New Orleans Saints 2023 season preview and predictions
This appeared in the original VSiN NFL Betting Guide released on June 29, 2023.
Wes Reynolds: The Saints are not used to missing the playoffs but they have done just that in the last two seasons. The Saints have declined from winning 13 games in 2019, to 12 in 2020, then nine in 2021, and finally seven last season mainly due to not being able to find a quarterback to fill Drew Brees’ shoes. They believe they have finally found one in Derek Carr, who comes in on a four-year, $150 million deal. Carr reunites with head coach Dennis Allen, who coached the quarterback in his 2014 rookie season.
Perhaps Carr has a great season here and is motivated knowing that a team is excited to have him as their quarterback. However, Pete Carmichael Jr. represents Carr’s fifth offensive coordinator as a pro. Carr’s four previous seasons in Year One of a new offensive coordinator currently stand as his four worst seasons in passer rating, completion rate, yards per attempt and passing yards per game. Carr went 22-40 (35.4%) as a starter in those four seasons compared to 41-39 (51.3%) in all other seasons.
The Saints have beefed up their running game to help Alvin Kamara, who still faces a likely suspension at some point for the incident in Las Vegas at the 2022 Pro Bowl, with Jamaal Williams, who led the NFL with 17 rushing touchdowns last season, and drafting Kendre Miller (TCU) in the third round. Michael Thomas agreed to return at a reduced salary but are his best days behind him having dealt with injuries and disciplinary issues the last three seasons? If so, then Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed will need to improve even more on their solid rookie seasons.
Up front, the top eight OL from last year return, but left tackle Trevor Penning had multiple foot injuries in his rookie season last year, and this quality veteran group of Erik McCoy, Andrus Peat, Ryan Ramczyk, and Cesar Ruiz could be showing some signs of age plus wear and tear.
The Saints were fifth in total defense for 2022, but both defensive coordinators – Ryan Nielsen and Kris Richard – left in the offseason. Dennis Allen will still call the plays, but he brings in Joe Woods from Cleveland to be the new DC. The run defense was 24th in 2022, and the Saints are rebuilding their interior with 2023 first-rounder Bryan Breese (Clemson).
Second-rounder Isaiah Foskey (Notre Dame) will replace the inconsistent Marcus Davenport on the opposite side of Cameron Jordan.
New Orleans should still be strong against the pass (2nd – 184.4 ypg; 48 sacks – 5th). Marshon Lattimore is a lockdown corner but missed ten games with an abdominal injury last year. This is a talented group with Lattimore, Paulson Adebo, Alontae Taylor, Marcus Maye, and Tyrann Mathieu, but they need to force more turnovers having only generated 14 takeaways.
Carr is by far the most proven quarterback in the NFC South, but Dennis Allen has not proven to be a winner as a head coach having a 15-38 record. The 7-10 record in 2022 was Allen’s best career record. Carr makes New Orleans the rightful favorite in the division, but 9.5 wins seems to be a bigger ask with a coach that has never had a winning season and a quarterback yet again working with a new offensive coordinator.
This appeared in the Updated VSiN NFL Betting Guide released on August 31, 2023.
Michael Lombardi: Last year, the Saints allowed 42 points to the Arizona Cardinals with Kyler Murray playing quarterback and lost by eight points. This year, we think the Saints are the class of the NFC South, and the Cards, even if they had Murray, will be at the bottom of the West. Normally the Saints defense plays well, but in the Arizona game, their quarterback Andy Dalton was in giveaway mode, throwing two picks for touchdowns. The Saints’ offense loved to give the ball away last year, and their defense didn’t create turnovers, which is why they finished 31st in the NFL at -11 in the turnover/takeaway column. Things are supposed to be different with newly acquired Derek Carr manning the quarterback position.
Carr is coming off his worst season as a pro in Las Vegas with a career-high 2.8 interception percentage and 20% bad throw percentage. Before last year, Carr carried a 1.9 interception percentage and never was above 16% in the bad throw category. Was it the new offense? Was it the lack of pass protection? One might assume going into the 2022 season with Davante Adams as his number-one, Carr might have had a career year. He did but it was a career worst. The Saints must hope that the return to the West Coast offense will help Carr become more accurate with his throws and cut down on his mistakes. Carr has won 63 games during his nine-year NFL career — seven wins per year — which is another number the Saints hope will change. Based on the preseason, Carr looks better, more accurate and in rhythm. But once the competition rises, once the defense takes their hits, will this make him rise to a new level or sink to last year?
Player to Watch: WR Chris Olave
One of the things that really stuck out throughout training camp was the individual play of Chris Olave. What he has done this summer has been nothing short of exceptional. Olave had a breakout rookie season where he had over 1,000 yards, but he looked even better in camp. During joint practice with the Los Angeles Chargers, Olave only dropped one pass that was thrown his way and it was because of a pass interference penalty. He torched their defensive backs down the field and made life really hard. He’s going to be a force in New Orleans with more of a vertical passing threat now. – Matthew Miguez, Canal St. Chronicles (@MiguezMatt)
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