Saints quarterback Jameis Winston, who has been dealing with serious ankle and back injuries this year, is hoping to return to the field for New Orleans’ Week 8 matchup against the Raiders next Sunday, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Winston has been active and in uniform for both of the team’s past two games, but Andy Dalton has been operating as the starting QB since Week 4.
Last Sunday, we heard that Dalton could remain the Saints’ QB1 regardless of Winston’s injury status. Since then, however, the club has dropped two straight games, and Dalton has not played well in either of them. In a Week 6 loss to the Bengals, Dalton completed 17 of 32 passes for 162 yards and a score — good for a QB rating of 77.9 — and in a Week 7 loss to the Cardinals on Thursday, the Red Rifle threw three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
In fairness, top receiver Michael Thomas has not played in any game that Dalton has started, and in the Cincinnati contest, Dalton was without Thomas, Chris Olave, and Jarvis Landry. Still, a passer that was praised for being a “calming influence” on the offense was anything but in the Arizona game, and while head coach Dennis Allen has not made a definitive announcement, it’s fair to expect Winston to be reinserted into the starting lineup in Week 8 if he is healthy enough.
After all, Winston guided the Saints to a 5-2 record through seven games in 2021 before an ACL tear ended his season prematurely, and he was re-signed this offseason to a two-year, $28MM contract to reprise his role as the club’s QB1. And, despite Winston’s health concerns — which include multiple spine fractures — and his struggles in a Week 3 defeat at the hands of the Panthers, Allen said he was not considering a permanent switch under center,
Had Dalton performed better in the past two contests, Allen may have a tougher decision on his hands. But Dalton’s play has underscored the fact that a healthy Winston is the best option for a team that, despite its 2-5 record, has a legitimate chance to win its division.