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New Orleans Saints race to improve with eye toward returning players

'I see a lot of players coming back at some point and slowly being integrated back into the lineup'

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The New Orleans Saints return home to take on the New York Giants in Week 4 on October 3, 2021 at the Caesars Superdome.

You wouldn't expect New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton to be bubbling over with joy in the wake of his team's 2-2 start, and he isn't.

New Orleans has a chance to climb back over .500 on Sunday, in a road game against the Washington Football Team (2-2) at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.

"We're 2-2, and it is what it is," Payton said. "This is an important game for us, gives us a chance to get to 3-2. It's an NFC opponent and it's a road game. There are a number of things that I've seen that, man, I'm pleased with and I like. And then there are a handful of things that you're looking at and wanting to see improvement from."

After Washington, the Saints will have their bye week before returning to play a "Monday Night Football" game, their first prime-time game of the season, in Seattle against the Seahawks on Oct. 25. But at present, Payton said he still is in the feeling out process with the Saints.

New Orleans presently is missing 2019 NFL Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas, its best receiver; Tre'Quan Smith, its second-most experienced receiver; David Onyemata, its best defensive tackle and arguably best defensive lineman; Wil Lutz, a Pro Bowl kicker; Kwon Alexander, a starting linebacker; Terron Armstead, a Pro Bowl left tackle; Erick McCoy, the starting center; and Marcus Davenport, the starting right defensive end, among others.

"I think you get an early feel and yet, there's so many things right now that we're in a hurry, in a race, with a sense of urgency to improve," Payton said. "And we're in the midst of doing that.

"We're 2-2, we've overall handled the turnover/takeaway fairly well (plus-5, with eight takeaways and three turnovers), there's numbers that we have to be better at, our third down (44.7 percent, sixth-best in the league) and red zone numbers (11 of 12, second-best) are solid. Our overall explosives aren't where we want them offensively; defensively, last week, all of a sudden there's a series of chunk plays and your passing statistics go. It's (about) understanding how to win each game.

"But I wouldn't say at Week 4, I'm kind of seeing our team the way I see it. I see a lot of players coming back at some point and slowly being integrated back into the lineup. In the meantime, the guys that are currently playing, we're counting on to do well and play well."

CREATING PARKEY SPACE: Kicker Aldrick Rosas was released Tuesday, paving the way for New Orleans to sign Cody Parkey (Lutz still is recovering from surgery in training camp). Rosas was 1 for 4 on field goal attempts this season, including three straight misses, two from 50-plus yards. Parkey, who has kicked for the Eagles, Browns (twice), Dolphins, Bears and Titans in his seven seasons, has made 121 of 143 field goals (84.6 percent), with a long of 54 yards (twice, most recently in 2017.

"He's been steady," Payton said of Parkey. "His numbers have been good. Just go back through it relative to his consistency and his accuracy. Overall, it's kind of a result-oriented business where you're wanting to get to a certain percentage of made tries within a distance that you feel like you're comfortable with relative to leg strength. He's a veteran player, he's a guy with, I think, poise. I think he's mentally tough and we're looking forward to having him."

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