Two years after Drew Brees retired, leaving the New Orleans Saints quarterback gig up for grabs, we still have yet to see anyone lead the parade. First it was Jameis Winston, then eventually Taysom Hill for a stretch, and now in 2022, after another injury to their starter, it’s Andy Dalton under center for Dennis Allen’s Saints team.
It’s hard for anyone to argue the Saints have their QB of the future on their roster already, but when making the decision between a banged-up Winston, who’s still recovering from multiple fractures in his back, or Dalton, it should be the ‘Red Rifle’ who gets the chance to spark the New Orleans offense. Here’s why.
Unlike Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton takes care of the football
These two quarterbacks are very different in style. Winston has the cannon arm that wants to let it fly downfield, whereas Dalton makes a living by being accurate without much zip. It doesn’t matter how you play in the NFL as long as you can move the chains. The Saints have averaged 19 points per game this season and came one doink away from posting their season-high point total in Dalton’s lone start. For a player coming in without nearly as many reps as Winston received in training camp, preseason, and in the first few weeks of the regular season, Dalton looked in sync with his receivers.
What Winston has been most known for is his propensity to turn the ball over. While the tape doesn’t lie, the stats don’t either.
|Jameis Winston career stats (Eight seasons)||96 INT (3.4% of his throws)||55 fumbles|
|Andy Dalton career stats (13 seasons)||135 INT (2.7% of his throws)||46 fumbles|
Taking things a step further, Pro Football Focus actually grades Dalton to have a higher ‘big-time throw rate’ (BTT) than Winston does in his career. Dalton’s career BTT rate is 4.8%, meanwhile Winston’s rate is 4.3%, meaning Dalton hasn’t had an issue making plays through the air either. In fact, one might argue the value of protecting the pigskin, in addition to the higher chance of Dalton making key throws, outweighs Winston’s frequency of posting big passing numbers.
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Even without a big arm, Dalton can help Saints win on Sundays
If there was any question about whether Dalton would struggle stepping into the starting role, he did his best to erase those doubts last Sunday in London. Dalton completed 71.4% of his passes, nearly four percentage points higher than what we say in any of Winston’s first three starts. While he did still turn the ball over, losing a fumble, Dalton didn’t throw any picks. Most importantly, he kept the Saints in the game until the final drive.
If Dalton can continue this effort on Sunday against a Seattle defense allowing the second-most points per game, there would be no reason to pull the plug. Dalton will need to spread the ball around to his playmakers, giving Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas a chance (if they’re healthy) while also continuing to see just how high rookie Chris Olave‘s ceiling reaches.
Even at his best, Winston hasn’t been able to prove he’s wholeheartedly better than Dalton. There’s also the fact that Winston has a career win-loss record of 34-46 compared to Dalton’s career 77-70 mark. As long as Sunday isn’t a catastrophic failure, why not give Dalton a chance at holding down the starting role?
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