Rod Walker: It took Andy Dalton just one drive to prove he’s the insurance plan Saints need Rod Walker

There’s nothing like a good insurance plan.

You love it when you have it.

You hate it when you don’t.

It’s why the New Orleans Saints’ acquisition of Andy Dalton could go down as one of the best moves the team made this offseason.

Bringing players like Tyrann Mathieu and Jarvis Landry back to Louisiana earned most of the headlines, and rightly so. But landing the veteran Dalton could end up being just as important.

It took just one drive in the Saints’ season opener against the Houston Texans on Saturday night to see just how valuable Dalton can be.

Playing in his 12th NFL season, Dalton completed all five of his passes on a 10-play, 69-yard drive. He capped it off with a 9-yard screen to Dwayne Washington.

Yes, this was against the Texans, one of the worst teams in the league last season. But it was good to see Dalton as sharp as he was, looking like you want to see a typical starter look on the first drive of a glorified scrimmage.

“If you can draw it up, that’s exactly how you’d do it,” said Dalton, who grew up in and played high school in nearby Katy.

If things go according to plan, Dennis Allen can just keep his insurance policy in the glove compartment and never have to show it until it’s late in a game in mop-up duty.

In a best-case scenario, Jameis Winston will pick up right where he left off last season before he suffered the torn ACL that brought his season to a halt just seven games in.

But as any Saints fan who watched the 2021 season can tell you, best-case scenarios often don’t always happen.

The image of Winston riding a cart from the sideline to the locker room last Halloween was a reminder of that, altering the entire trajectory of the season, as the Saints’ quarterback carousel began spinning with Trevor Siemian, Taysom Hill and Ian Book all taking their turns.

It doesn’t take much, as the Saints were reminded yet again Monday when Winston sprained his right foot in practice. He’s day-to-day and is expected to be back soon. And the knee that was injured last season looks to be doing fine.

But in the NFL, you just never know.

So it has to be refreshing for Allen to have someone like Dalton to fill in.

“Well, that was one of the big reasons why we brought Andy here,” Allen said earlier this week. “We wanted to bring in a guy that we felt like was an accomplished veteran, that’s been a starter in our league, but also has been the backup in this league.”

Dalton has the experience and the field presence the Saints need if they ever get in a crunch.

He has 148 career regular-season starts under his belt. He has also started in four playoff games, so he has played when the stakes are high.

This is a team that expects to be playing in some high stakes games. The pieces are all there, as Dalton pointed out earlier this week.

“I’ve been on some good teams,” Dalton said. “This is definitely, on paper, one of the better teams that I’ve been on. So, yeah, I think the expectations here are in the right place.”

Not many teams can sit their top two receivers in a preseason game (in the Saints’ case, Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry) and still start two more receivers (Marquez Callaway and Tre’Quan Smith) who combined for 78 receptions and 1,075 yards the year before. Dalton connected with both Callaway and Smith on the scoring drive.

It was all Allen needed to see.

Dalton watched the remainder of the 17-13 loss from the sideline.

If the season goes according to plan, Dalton will watch much of the season from there, too.

But Saints fans should be glad he’s there … just in case.


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