Saints to start Dalton at QB over healthy Winston

  • Covered the NFL since 2013
  • Previously covered the Saints for the Times-Picayune and The Athletic
  • Bengals beat writer for ESPN from 2016-19

METAIRIE, La — The New Orleans Saints will start Andy Dalton at quarterback going forward, coach Dennis Allen said Wednesday.

Although Jameis Winston participated fully in practice for the first time since Week 1, the Saints (2-5) are sticking with Dalton due to his performance in relief of Winston over the last four games.

“Andy’s gonna get the start again this week [against the Las Vegas Raiders],” Allen said. “I feel like he’s played well. Offensively, I feel like we’re in a little bit of a rhythm. We’ve been moving the ball effectively, we’ve scored points. And so we’re gonna continue down that road with Andy as the quarterback.”

Dalton has completed 63.4% of his passes for 946 yards and 7 touchdowns, with 4 interceptions. He has been sacked four times this season. Dalton threw for 361 yards and 4 touchdowns in New Orleans’ loss to the Arizona Cardinals last week, but also had 3 interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns at the end of the first half.

When asked if the decision was based on performance, Allen said it’s “an offensive decision.”

“And what I mean by that is in the last four weeks … we’re one of the top offenses in terms of moving the ball, we’re one of the top offenses in terms of scoring points,” Allen said. “And that’s really the name of the game. So we’re gonna continue doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve gotta do a better job of protecting the football. And if we do that, I think we can be highly effective offensively.”

Saints running back Alvin Kamara said Wednesday that Dalton has done a good job of playing with poise and going through his reads.

“I feel like he never panics when he’s going through his reads. It seems like he gets to the right place at the right time. Minus some of the things we were doing that were self-inflicted, he’s played well,” Kamara said. “I think it’s going to be good moving forward. Obviously I know he’s probably the hardest on himself about last week, those two interceptions (that were returned for touchdowns). He’s fighting way harder than anybody — coaches and all of us — to get that corrected. He’s a competitor. Same thing I was talking about with Jameis. Both of them compete.”

Allen clarified that Dalton will stay the starter as long as the offense continues to perform.

“Well, look, Jameis is back healthy right now. We’re gonna go with Andy as we sit here right now. And if we continue to play well offensively and move the ball offensively, Andy will stay in there,” Allen said.

He added: “There’s a lot of things that we’re doing really well offensively. And I didn’t feel like there was any need to upset the apple cart there. We’ll keep going how we are. And if we continue to do that, then we’ll stay the course.”

Winston was re-signed and declared the starter early in the offseason after the Saints tried and failed to acquire Deshaun Watson. Dalton was signed later in the season as a backup.

Winston started the first three games of the season but injured his back in New Orleans’ win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1. He played through the injury for two games before the Saints sat him to get healthy. Winston said last week that he did not think the process of getting healthy was going to take as long as it did.

“Andy’s been rolling. Obviously it sucks Jameis has been injured, out, trying to get back,” Kamara said. “Andy, I feel like he’s been playing well, giving us a little bit of stability — not that Jameis wasn’t, but I don’t get paid to make those decisions. Upstairs, I guess they felt like going with Andy would be the best for right now. I know Jameis, and I know he’s going to keep working and getting better. Just because he’s not starting, it don’t mean he’s not going to prepare like he’s the starter. The next time his number’s called, I know he’s going to be able to execute.”

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