It can’t be more obvious that the New Orleans Saints need to make some changes during their bye week. They’re lucky to have a 5-5 record and sit on top of the worst division in pro football; the weak NFC South is all that’s keeping them in the playoff picture.
So what adjustments can they make? They can start by making bigger roles for these five players after the bye week:
There are some limitations to Shaheed’s game as a 6-foot-0, 180-pound receiver; he isn’t going to be running the same routes and playing in the same down-and-distance situations as the 6-foot-3, 212-pound Thomas. But the Saints should go his way more often. He’s been targeted just 50 times through the first 10 games, trailing behind Chris Olave (94), Thomas (64), and Alvin Kamara (56). Derek Carr has been too panicky in checking the ball down to Kamara without hope of a first down conversion. He’s also airmailed too many passes to Olave downfield. With Thomas on the mend and the offense hurting for big plays, Shaheed should see an uptick in targets.
Johnson has been an afterthought this season, which is very surprising given all the momentum he had behind him this summer. He signed a contract extension after breaking out with 42 receptions for 508 yards and 7 touchdown catches last season, averaging a respectable 31.8 yards per game. Derek Carr had great success working with a similar receiving tight end in Darren Waller on the Raiders. But Johnson’s stock has plummeted. He missed four games with a calf injury and went into the bye week with just 97 yards on the season. With Carr struggling to end drives with touchdowns and generate big gains through the air, targeting Johnson must be a point of emphasis down the stretch.
Hill is averaging more snaps on offense per game this year (29.8) than last season (20.4), but the Saints don’t have the best plan for using him as a runner. Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael likes to wait until he’s gotten a lead to roll out Hill’s package of rushing plays — 29 of Hill’s 50 carries have come when the Saints are tied or leading. But Hill is very effective even when they’re trailing: he’s averaging 5.6 yards per carry when the Saints are behind this season, and that extends to his career, where he’s averaged 7.1 yards per carry when trailing. They…