Jones played 14 games, starting five, with the Miami Dolphins in 2016, compiling 3.5 sacks and 22 tackles. Before Miami waived him prior to the wild-card matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jones played a significant role last season, seeing 40 or more snaps in eight of his 14 games, and there wasn’t a noticeable dip in his play.
At 31 years old, Jones brings experience — 31 starts in Detroit the two seasons before joining Miami — and snap-eating ability to a Saints front that could use both. Jones also adds versatility to play across the formation, something New Orleans sorely needed.
More than anything, the group helped keep the Saints’ pass rush at bay. Not having defenders draped on his back off the snap like last year, Bradford was able to pick apart the New Orleans with deep strikes — averaging 22.2 air distance per completion (third highest in Week 1), per Next Gen Stats. The maligned QB also passed for a 9.6 air yards per attempt in the final three quarters.
“Like I said, all off season in the building we feel great about those guys up front,” Bradford said of his blocking. “We’ve seen it during OTAs, we’ve seen it during training camp. I know we didn’t play great as an offense during the preseason games. We’ve seen what we’re capable of doing. I think those guys came out tonight. I think we had a good week of preparation.
Coach Sean Payton acknowledged to the FOX broadcast crew that he has yet to figure out how best to utilize his three-headed backfield of Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara. Although Peterson flashed his trademark power and persistence on a few tackle-breaking runs, his presence on the field is too often a “tell” for defenses bracing against the run. Per play-by-play man Kenny Albert, Payton also praised Kamara as one of the smartest players he’s ever coached. The rookie should be in line for more playing time after putting the game away with an impressive 25-yard touchdown run.
Kelvin Benjamin joined injured Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen on the sideline after twisting his left knee late in the first quarter. Minus those top two targets, the Panthers passing attack had no stretch-the-field element, opting instead for screen passes and dump-offs to rookie Christian McCaffrey (13 touches, 117 yards) near the line of scrimmage. When Newton did test the intermediate-to-deep range, he was too often punished for throwing into crowds. Between the injuries and Newton’s balky throwing shoulder, Carolina’s one-dimensional offense will have to find a way to keep up with the Patriots and Lions in road tilts the next two weeks.
I was on two separate 0-2 teams that ended up in the Super Bowl (in 1996 and 2001), and from my experience, I can say it’s not time to panic … at least not yet. A few other recent teams that started 0-2 and ended up making something of their season: the 1993 Cowboys (won the Super Bowl), the 2007 Giants (won the Super Bowl), the 2008 San Diego Chargers (lost in the Divisional Round), the 2013 Carolina Panthers (lost in the Divisional Round) and the 2014 Indianapolis Colts (lost in the AFC title game). Of course, the fact does still remain that since 1990, just 12.2 percent of teams that started 0-2 went on to make the playoffs.
Turning a season around isn’t an easy thing to do, but it starts with the coaching staff and leaders in the locker room. When I was with the New England Patriots in ’96 and ’01, we went back to basics and worked on fundamentals and technique. The coaches asked questions like: Are we putting players in bad positions? Why are certain players confused? What can we do to improve our performance? And so on. Everything, and I mean everything, was evaluated.
Peterson, who has just 27 carries for 81 yards over his first four games with Sean Payton and Drew Brees, will now get a chance to play the featured role he always saw himself best suited for. Down David Johnson, the Arizona Cardinals are desperate for a spark on the ground.
“We are always on the lookout for opportunities to improve our team and we look at this as one of those opportunities,” Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said in a statement provided by the team. “What Adrian has accomplished in this league is well-established. Our need for a spark in our running game right now is also obvious and we are excited to give him the chance to provide that.”
Outside of an injury to Ingram, it’s hard to see a place for Peterson in the running back rotation. Drew Brees’ offense simply functions better with All Day, spending his afternoons on the sideline. His lack threat in the passing game hinders the Saints offense.
Thomas pointed to game-flow as the reason Peterson has been tethered to the bench. Kamara, for instance, was targeted heavily in Sunday’s win, catching 10 passes for 71 yards and a score.