Let’s be real. No one 100% expected us to go from 0-2 to 6-2. It rarely happens. This is only the third time in league history it’s ever happened, actually. So there’s something to be said about this historic turnaround and the team that’s pulled it off.
While it looks like we’re well on our way to bucking the 7-9 trend, the fact of the matter is that there’s a lot of season left. A lot can happen in 8 games, as we learned through the first half, so let’s take a look at the impact players on offense that have generated so much hype so far this season. Check back later today for defense.
Drew Brees is both the hero we need and the hero we deserve. He’s been the consistent leader of this Saints squad since he joined the team in 2006. This season, he’s well on his way to topping 4,400 yards and 25 touchdowns. And while that seems like a low year for the future hall of famer, it’s actually a great one. The difference this year is that in addition to having our usual top 5 passing attack (3rd), we also have the 7th ranked running game in the NFL. Drew has been great and precise with only 4 interceptions so far this year. He’s got the Bills next who play a ton of zone defense, exactly what Breesus excels against.
Mark Ingram is on his way to his second straight 1,000 yard season. At the halfway point, he has 541 yards on the ground. That includes a 17 yard game during the Adrian Peterson experiment. He has also added 192 yards through the air, continuing his multi-dimensional usage. Following a two fumble game against the Bears two weeks ago, Ingram made some adjustments to his carry and ran through the Bucs for 77 yards last week. What this says to me is that he still hates to fail and wants to do right by his team and fans. Ingram has lost no passion for this organization despite there being moves being made around him that many thought would distract the Alabama product. Instead, he’s only grown more loyal and more dedicated. Keep an eye out for him next game against the Bills for a 49ers-like bounce back.
Alvin Kamara is the swiss army knife we thought we had with Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles. I’m not saying that those guys weren’t amazing, but there’s something different about Kamara’s game. You recently heard me describe Kamara as being more of a Pierre Thomas back with a Reggie Bush skillset. That blend is dangerous and something we haven’t quite seen yet. Used to be that if opposing defense saw one of our “Joker” backs in the backfield, they could adjust accordingly because of our observable tendencies and usage. The thing about AK41 is that he has no tendencies in terms of how he’s used on the field. He can take a swing pass or a screen to the house, he can make deep back shoulder catches down field, he can run a sweep or a pitch to the edge and turn it upfield, or he can run between the tackles and get loose. There’s no gameplan for that. He’s the perfect piece of the puzzle that is the legendary Sean Peyton playcalling scheme. He’s already compiled over 650 scrimmage yards and 5 touchdowns. There’s no reason to believe he’ll be slowing down soon.
Michael Thomas has quietly been having a great second year. He’s on pace to top his catch total from last year (on pace for 100) and get within 50 yards of his yardage from his rookie year. The one glaring absence from Thomas’s game so far is that he’s only found the endzone twice so far. Expect that to get more frequent in the second half of the year as teams begin to key in on the run game some more, opening up the passing attack for more of Sean’s “come at me” moments. Thomas is presently top 10 in league catch total and 14th in receiving yards. We’ll see if he kicks into another great to close out the season. But even if not, he’s playing well and has been solid for us in intangibles like 3rd down reliability, drawing the attention of opposing secondaries, and blocking for the run game.
Ted Ginn Jr. is my offensive new addition MVP for the first half. A complete and utter surprise he’s been so far coming in from the Carolina Panthers. Sure 23 catches and 480 yards isn’t super impressive. But he’s 7th in the league right now with 17.1 yards per catch. For comparison, he’s currently tied with Brandin Cooks at that total. He’s been a truly effective deep threat replacement, but adds the element of taking a short pass a long way home and also isn’t afraid to make a catch over the middle. His veteran savvy has shown itself multiple times this season as well. His only true downside, for some reason, has been fielding punts. Ginn was supposed to bring a new element to the return game and that’s the one element he hasn’t excelled in at all. He doesn’t seem to be shaken by his shaky handle on that dimension. If he’s able to rebound and find a way to replicate his ways as returnman of the past, he’s going to be giving us literally everything he’s got, and we can only be grateful.
Honorable Mentions: Brandon Coleman (14 catches, 252 yards, 3 TDs), Coby Fleener (16 catches, 196 yards, 2 TDs), Senio Kelemete, and Ryan Ramczyk