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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Dylan Sanders and Darrion Gray

6 reasons the Saints missed the playoffs in 2023

The New Orleans Saints missed the playoffs for the third season in a row. Fingers can be pointed in multiple different directions, and that’s exactly what we’re here to do. Neither side of the ball held up their side of the bargain this year.

The offense didn’t truly get it together until the season was nearing its conclusion, while the defense showed it can’t carry the team. They shouldn’t be relied to do that anymore. These are the six reasons the Saints missed the playoffs.

Defensive line performance

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The New Orleans Saints must address their defensive line this season. Carl Granderson and Bryan Bresee both had nice seasons, but pretty much everyone outside of that needed to be better. That goes double for the edge defenders on the team. After Granderson, there was a linebacker and two defensive tackles ahead of the next end in sacks this season. Cameron Jordan and Tanoh Kpassagnon only had 5.5 sacks combined. The team finishes in the bottom half of the league for nearly all defensive line categories.

Offensive inconsistency

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One of the biggest headaches of this season was lack of consistency in offense. The switch would turn in the middle of drives sometimes, other times the team would multiple games either looking really good or really bad. Derek Carr had as many games (six) with over 300 yards of passing as he did with under 200 yards passing. Kamara’s usage was all over the place. It just felt like the team didn’t really know what they wanted to do on offense at times. Hard to win football games when you can’t rely on your offense to at least look competent most of the time.

Offensive line issues

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Health, pass blocking, run blocking; take your pick and the offensive line had issues with it this season. Carr was consistently pressured this season and the run game got almost zero push this year. The Saints finished the season  with the second-fewest yards per attempt on the ground. Trevor Penning hasn’t worked out at all and now Ryan Ramczyk has a knee that seems to be a ticking time bomb. The Saints will need to go back to the drawing board and address the line this offseason.

Red zone efficiency

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There’s a strong argument that if you wiped away only this problem in 2023 the Saints would be a playoff team. It feels like New Orleans would have beaten the Texans with better red zone performance. They could score touchdowns at home, but had the fifth-worst offense on the road in scoring in the red zone. This was an issue that plagued the Saints early in the season until they decided to use Jimmy Graham. Decisions like not using Graham are also a reason the New Orleans offense is going in a different direction next year.

Slow defensive starts

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The defense is the backbone of the team, so their first half struggles naturally crippled the team. New Orleans dug a hole in the first half too deep to climb out of without perfect second half execution too many times. This problem was the most visible between Week 7 and Week 13, with matchups against the Texans, Jaguars, Vikings and Lions being the best examples of this issue. The Saints struggled offensively most of the year, and the defense failed to help them on too many occasions.

Offensive playcalling

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At times, it felt as if the Saints offense was boom or bust. The lack of red zone efficiency has been documented, but the infatuation with the big play was present all over the field. There were multiple 3rd downs where the Saints targeted deep shots instead of the first down marker. When inside the  20, the Saints just didn’t use their personnel properly. The mixture of Kamara, Taysom, and Graham worked too frequently to not question why it wasn’t done earlier.

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