The New Orleans Saints had an uncharacteristically poor offensive performance in Sunday’s win over the Cleveland Browns, but when breaking down the issues on Monday, coach Sean Payton called out one position in particular.
“We have to be better at the tight end position, that’s for sure,” Payton said while listing the problems with the offense. “You see that on tape, all right, and we’ll get that all cleaned up.”
It’s worth noting, however, that Payton saw problems with the offense as a whole, too, as the Saints gained just 275 yards and lost two fumbles in the 21-18 win over the Browns.
“Offensively, we weren’t very good,” he said.
The Saints have deployed just two tight ends through the first two games, Benjamin Watson and Josh Hill, and neither player took issue with Payton’s comments when told about them in the locker room Monday afternoon.
“I think I can play better, definitely, make more plays, do more,” Watson said. “That’s the goal. The goal is always to get better, so I definitely feel like I can get better.”
Watson has been the team’s top tight end after re-signing on a one-year deal this offseason, coming back to the team for which he played from 2013-15. In Week 1, Watson played 80 percent of the snaps, and he played 82 percent in Week 2.
Thus far, Watson has seven catches for 63 yards. He nearly had a 2-yard touchdown on Sunday, but Brees overthrew him in the end zone.
Hill, who’s been with the Saints since 2013, played 38 percent in Week 1 and 59 percent in Week 2 as the offense used more run-oriented packages. He has two catches for 20 yards.
But, receiving production is hardly the only metric by which tight ends should be judged. Both Watson and Hill are asked to frequently block in the running game, and although other players and game situations certainly deserve some blame, the Saints through two games rank last in the NFL in rushing yards (105) and 31st in yards per carry (2.9).
Payton’s comments about needing better tight end play came after an initial question about the struggles in the run game. He listed backside blocks and communication among the problems in Week 2 before giving an overall evaluation.
“Listen, I thought overall there were too many things that were troubling watching the tape on offense,” he said. “We’ve got to improve in a lot of areas.”
Then, as Payton briefly paused, a reporter chimed in to ask which areas at which point he doubled-down on backside blocks and communication then shouldered blame for calling a failed run in a short-yardage situation Sunday. He then said, “We just have to be better,” before mentioning the tight ends specifically.
The blocking of the Saints tight ends was key to last year’s success on the ground when the offense ranked fifth in rushing and second in yards per carry.
“We just have to be better at executing the details,” Hill said Monday.
Part of the issue in Week 2, according to Hill, was that the Browns use such exotic looks defensively that made it harder to project who to block on some plays, but Hill expects the Saints to improve from the experience in time for next Sunday’s matchup against the Atlanta Falcons.
“When you have familiarity with the team and you understand what they’re doing and how we want to attack it, it does make a difference,” Hill said. “So, we’ll definitely learn from this.”
#SAINTSNEWS #SAINTS #NOLA