The New Orleans Saints offense elevated to another level with the addition of Jimmy Graham in 2010. However, the luxury of having Graham as a matchup problem for opposing defenses hindered the Saints chances of going far in the postseason. Defensive coordinators begin to study the ins and outs of Sean Payton’s offense; during those studies they figured out a way to minimize the firepower of the Saints.
Jimmy Graham became the main focus of opposing defenses by constantly being double teamed; in which turned the Saints into a one-dimensional offense. Do you remember what happened in last season on the road matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers?
Graham was not a factor at all in that game due to the Steelers placing all of their efforts on him. Saints quarterback Drew Brees would go on to have one of his best games of the season. He tossed five touchdown passes to five different players. Jimmy Graham was not one of them. The unpredictability of the New Orleans Saints is what made them a premier powerhouse in the National Football League when they made that magical run to the Super Bowl in 2009. Nobody knew who Drew Brees would deliver the ball to.
The Saints receivers were not All-Pro wideouts, but they knew what their responsibilities were in Sean Payton’s scheme. If the receivers were not clicking on all cylinders, the Saints would throw in the volatile screen game that has been Sean Payton’s bread and butter since 2006. All of those options would come to an end in 2011. The 2011 season was a record setting year for the Saints offense. They finished the season with a 13-3 record, and Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s record for most passing yards in a season.
However in the offseason some of the game’s best defensive coordinators begin to construct a plan on how to minimize the Saints offensive capabilities. Graham would still put up spectacular numbers in the following seasons but look at the result. You cannot blame Sean Payton for utilizing a weapon such as Graham, but it took away catches from receivers such as Marques Colston. The Saints would struggle with physical defenses that were not afraid of Graham such as the Seahawks and 49ers.
The Saints last three playoff exits were against teams that played in the NFC West. Those two franchises along with the St. Louis Rams have the blueprint on how to rattle the Saints offense. Now that Graham is with the Seahawks the Saints will once again rely on no name receivers. There only bright spot is Brandin Cooks, however; Marques Colston will once again be a factor in the Saints passing game.
When Graham begin to emerge as a prime target in the Saints offense, it somewhat diminished the relationship between Brees and Colston in regards to productivity in the passing game. In 2015, Colston will have a chance to prove naysayers wrong and become reliable a target in the Saints arsenal. In the September 13 season opener against the Arizona Cardinals; we will see if the element of surprise is available in the Saints bag of tricks.