Winning Season

On paper, the Saints’ 2023 season was a success, but it sure did leave a rancid aftertaste

The 2023 NFL season will reach its zenith this month with Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, but don’t expect many Saints fans to give the game more than a passing interest.

It’s Carnival time in New Orleans, and the NFL’s biggest game will be played on the Sunday evening right before Mardi Gras. Most in New Orleans will look forward to the revelry of the Thoth and Bacchus parades; however, many in the Who Dat? Nation will take time to continue to reflect on the past year and offer hopes for the season to come in 2024.

The Saints finished the 2023 season ranked 14th in total offense (337.2 yards per game), 11th in passing yards per game (234.7), 24th in rushing yards per game (102.5), and 9th in points per game (23.6). One of the most alarming trends during the season, however, was the unit’s Red Zone efficiency. Of the 60 times the offense made it within 20 yards of the end zone, they only scored 32 touchdowns (53.3%).

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The defense finished 13th in total defense (327.2 yards per game), 8th in points per game (19.2), 22nd in rushing yards per game (119.9) and 10th in passing yards per game (207.3).

Now that the Saints’ season is complete, the team, front office, and fans are questioning whether this franchise can escape mediocrity. From all communication out of Saints’ HQ, it appears that General Manager Mickey Loomis, along with Head Coach Dennis Allen and quarterback Derek Carr will be back with the team. Offensive Coordinator Pete Carmichael, who seemingly made a name for himself in Payton’s shadow, may be the fall guy for a team looking for positive momentum as it enters a new league year. But there are a ton of questions about how the Saints can build a roster that returns them to their winning ways.

Because the Saints finished middle of the pack, they’ll get middle-of-the-pack draft positioning. Right now they’re slated to pick 14th in the coming first round. They obviously need to focus on upgrading the talent and depth in the trenches. Focus on the offensive line — which too often did not give Carr the pass protection he needed, nor open the holes needed to effectively run the ball, control the clock, and dominate the Red Zone — is imperative. If fixing the O line is priority 1A, rebuilding the defensive line has to be priority 1B.

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Lowering the average age of the roster is also paramount. While fan favorites defensive end Cam Jordan and linebacker Demario Davis continue to play at a high level, they’re not getting any younger.

While the front office updated several contracts at the end of the season to help prepare the team going into 2024, the Saints’ salary cap issues remain a red flag. It’s difficult to land top-flight free agent talent when money isn’t available to lure those players to town. With little positive momentum over the past three seasons and sparce indication that the team is poised for an upswing, players who can choose their destination may opt to sign for a team that at least appears to be able to compete for a championship.

The Saints have much work to do to prepare for the 2024 season. If Allen holds on, he has to build respect and camaraderie in the locker room — which was tested in the last few seconds of the 2023 season when backup quarterback Jameis Winston overruled the head coach in the waning moments of the Atlanta game in order to get running back Jamaal Williams, who led the NFL with 17 rushing touchdowns in 2022, his only TD in 2023. Instead of closing ranks around his players, Allen aired their dirty laundry. He’s going to have to work hard this offseason to instill his loyalty to his players.

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For the past 15 years, the Saints have been trying to hold on to a Super Bowl-caliber team but continue to fall short of the mark. While that window has been open for an incredibly long span, it now looks like it is closing, if not being slammed shut. The Saints haven’t won the division in three years, nor have they been in the playoffs for that same span. They are looking like a middle-of-the-pack NFL franchise right now. While it is better than year upon year of losing, that’s not where anyone in the Who Dat? Nation wants to be. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to get the Black and Gold back to the Super Bowl.


Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football.

 

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