The New Orleans Saints are on bye this week, so it’s a great time to turn retrospective and look back at the ten games they’ve played so far. And we’re looking for the Studs and Duds of 2023 — players who have stood out the most for both good and bad.
Who are your picks? Here are ours:
STUD | WR Rashid Shaheed
Shaheed has broken out in a big way in 2023, going into the Week 11 bye with the most all-purpose yards in the NFL (1,154), thanks to his efforts on offense and special teams. Shaheed has already surpassed his rookie receiving totals with 31 catches for 525 yards and three touchdown receptions. He’s also improved in the return game with 17 punt returns for 253 yards and a score plus 16 kicks returned for 343 yards. If he can keep this up, he’ll be an important piece of in New Orleans for years to come.
DUD | QB Derek Carr
Carr’s signing is looking like a potential disaster at the bye week. He ranks in the bottom half of the league in most stats (though he has done a good job of avoiding interceptions) and, tellingly, he’s scored just 10 touchdown passes in his first 10 games. He’s struggling to make plays under pressure. He’s not getting enough out of his deep threats; wide receiver Chris Olave and tight end Juwan Johnson have been taken out of games because Carr won’t throw to them. He doesn’t look like someone who came to New Orleans with nearly 150 starts behind him. The bland offense Pete Carmichael is running isn’t doing Carr any favors, but at the same time he isn’t executing enough plays as called.
STUD | DE Carl Granderson
Granderson has been the Saints’ most-active defender up front. He leads the team with 5.5 sacks and 14 quarterback hits, plus a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He’s the only play they have rushing off the edge with any speed and his persistence in run defense is a big help. The contract extension he signed early this season is looking like a very wise investment for New Orleans and a well-earned payday for an ascending young player. He’s going to be a big part of their youth movement on defense as veteran teammates begin to age out in the years ahead.
DUD | TE Juwan Johnson
You don’t want to be too hard on Johnson after he missed four games with a calf injury, but he had a ton of momentum pushing him into the start of the season. He was often targeted by Carr in practice at training camp and appeared to be a natural fit with the quarterback who got so much production out of Darren Waller, another big-bodied athletic tight end who Carr threw to often with the Raiders. But Johnson has totaled just 14 receptions for 97 yards, catching his lone touchdown pass from Taysom Hill on a broken play. It’s arguable how much of that downturn is on him. Play-by-play responsibilities are a factor with Johnson blocking more often (21.3 snaps per game) than last year (16.6 snaps per game), but he’s running plenty of routes. He’s actually averaging more routes per game this season (27.3) than last year (23.8). Carr needs to give him more chances to make a play.
STUD | CB Paulson Adebo
Adebo has been outstanding this year. He’s rebounded after an injury-plagued 2022 season to lead the team in interceptions (4), passes defensed (13), as well as forced fumbles and recoveries (2 each). He’s been reliable in coverage and has yet to be beaten for a touchdown pass. Most importantly, Adebo has not been penalized as often as we’ve seen in the past. He has not given up any penalty yardage in his last three games after drawing six fouls in his first five games (four for defensive pass interference, two for holding), having missed two matchups with an injury early this season.
DUD | LT Trevor Penning
Penning was a liability in pass protection to start the season, and though he made gradual improvement in that phase his limitations as a run blocker prompted the Saints to bench him. That’s not a great turn of events for a young player who needs reps to develop, but it’s the reality we’re in. Penning was always going to need time. He lost his rookie season to injuries after making the jump from a low level of competition with obvious flaws in his game. The Saints aren’t giving up on him, but don’t look for him to get back in the starting lineup this season. That’s disappointing from a player they invested so many draft resources in.
STUD | QB/TE/WR/FB Taysom Hill
The Saints’ premier position-less player has done it all this year: Hill has ran 50 times for 261 yards and three touchdowns (his 5.2 yards per carry is best on the team among those with 10 or more attempts) while catching 22 receptions for another 159 yards and a touchdown, also going 5-of-6 as a passer for 72 yards and a touchdown. He’s taken snaps at receiver in the slot and out wide, at quarterback in the shotgun, inline at tight end, and in the backfield as a blocker and runner. He’s also ran with the punt coverage, punt return, and kick return units on special teams. When the Saints have needed a spark they’ve called his number, and he keeps responding.
DUD | RB Jamaal Williams
Williams’ season was derailed by a hamstring injury early on, but he hasn’t been very effective when healthy. He’s logged just 45 carries across 6 games (7.5 attempts per game) for a meager 131 rushing yards and 6 first downs. He hasn’t hit the end zone after scoring a league-leading 17 touchdown runs last year with the Detroit Lions. Poor blocking up front hasn’t done him any favors, but Williams is averaging just 1.1 yards gained after contact per carry. He isn’t outrunning anyone or breaking many tackles. Things can pick up in these last seven games, but this is looking like a bad signing.