Here is a statistical review of how the Saints stacked up against the rest of the league in a few key stats.

OFFENSE
Passing offense:
Passer Rating: 102.5 (4th)
Passing Yardage: 5,074 (1st)
Completion Percentage: 70.0% (2nd)
Passing TD’s: 38 (2nd)
*Adjusted Net Yards / Attempt: 7.4 (5th)
INT’s: 15 (18th fewest thrown)
EXP: 179.51 (3rd)

*Adjusted Net Yards/ Attempt takes into account TD’s and INT’s and awards (or takes away) yards for each.

Those are outstanding numbers, squarely in the top 5 across the board, with the only blemish being that 18th ranking in INT’s.  The only problem is the great numbers aren’t translating into wins on the field, and the Saints need to figure out why, and more importantly, how to fix it.

Rushing offense:
Rushing Yards: 1,742 (16th)
Rushing TD’s: 17 (6th)
Yards / Attempt: 4.3 (12th)
Fumbles: 17 (8th fewest)
Longest Run: 75 yards (2nd)
Rushing Attempts: 404 (19th)
EXP: 15.68 (4th)

The rushing offense was very solid for the Saints in 2016.  Despite a few costly fumbles, the overall numbers are actually top 10 in terms of fewest fumbles out of the running game, even though 17 sure seems like a lot to me.  The only area you can point to and say, well that’s below average, is the overall number of rushing attempts (19th).  Part of that is to be blamed on play calling, but you don’t get to a 7-9 record by playing with a lead in every game.  You get there by losing games, which means you get there by playing from behind, which means you sometimes have to give up on the running game and try to catch up by passing the ball.  When the Saints have been at their best in the Sean Payton / Drew Brees era they’ve been in the top 10 (6th in both 2009 and 2011) in rushing yardage, but that goes hand-in-hand with being ahead on the scoreboard, too.

DEFENSE
Passing defense:

Passer Rating: 98.1 (29th)
Passing Yardage: 4,380 (32nd)
Completion Percentage: 64.9% (26th)
Passing TD’s: 27 (20th)
*Adjusted Net Yards / Attempt: 7.4 (31st)
INT’s: 9 (27th)
EXP: -176.45 (32nd)

Was the 2016 Saints passing defense the worst in the league?  There is a case to be made for that argument.  We could run through the litany of excuses (beginning with injuries), but the reality is the Saints are finding themselves at the bottom of the league in passing defense rankings year-after-year, defensive-coordinator-after-defensive-coordinator.  In my view, the injury excuse begins to rang hollow after the first year or five of bad defense.

Rushing defense:
Rushing Yards: 1,626 (14th)
Rushing TD’s: 19 (28th)
Yards / Attempt: 4.1 (15th)
Rushing Attempts:  396 (11th fewest)
EXP: 28.83 (11th)

Aside from giving up too many rushing TD’s (and you can probably chalk up a few of those to drives that came off blunders on offense (turnovers), special teams (turnovers), and passing defense breakdowns (giving up long plays in the passing game to setup goal-to-go opportunities, and pass interference penalties setting up opposing rushing offenses for getting those TD’s), so aside from the rushing TD’s allowed this was a good (not great, but good) rushing defense.  I think a couple players on that defensive line deserve some credit for the progress that has been made in rushing defense, to wit: Tyeler Davison and Cameron Jordan.  Craig Robertson has also been a pleasant surprise filling in at middle linebacker, but it’s a position the Saints would do well to address in the offseason, so they can move Robertson back to his natural position.  If Rueben Foster is there in the 1st and the top edge rushers are all gone, the Saints could do worse.  Might also want to consider Kendell Beckwith as a mid round selection, assuming the medical checks out on him.

That’s it for this blog entry.  I might do another in a few days looking at some per-drive stats.

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