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Analyzing the statistical inefficiencies of the Saints’ offense

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By: Carson Caulfield

Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports

What is the root cause and who is to blame?

Inconsistent, infuriating, and ineffective. These three words would encapsulate the New Orleans Saints offense this season.

Although there have been some bright spots and several well-executed offensive showings, last week’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings was a harsh reminder of reality: this is not a good offense right now. Something has to be fixed.

Before diving into this analysis, I’d like to give a huge shoutout to Katherine Terrell, Steven Patton, and Ben Baldwin on Twitter for their statistical analysis of the offense. Their insights fueled the content below.

Overwhelming Predictability

Keeping a defense alert and unsuspecting is a must in today’s NFL. Unpredictability was a cornerstone of the Brees-era Saints offense. But now, that’s not the case.

The Saints are dead last in play-action percentage and last in play-action pass yards percentage. Perhaps these would be higher with a more consistent offensive line, but I digress.

The team is second-to-last in both plays with motion before the snap and at the snap. This is ridiculously low considering the threat of runs from Rashid Shaheed, Chris Olave, and Taysom Hill.

The Saints are first in the NFL in passing attempts that are 20 or more yards downfield. There’s nothing inherently wrong with testing a defense with deep passes, but, oddly, the Saints are doing it more than anyone, especially when you have multiple short-medium length pass threats with Michael Thomas, Juwan Johnson, and Alvin Kamara.

No one is expecting Pete Carmichael to be a play-calling genius like Mike McDaniels or Kyle Shanahan. But the offense is undeniably predictable, which has now been a serious crutch since the beginning of last season. It’s not surprising that Carr’s options are limited when the defense knows what is coming more often than not.

Play-Calling Inefficiency

Not only is Carmichael’s offense not producing points, but it’s also not producing the points expected with the talent he has available. The tweet above from Steven Patton illustrates player caller performance based on personnel and market efficiency.

The Saints have struggled to produce in both the run and pass game, but the run game is arguably far more underwhelming given the talent available. The Saints are ranked 15th in total rushing yards across the NFL. Although that’s not awful, there is certainly room for improvement based on the running back talent and the poor defensive opponents faced.

In the offseason, there appeared to be a clear formula for success when utilizing the team’s four main rushers. Certain players (Kamara, Miller) were more suited for outside runs and the passing game, while certain players (Williams, Hill) were more suited for hard-nose, short-yardage runs. This system worked beautifully with Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and Taysom Hill for years. Although injuries have clearly impacted this running back room, we are not seeing this running back room utilized how we thought it would.

Speaking of Taysom Hill, we’ve all heard that statistic that the Saints were 16-1 to begin the year when he was given seven or more carries in a game. This year, there have been three games where he rushed more than seven times. All three games were victories, which makes the fact that he rushed only one time against Minnesota so confusing and frustrating.

How Much is Carr to Blame?

This question has divided Saints Twitter more than a Presidential election, so let’s analyze this with caution. When we look at Derek Carr’s statistics compared to other QBs, he’s the definition of “mid.”

He has ten passing touchdowns (ranked 19th), has made 220 completions (ranked 6th), has a 66% completion percentage (ranked 16th), a 1.2% interception percentage (ranked 2nd-lowest), a 90% qb rate (ranked 17th), and has 223 yards per game (ranked 20th, including two games cut short due to injury).

There have clearly been times when Carr’s subpar vision has hurt him, especially on a team with dynamite speedsters Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed. However, we rarely see Carr make “bad throws.” In fact, he’s significantly decreased his interceptions through ten games this year (4) compared to last season (10). Perhaps he needs to increase his “bad throws” and actually take a few more risks.

In summary, of course, Carr could be performing better. He’s being paid $37 million per year to produce top-tier results, and he’s not doing it. However, with inconsistent offensive line play and clearly inefficient offensive play calling, I don’t think he can realistically do significantly better than where he is right now.

Carr is not to blame, but he’s not helping anybody.

Originally posted on Canal Street Chronicles – All Posts

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