John Lepore | August 16th, 2019
To say the 2018 season did not end the way the New Orleans Saints wanted is an understatement. Much like 2017, one play seemed to derail the Super Bowl dreams of the Saints. Although they did get a little closer last year, making the NFC Championship, the result was nevertheless disappointing. As a Saints fan, I won’t go into what happened the past two years as it is still a little painful as I’m sure it is for my fellow WhoDats. What I will say is this: They are poised to get that ring and put Drew Brees along with Peyton Manning and John Elway as great quarterbacks going out on top.
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The Saints have been looking for a solid pass-catching tight end since Jimmy Graham left. Coby Fleener didn’t work out and Benjamin Watson, while a solid veteran, was not the same player he was 10 years ago. Enter Jared Cook. New Orleans signed the 32-year-old tight end for two years at $15 million. Some may look at his age and think he will decline, but Cook had his best season last year with 68 catches, 896 yards, and six touchdowns. Another important addition on the offensive side was signing Latavius Murray to replace Mark Ingram. With Ingram departing for Baltimore, the Saints turned toward Murray and gave him four years at $14.4 million. Teddy Bridgewater was brought back to possibly be the heir apparent to Brees, and Malcom Brown was brought in on a three-year deal to solidify the defensive line with Sheldon Rankings likely starting the season on the PUP list. The Saints also locked up Cameron Jordan on a three-year extension and recently made Michael Thomas the highest-paid wide receiver in football signing him to a five-year extension worth a reported $100 million with $61 million guaranteed.
The offense will again have the three-headed monster of Brees, Kamara, and Thomas. This year though the Saints will be without Mark Ingram. They signed a similar back in Latavius Murray who is the same age and has a lot less wear and tear with 500 fewer touches in his career. Jared Cook was brought in to give the passing game another weapon. The big question is who on the receiving squad will step up to be a legit number two?
Locking up Cam Jordan was big and bringing in Malcon Brown was important. A full year with Eli Apple, along with incumbents Marshon Lattimore and Vonn Bell, and the development of Marcus Davenport should give the Saints a solid secondary and a fierce pass rush respectively. The linebacking crew could use more depth but overall, Demario Davis, Alex Anzalone, and A.J. Klein get the job done.
53-Man Roster Predictions
QB (3) – Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill
No surprises here. Brees will play until he decides he is done. Bridgewater has ample NFL experience and another year in Sean Payton‘s system to be a solid backup. Hill is a gadget player who can throw when Payton decides on some trickery.
RB (5) – Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington, Devine Ozigbo, Zach Line
Kamara does it all. He has proven he can run up the middle and is deadly in the passing game. Murray will be a pounder and is bigger than Ingram. Washington will only be used to spell the starters on occasion. Ozigbo is interesting and could eat into snaps with his shiftiness and ability as a pass-catcher. Line is the fullback and will lead the way for Murray on those tough inside runs.
WR (6) – Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr., Keith Kirkwood, Tre’Quan Smith, Emmanuel Butler, Deonte Harris
The Saints are searching for that “other guy” to play the opposite side of Thomas. Ginn is getting older and while he is still a decent deep threat, as is Smith, New Orleans needs a bigger target who can play the short and mid-range game. Enter Emmanuel Butler. The UDFA has the size (6’3, 217 lbs) and has impressed so far in camp. Deonte Harris will be on the roster mostly for special teams and depth.
TE (3) – Jared Cook, Josh Hill, Alize Mack
Cook may be 32 years old, but he had his best season last year (68-896-6). Josh Hill is a backup and is familiar with the system with both routes and blocking schemes. Alize Mack is a wildcard here, but he will beat out Dan Arnold and Garrett Griffin to give the Saints some athleticism at the position.
OL (9) – Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy, Larry Warford, Ryan Ramczyk, Michael Ola, Nick Easton, Will Clapp, Marshall Newhouse
The starting five are pretty set. The Saints will keep Easton and Clapp because they can both play center especially if McCoy proves overmatched as a rookie. The offensive line has always been a strength and they will continue to be at both protecting Brees and opening lanes for Kamara and Murray.
DL (5) – Malcom Brown, David Onyemata, Taylor Stallworth, Ziggy Hood, Sheldon Rankins (PUP)
Rankins likely will start the season on the PUP. The signing of Malcom Brown was big to fill in and he will a key part of the rotation once Rankins is back. Onyemata has been solid and Stallworth and Hood will be there for depth and different packages.
LB (5) – Demario Davis, A.J. Klein, Alex Anzalone, Craig Robertson, Vince Biegel
Davis proved his worth last year and took the green dot seamlessly. Klein and Anzalone play fast and are good in coverage. Robertson is depth and has years of experience. Biegel will contribute mostly on special teams.
Edge (4) – Cameron Jordan, Marcus Davenport, Mario Edwards, Trey Hendrickson
Locking up Cam was a big move for the Saints. Now they need Davenport to show his freakish athletic ability and take advantage of the double-teams that Jordan will command. Edwards provides depth and can fill in at tackle in a pinch. Hendrickson will look to make an impact as depth in his third year with the Saints.
CB (6) – Marshon Lattimore, Eli Apple, Ken Crawley, Patrick Robinson, P.J. Williams, Marcus Sherels
This group can be dangerous. Lattimore is a shutdown corner and Apple will look to live up to his first-round status after a midseason scenery change last year. Crawley and Robinson will be next up, especially if Williams gets suspended. Sherels will be kept for depth and special teams.
S (5) – Marcus Williams, Vonn Bell, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Terrell Williams, Chris Banjo
Marcus Williams and Bell are good and the Saints drafted Gardner-Williams in the fourth round out of Florida to be able to fill in and learn. He has the talent to do just that if either Marcus or Vonn go down. Terrell Williams (Is it me or do the Saints have a ton of Williams’s?) is a big safety at 6’4 and 215 lbs. He could be a find and could be a hybrid player for Payton. Banjo will once again provide depth and be a staple on the Saints special teams.
ST (3) – Thomas Morstead, Wil Lutz, Zach Wood
No surprises here as this group is among the best in the NFL.
The New Orleans Saints have moved gradually closer to the ultimate prize the past couple years. This is the year they get there. They have all the pieces to win the championship. There aren’t any glaring weaknesses and the Saints are all in for the waning days of Drew Brees’s career. They will send him out on top.
Record 13-3: Super Bowl Champions
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images