Saints Dolphins Football

New Orleans Saints running back Adrian Peterson takes part in an NFL training session at the London Irish rugby team training ground in the Sunbury-on-Thames suburb of south west London, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. The New Orleans Saints are preparing for an NFL regular season game against the Miami Dolphins at London's Wembley stadium on Sunday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Matt Dunham

The Saints have a way of getting off to a slow start and then building hope.

It's happened each of the last three seasons, as the team has started out 1-3 only to fight its way back to .500. Maybe this story will end up the same. But maybe it won't. A win over the Dolphins this week could put New Orleans a little bit ahead of schedule compared to recent history.

A loss, however, would put the Saints right on track, which wouldn't be good with Detroit and Green Bay up next on the schedule.

There are never must-win games this early in the season, but it's fair to say this one is very important.

Any suggestions on how to get Peterson in space? Everything has been crowded. -- Ian Howard

The Saints have been trying to get him more space. Five of his runs last week game with three receivers on the field or with tight end split out like the third receiver, and he gained 14 yards, or 2.8 yards per carry.

New Orleans has done a better job of mixing up the looks when he's on the field. Peterson only had one run from three-receiver personnel against the Vikings (1 yard) and three against the Patriots for 11 yards.

The team is trying. It even came out in a three-receiver look, only to flex in the tight end and a wide receiver closer to the line to mimic a heavy set. The purpose, of course, was to get the defense to bring out its lighter nickel personnel and try to create a blocking mismatch. 

There will be better opportunities for him to break big gains from the spread out looks because there are typically only six defenders in the box. When there are multiple tight ends or a fullback, that will typically draw seven or eight defenders to the box.

But there's value in running those plays, even if it doesn't pay off immediately. The Saints have historically liked to use their three-tight end personnel to set up shots down the field to a wide receiver.

Do you see the saints finding a way to get Crawley and Lattimore on the field at the same time? -- Kyle Taylor

It shouldn't be a problem if the Saints want to use Ken Crawley and Marshon Lattimore at the same time.

Lattimore and P.J. Williams, who played a much better game last week after struggling at times the first two weeks, should remain the primary outside cornerbacks in the base defense. But just like during the first few games, when New Orleans goes nickel and uses three cornerbacks, Williams could slide inside, and Crawley could play on the outside.

It could make sense to keep finding snaps for Crawley. It's just one game, and he'll need to continue proving it, but his performance last week is better than anything the Saints have gotten behind Lattimore and Williams.

Last week was a step in the right direction, and the defense overcame many of its issues in coverage, but it's still one game -- and the first two were not good. I think more evidence is needed before we can crown the Saints as playoff contenders. 

I am, however, much more optimistic about the direction of this team than I was a week ago. The offense seemed to figure out a lot of its issues, and the defense did the same. My major concern on the defensive side of the ball is still the run defense. That game could have turned out much differently if New Orleans hadn't put Carolina in an early hole.

I think we need to see a few more positive performances before we start gulping down cups of Wild Cherry. 

This one is easy. You go with your best players, and those are still Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, Max Unger, Larry Warford and Zach Strief.

Ryan Ramczyk has been solid, but I'm not sure he's played well enough to supplant Strief, who was one of the better tackles in the NFL last season. It should remain the veteran's job until he starts showing attrition.

It depends on what you're talking about. You won't often see me knock Drew Brees for missing an open player. Maybe his first read was somewhere else, and that player appeared open. It's impossible to know where he's supposed to be looking first.

But there were some things Cam Newton did that he should have reconsidered. I thought Williams made a great play when he jumped a post route for an interception. But that seems like a play where Brees, or someone like Tom Brady would have noticed the defender lurking and went somewhere else with the ball. Newton also had some accuracy issues. 

Still, the defense played well, and we shouldn't take anything away from them. But some of these things are why I'm preaching patience before going all in. We need to see if the progress and production carry over.

I think the answer is all three.

Even with the offensive line holding up pretty well without Strief and Armstead, getting those two players back would finally give New Orleans all of its pieces there. Those two players are still the best options at tackle.

And Breaux could be a major upgrade for the secondary. Last year didn't go well for him due to injuries, and this season has started out the same, but I still think he has a ton of potential.

People forget how good Breaux was as a rookie. He was a handful of plays away from being one of the cornerbacks in the league. If he can get back to that level, along with the way Lattimore has played, the Saints could have a good group of cornerbacks.

They've played a little more man since the Vikings game.

Dennis Allen's defense is never going to do just one thing. There will always be some zone mixed in, but it's no coincidence that many of their corners are betted to play man and press. 

The defense wants to be aggressive and attacking, and I think you'll start seeing more and more of that as everyone settles in and starts executing.

Follow Nick Underhill on Twitter, @nick_underhill.​