It's time for the New Orleans Saints to evolve with the times. You know, get with the program. The NFL is a place where old schemes die hard. Not Bruce Willis hard, but close enough. Since 2006, the Saints have been the gold standard (see what I did there?) for offensive wizardry.
And this year is certainly no different. The Saints are currently the sixth-ranked offense in the NFL, averaging 26.0 points per game. The precision with which they operate may only be superseded by the proficiency.
The Saints run a plug-and-play system that seemingly makes stars out of perceived mediocre talent. It's all orchestrated by head coach Sean Payton and spearheaded by quarterback Drew Brees.
Together they comprise the NFL's most lethal duo. Correction, they comprised the NFL's most lethal duo. Slews of new offensive minds have invaded the NFL and are beginning to take the league by storm.
The recent contest (I use that word liberally) between the Saints and the Seattle Seahawks marked the official passing of the guard. On one hand you hand a multipronged attack designed around a Swiss Army knife of a QB in Russell Wilson.
Seattle's ability to work every facet of offense, and hit every quadrant of the field, looked space age in comparison to what the Saints were doing.
New Orleans, for all its glory, looked as if it were playing "granddaddy ball." Attempting to execute a scheme that was heavy on substitution packages and specific personnel groupings, the Saints methodically called the same insipid plays over and over to little avail.
When you take into account the Saints were against the league's most talented defense, on the road in literally the loudest venue in the NFL—it makes this archaic approach even more puzzling.
For those of you who watched that game, answer this: How many times did the Saints look discombobulated before barely getting the snap off in time? Furthermore, how many times did they fail to even get the snap off?
Now listen, those were rhetorical questions, because even if the answer was once, which it wasn't, that's entirely too many times for a team quarterbacked by one of the greatest players ever.
Shuffling in and out four or five players at a time is fine in the confines of your home stadium. But the approach leaves too much room for error on the road.
But I have a way for New Orleans to essentially weatherproof its offense, while rendering the defense helpless at the same time...and it simply involves a change in tempo.
In my humble opinion, but in a cocky manner of course, the Philadelphia Eagles are the NFL's next juggernaut offense.
Led by head coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles would rather keep their best personnel grouping on the field, while executing in a kamikaze-like fashion all while wearing down the opponent—forcing them to keep their same defense on field.
This approach has been proven to be extremely efficient as Eagles' second-year QB Nick Foles has thrown 19 touchdowns opposed to zero interceptions...in nine starts!
The reason being is that the Eagles truly dictate to the defense by forcing its hand personnel-wise. If a defense can't substitute, how many different looks can it really provide? In addition, this type of attack is QB-centric.
The initial call may come in through the coach, but through use of signals—due to the no-huddle approach—the QB has the ability to adjust the play and tempo at will. This essentially makes it a noise and weatherproof scheme.
To take it a step further, both the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos have gone to a no-huddle, up-tempo approach despite having two of the greatest QBs of all time at the helm in Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, respectively.
Both, along with Brees, are the very best at reading defenses and deciphering tendencies. It becomes all but cheating giving them vanilla looks with worn-down personnel.
What makes this approach ideal for the Saints is the fact they have a roster full of versatile players.
The Saints often operate out of "11 personnel," which is one running back, one tight end and three receivers. In the up-tempo-based attack, they could oscillate between zone-run schemes, draws, screens, slants and seam passes all while moving the pocket (play action) in attempt to give Brees better sight lines.
Leaving the same personnel on the field while doing so would make them virtually unstoppable.
In the aforementioned personnel groupings, the Saints could trot out running back Pierre Thomas, tight ends Ben Watson and Jimmy Graham (the latter of which would line up at receiver exclusively) along with receivers Kenny Stills and Marques Colston.
Here we see the Patriots executing one of the most masterful no-huddle drives ever studied on film (seven-plays, 80 yards). They stayed in "12 personnel" virtually the entire drive while continuously snapping the ball with as much as 20 seconds left on the play clock.
The Broncos defense had no idea how to defend it, because it originally looked like a power scheme out the gate. Keep an eye on tight end Aaron Hernandez and how he is moved all around the formation.
Thomas would be the player who would make this scheme pop. His ability to catch the ball like a receiver, pass protect like a fullback and run between the tackles (as well as on the edges) makes him a wild-card player in the mold of Hernandez.
Watson's ability to block allows for him to be motioned into the backfield to lead for Thomas.
As you can see here, the Broncos were forced to remain in their base defense, although New England had the personnel to run both power and spread sets without substituting. Can you imagine someone like Stills, in the slot, being defended by a safety or linebacker?
That scenario would be a form of football suicide for the opposition. The fact Graham can start off as an in-line tight end one play and play the Z receiver the next means his matchups would always be favorable.
Conversely, when the defense sends out speed personnel to guard against the spread sets, the run game would open up tremendously. It's all about creating the best possible situation for the offense and truly dictating where the game goes.
The Brees-Payton combination is the most accomplished in the NFL. They are two of the savviest minds in the business, and both have the ability to improvise with the best of them. Running a no-huddle, up-tempo offense could alleviate a lot of the mishaps the Saints encounter on the road.
It would also keep the opposition off balance by forcing them to keep the same personnel on the field. Providing one of the best offenses with a fresh, major wrinkle would undoubtedly give defensive coordinators ulcers...among other things.
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