during that game that would sideline him for the rest of the year opening up the door for Andy Dalton being QB1 for the Saints.
New Orleans moved up in the draft to acquire Chris Olave. Olave panned out to be one of the Saints go-to targets throughout the season, especially with injuries to Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry that opened up more targets for the rookie receiver. Along with Olave, Rashid Shaheed showed what he can do in the Saints offense with his elusive speed and that carried over into him being the punt returner for the rest of the season.
Though young receivers were able to step up, the running game took a big step back in this Saints offense. New Orleans ranked just outside the bottom 10 when it comes to rushing yards per game. Alvin Kamara’s best game came against Las Vegas where he found the endzone three times, but outside of that game he didn’t find much of consistency coming out of the backfield.
New Orleans Let Games Get Away From Them:
There were three games during the Saints season that they had in their hands and let it get away from them. The first instance was in week since when New Orleans took on the Cincinnati Bengals in the ‘Big Easy’. The Saints were entering the game at 2-3 after getting back on track in the week prior when they took down the Seattle Seahawks, 39-32.
New Orleans was able to take an early advantage going into the half when Wil Lutz nailed a 30-yard field goal to put the Saints up 20-14. The black and gold at one point had a 23-14 lead at the start of the third quarter. The Saints led most of the way until the Bengals took the lead with 1:57 to go as Joe Burrow found Ja’Marr Chase for a 60-yard touchdown to put Cincinnati up 30-26. New Orleans would end up getting stopped on fourth down that would allow the Bengals to run out the clock.
The next instance was the most costly one in what was still a winnable NFC South, even with the Saints getting out to a slow start to the season. New Orleans blew a 16-3 lead against the Buccaneers on Monday night in week 13. The Saints defense dominated for most of the game until Tampa Bay scored on back-to-back offensive possessions to stun New Orleans. The loss would end up being the killshot for the Saints’ division hopes as Tampa Bay went on to win the NFC South.
In week 18, New Orleans controlled most of the game and shutdown Sam Darnold to under 50 yards passing the whole game. The Saints weren’t able to add to their early 7-0 lead, especially after two missed field goals by Wil Lutz. New Orleans got an opportunity to end the game with a interception by Daniel Sorensen, but the special teams wasn’t able to convert any points that led to Carolina driving down the field to kick the game-winning field goal.
Those are three losses that the Saints let get away and if they were to flip all three of those games we would be looking at a 10-7 record right now for New Orleans, instead they finished at 7-10.
Saints Defense Got Off to a Slow Start, but Finished the Season Strong:
It was a rocky start to the season for this Saints defense that had a lot of expectations heading into the season. New Orleans was able to add vital piece in the secondary by selecting Alontae Taylor in the second round. They also added Tyrann Mathieu, Daniel Sorensen and Marcus Maye to the back-end of the defense.
Midway through the season, the Saints were getting pushed around in the running game and had an inconsistent pass rush. New Orleans’ defense was not as dominant as we had seen from the 2018 to 2021 seasons. The defensive unit gave up an average of over 28 points over the first seven games and they had trouble of generating turnovers that Saints fans are used to seeing from this unit.
Even after a slow start to the season and dealing with key injuries in the secondary the Saints defense turned the corner down the stretch. Over the last 10 games of the season, New Orleans allowed an average of just 14.5 points per game and would end up finishing fourth in the league with 48 sacks. They would also hold the last six opponents that they faced to under 20 points.
Key contributors for the Saints defense down the stretch were: Cam Jordan, Alontae Taylor, Kaden Elliss and Demario Davis. Whenever Marshon Lattimore and Pete Werner went down with an injury it was Taylor and Elliss that stepped up to fill a volatile role. Taylor and Elliss would turn out to be key contributors for the Saints defense in the back half of the season.
What’s Next For the Saints:
New Orleans will now head into the offseason as the NFL Draft and the Free Agency period will serve as a key aspect in improving the roster the Saints have now. For next season, fans will have to wait to find out who the Saints will play week one whenever the NFL schedule comes out during the summer.