Rams fans will know how last season finished for the Saints, but I’m not going to dwell on the past in this article, I’ll more try and look at what the Saints have done since that loss and what we can maybe expect from them in our week two game in 2019. You can’t deny there is a rivalry building here, though.
Coaching – The Saints have, in my opinion, one of the best head coaches and offensive minds in the game with Sean Payton. Since being hired in 2006, Payton has taken the Saints to six playoff berths, four NFC South division titles and guided the Saints to a Super Bowl win in 2009. At offensive coordinator, Pete Carmichael returns for his 12th season with the Saints. Carmichael has been a key figure in the offense that has been 1st in yards in six of the last 13 seasons, and has had them in the top third each of his years, though Payton is the one calling the plays. At defensive coordinator Dennis Allen returns for his 8th season with the Saints (although this has been in two spells) and is well respected in coaching circles.
Free Agency/Draft – With the loss of RB Mark Ingram, the Saints were able to pick up free agent Latavius Murray on a four-year deal worth $14.4 million. Murray will look to fill the hole left by Ingram, as in recent years the one-two punch out of the back field with Kamara and Ingram has been one of the best in the league. The Saints also secured the services of former 1st round pick DT Malcom Brown on a three-year $15 million contract. Brown has anchored the interior of the Patriots defensive line for the last four seasons and has been very strong against the run. The Saints offensive line also got some depth in C Nick Easton. Easton singed a four-year contract worth $22.5 million. Easton is returning from a neck injury that cost him the 2018 season with the Vikings and could be in the mix to replace the retired Max Unger. Another key free agent pick up this season by the Saints was an old friend of ours, TE Jared Cook. Cook will look to replace the role of Ben Watson, who retired at the end of last season and then recently signed for the Patriots… In addition to free agency, the Saints went into this years’ Draft with just six picks, mainly due to trading up for Marcus Davenport in 2018. Even with no first round pick the Saints continued to deal in the draft and moved up to pick #48 to take OL Erik McCoy. McCoy was a huge part of the Texas A&M line that helped their offense run all over the SEC. He is perhaps more likely than free agent signing Easton to start at Center from Week 1. In the 4th round, the Saints traded up again to select S Chauncey Gardener-Johnson. This guy looks like value in the fourth round and played a key role in the resurgent defense Florida showed in 2018. Later in the draft the Saints selected CB Saquan Hampton, TE Alize Mack and LB Kaden Ellis.
General Team – Again the Saints look to have most of the makings of a very strong team. On offense, Drew Brees has multiple weapons to call on like Alvin Kamara with his speed and elusiveness out of the backfield and also Latavius Murray, who could be a good change of pace and more physical type of RB. Then there’s WR Michael Thomas. I said at the beginning of last season in one of my articles that this guy was an emerging talent. I think it’s safe to say he has arrived. I’m sure Thomas will have another great tussle with our own Marcus Peters and this will be a match up to watch out for in Week 2. On the other side from Thomas we are likely to see veteran speed receiver Ted Ginn Jr here at the start of the season. A question mark with the Saints is, just how good is the depth at WR? After Ginn and Thomas you have young guys like Tre’Quan Smith and Austin Carr. A returning Cameron Meredith could provide some help. Of course, expect to see plenty of Jared Cook in the mix with the passing game. Cook is coming off a strong year with the Raiders last season. The Saints offensive line has some question marks with the departure of Unger, but in the main, remain a strong unit with the likes of Andrus Peat and Larry Warford standing out.
The Saints defense have Cameron Jordan as the stand out player on what is a very decent defensive line with the likes of Sheldon Rankins and the aforementioned Malcom Brown. The linebacker core is solid with Demario Davis, Alex Anzalone and A.J. Klein all pegged to start. Davis was Pro Football Focus’s number one linebacker against the run in 2018 and the Saints defence as a whole was 1st against the run last season, only giving up 73.2 yards a game, with Davis playing a big part in that. Onto the secondary, and stopping the pass has been a problem for the Saints. Marshon Lattimore is the guy who stands out as the big playmaker back there. He had a fantastic rookie season and will look to get back to that level in 2019. For the Saints to make another run towards the Super Bowl though, they are going to need guys like Eli Apple, Vonn Bell and Marcus Williams to step up in that defensive backfield. The defensive line will be hoping they can make the secondary’s job a little easier with more pressure on the QB, and it will take a 2nd year progression from DE Marcus Davenport to do this.
Overall, the Saints are a strong team on paper and are maybe one of the more complete teams in the NFL. They should be able to navigate their way through a tough division and make it to the playoffs once again.
Well, that’s my two cents on our week two opponents; hope you enjoyed and cheers for taking the time to read.