In Week 8, our Indianapolis Colts will host the New Orleans Saints. Knowing the party was coming to town, I sat down with Luke Hubbard of Canal Street Chronicles. You can find him on Twitter @Clukehubbard. We swapped questions about the Colts and Saints and what follows is what I learned about this week’s enemy.
You can find my answers to his questions here.
Chris Shepherd: The Saints made a huge investment in Derek Carr in the off season and he figures to be a huge part of the Saints offense for at least the next two years. How has the Derek Carr experience been so far? What does he do well and what things are you hoping will improve?
Luke Hubbard: Let’s just say it hasn’t gone as planned so far. The first two weeks, he looked pretty good. He made some big throws down the stretch and was able to move the offense down the field, but since then, it’s just been ugly. I don’t know if it’s play calling or if he just isn’t reading the field well or if it’s both, but something isn’t clicking and the offense is suffering tremendously.
It also seems like he isn’t really on the same page as the receivers. We’ve seen multiple times in the last few weeks where Carr will throw a different route than the receivers are running. Specifically, Chris Olave seems to be having a hard time with Carr. I don’t know if they just don’t like each other, but if you watch Olave’s body language during a game, it’s very concerning to see someone so young and talented just look like they don’t care.
Either way, the experiment isn’t going as planned, and if they don’t figure it out soon, I expect we’ll see a coaching change sometime soon.
CS: Right now it feels like the offense is running though Alvin Kamara. Despite a high rate of usage, Kamara hasn’t been that efficient when his number has been called. If the efficiency doesn’t improve, do you believe the Saints will shift the focus away from Kamara? Is there anyone else on the roster who could be relied on to have the offense go through him?
LH: This kind of feeds off the end of my last question, but Pete Carmichael just does not know how to utilize Alvin Kamara. He’s gotten better, he’s trying to draw up some routes for him, but it just isn’t the same way we used to see with Sean Payton. From 2017-2020 we saw him used on pitches, outside zones, screens, wheel routes, option routes...Now we just see him run in between the tackles and run short 2-3 yard hitches out of the backfield for Carr to have a check down. He is getting on the older side for a RB, so I’ll cut Pete some slack, but he has truly wasted the last two years of Alvin’s prime.
As for if we have anyone else that the offense can run through, I think Chris Olave is talented enough to have the offense go through him, but as I said in the first question, he just looks like he doesn’t want to be here, and Carr can’t hit him on open routes half the time. Until the offense figures out how to be creative and the offensive line actually learns how to block someone, this offense is going to continue to suck.
CS: The Saints defense has been tough so far this season. If you were an offensive coordinator and you had to create a game plan to beat the Saints defense, what would it look like? What are you attacking? What are you staying away from? Which defenders are you challenging?
LH: I’m attacking with the run game early and often. The Saints defense isn’t horrible against the run, but they aren’t great either. We’ve seen Miles Sanders average like 5-6 yards per carry against us, but we’ve also seen Derek Henry struggle. It doesn’t really make sense, but there have been some teams who have been able to move the ball on the ground.
The second thing I would do is start hitting on play action after establishing the run. I don’t know if there are any statistics to back this up, but I swear, just from watching it seems like the other team always hits on play action passes against us. Our defense is very opportunistic and will pounce if they think they can stuff you in the back field, so getting behind the linebackers on play action usually results in something good for the offense.
And the last thing I would do is just have a very average receiving core. Marshon Lattimore loves to play down to his competition. He loves those high profile matchups and getting physical with receivers, but someone like Nico Collins and Romeo Doubs have lit him up. It makes no sense but I promise if you ask any Saints fan about that, they’ll tell you the same thing.
CS: The Saints are currently sitting at 3-4 on the season. Their wins have come over the Titans, Panthers and Patriots. Those teams have a combined 4-15 record this season. Has there been a common thread of how the Saints have lost their other games to this point, despite being able to win those three? Is it a lack of offensive firepower? Turnovers? Silly mistakes? What types of things can be done to ensure those things are better moving forward?
LH: Well let’s go loss by loss. Green Bay Week 3: We were up 17-0 and then Derek Carr went out with an injury (this was when Carr was able to move the ball on offense) and once Jameis came in, it felt like the play calling got way too dull and safe. We went three and out almost every drive and left the defense on the field forever and the Packers ultimately came back and won it with some crazy throws and catches. A missed FG by the Saints late could’ve won it, but Grupe had his first career miss at the worst time.
Week 4 Tampa Bay: Derek Carr somehow doesn’t miss a single game with an AC Joint Sprain and he comes out looking terrible. The offense sputtered, they couldn’t get anything going and Baker Mayfield and the Bucs just carved our defense up. It was just an all around beat down.
Week 6 in Houston: This game might’ve been the most frustrating of them all. C.J. Stroud carved up our defense to start the game, but after the first half, the defense nearly pitched a shutout. They held the Texans to 20 points and the Saints had all of the opportunities in the world to go win this game. The offense posted nearly 450 yards of offense and we got in the red zone a lot, but we weren’t able to score points...Oh and Pete Carmichael ran four verticals (literally straight out of madden, EVERY receiver ran a vertical) four times in a row on the final possession and guess what? We didn’t catch any of them (if you can’t tell I’m still a little hurt over this game).
Week 7 Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags came out early and looked like they were just going to knock us out early. After the Houston game, I told myself not to get too excited over this game because I know the Jags will win, but when the Saints came back and were down 7 with the ball, I got a little excited. Then, Foster Moreau dropped the game tying touchdown (people sent him death threats and said some very nasty things about his cancer diagnosis over this which was so hard to see because he really is a great guy) and then Pete Carmichael decided on fourth and goal with the game on the line to throw a fade to our shortest receiver and give him next to no room to work with...and we lost.
Outside of the Packers game, I would say the common theme is the offense not being what it needs to be. Pete Carmichael and Derek Carr are at the front of that, but I expect Pete will be shown the door first (and rightfully so) if these struggles continue.
CS: As of right now DraftKings Sportsbook has the Colts as 1.5 point favorites at home. Is that line fair? And how do you see this game going? What’s the final score?
LH: I think that’s a fair line. I doubt the Saints will score more than 17 points, and Gardner Minshew, despite his turnover problems, has shown he can put up some points. I think it’ll be a very close game, but I’ll say Colts win 21-18.
I just want to thank Luke Hubbard for his time and for answering these questions. If the Gardner Minshew era has taught us anything, it’s that this weekends game is going to be entertaining. I won’t call it “fun” because “fun” implies that we will enjoy it. While Minshew is often fun to watch, he’s just as often painful to watch. So I’m not sure this weekend will be “fun” but I’m pretty confident it won’t be boring and given the past few years of Colts football, I’ll take it.
As always, go Colts.