No one has had worse luck in the playoffs in the past two seasons than the New Orleans Saints. Two years ago, they lost in the Division Round to the Minnesota Vikings and that Minneapolis Miracle. Last season, they made it to the NFC Championship but to the Los Angeles Rams and the controversial non-pass interference call. Still, New Orleans […]
No one has had worse luck in the playoffs in the past two seasons than the New Orleans Saints. Two years ago, they lost in the Division Round to the Minnesota Vikings and that Minneapolis Miracle. Last season, they made it to the NFC Championship but to the Los Angeles Rams and the controversial non-pass interference call.
Still, New Orleans was one of the best teams in the NFL last season. Drew Brees continues to show that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league as he surpassed both Brett Farve and Peyton Manning for most career passing yards during a Week 5 games against the Washington Redskins. On top of that, Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara improved greatly once again while the defense continued to be one of the best in the league.
Heading into the offseason, the team signed former New England Patriot Malcolm Brown to boost the defensive line while re-signing some key players that made impacts on both sides of the ball. A notable departure here was longtime running back Mark Ingram left via free agency to sign with the Baltimore Ravens. A big loss here on the offense but the Saints still have a majority of players intact.
Here are the position breakdowns for the team, along with my projected 53-man roster.
- Starter: Drew Brees
- Backups: Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill
- Preseason Cuts: None
The Saints biggest strength here is the quarterback, not only with their Hall of Fame starter but the backups are solid. Bridgewater was re-signed this past offseason and is still a capable starter even after his devastating knee injury a few years ago. He’ll likely be the eventual replacement for Brees when he finally decides to retire. Hill is a swiss-army knife that does pretty much anything on the field. He may be the third QB but his running, receiving, and kick return ability only makes him more valuable on the roster.
- Starter: Alvin Kamara (RB), Zach Line (FB)
- Backups: Latavius Murray, Devine Ozibgo, Dwayne Washington
- Preseason Cuts: Jacquizz Rodgers, Shane Smith, Kerwynn Williams, Michael Burton
- Out for the Year: Matthew Dayes
During his short time, Kamara has a total of 1,611 rushing and 1,535 receiving yards to go along with 31 career touchdowns. He’ll continue to be the workhouse in the backfield. Murray was brought in to replace Ingram and will get plenty of carries in the offense. Ozibgo is an undrafted rookie and the big-bodied back has been very impressive in the preseason so far. Washington has been with the team for a few seasons and makes the team due to his experience. Line is still used a lot in the offense and is a great fullback as well as catching passes out of the backfield.
- Starters: Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith
- Backups: Ted Ginn Jr., Keith Kirkwood, Austin Carr
- Preseason Cuts: Emmanuel Butler, Simmie Cobbs, Travin Dural, Cyril Grayson Jr., Deonte Harris, Lil’Jordan Humphrey
New Orleans signed Thomas to a five-year $100 million contract this offseason and after three straight 100+ catches and over 1,000 yards, he is the focal point of the offense. Outside of Thomas, there is a lot of questions. Smith is in his second season that’ll look to be more involved in the offense after a solid rookie season. Ginn is a veteran that is still a speed receiver while Kirkwood and Carr have been solid targets for Brees in their young careers.
Guys like Butler, Cobbs, and Humphrey still have a shot to impress the coaching staff and could be practice squad candidates.
- Starter: Jared Cook
- Backups: Josh Hill, Alizé Mack, Dan Arnold
- Preseason Cuts: A.J. Derby, Garrett Griffin
The veteran Cook had a Pro Bowl year in 2018 with the Oakland Raiders and immediately starts at the tight end spot, giving Brees the most reliable target at that spot since Jimmy Graham.
Hill, Arnold, and seventh-round rookie Mack provide depth and will get playing time in certain formations.
- Starters: Terron Armstead, Larry Warford, Erik McCoy, Andrus Peat, Ryan Ramczyk
- Backups: Nick Easton, Michael Ola, Will Clapp, Cameron Tom
- Preseason Cuts: Fisayo Awolaja, Ethan Greenidge, Ryan Groy, Marcus Henry, Derrick Kelly II, Marshal Newhouse, Patrick Omameh
- Out for the Year: Chris Clark
The only notable change here is second-round rookie McCoy replaces the retired Max Unger at the center spot. Armstead, Warford, Peat, and Ramczyk stay intact and will continue to show they are one of the more consistent lines in all of football.
- Starters: Cameron Jordan, Malcolm Brown, Taylor Stallworth, Marcus Davenport
- Backups: Mario Edwards Jr., Trey Hendrickson, Wes Horton, David Onyemata
- Preseason Cuts: Geneo Grissom, Ziggy Hood, Corbin Kaufusi, Shy Tuttle, Sylvester Williams, Carl Granderson
- PUP: Sheldon Rankins
Brown joins an already impressive defensive line with pass-rushing stars Jordan and Davenport. Rankins will start the season on the PUP list, so he’ll be out for at least the first six weeks of the season. Stallworth is a young defensive tackle that’ll now benefit with more playing time.
Edwards, Hendrickson, Horton, and Onyemata will provide solid depth on an already solid starting line.
- Starters: Alex Anzalone, Craig Roberston, Demario Davis
- Backups: A.J. Klein, Vince Biegel, Kaden Elliss
- Preseason Cuts: Will Compton, Porter Gustin, Colton Jumper, Drew Lewis, Josh Martin, Darnell Sankey, Chase Hansen
Robertson signed a two-year extension and looks to man the middle of the defense. Anzalone is a young linebacker that’ll start on the weak side while Davis will start on the opposite side.
Klein could also get the nod at one of the starting spots while Biegel and Elliss will contribute on Special Teams.
- Starters: Marshon Lattimore, Eli Apple
- Backups: P.J. Williams, Patrick Robinson, Kayvon Webster, Marcus Sherels
- Preseason Cuts: Ken Crawley, Justin Hardee
Former 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year Lattimore has had a stellar two year run so far and locks down one side of the field. Former first-round pick Apple was acquired by the Saints in the middle of last season and with a full offseason with the Saints under his belt, look for him to improve and start opposite.
Williams, Robinson, and Webster provide solid depth at the corner spot. Sherels was signed this past offseason and will likely take over the main kick/punt return duties.
- Starters: Marcus Williams, Vonn Bell
- Backups: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Chris Banjo
- Preseason Cuts: J.T. Gray, T.J. Green, Saquan Hampton, Terrell Williams Jr.
Williams may be known as the guy who let up the Minnesota Miracle but let’s not forget that he has been a solid safety for New Orleans. Look for him to take another step forward in year three while Bell will look to be the full-time starter on the other side after a few seasons of being a rotational player.
Fourth-round rookie Gardner-Johnson and Banjo will get some looks in certain formations while also mainly contributing to Special Teams.
- Kicker: Wil Lutz
- Punter: Thomas Morstead
- Long Snapper: Zach Wood
- Preseason Cuts: None
Lutz re-signed with the team this past offseason and has been a consistent kicker for the Saints for a few years now. Morstead is one of the best punters in the league while Wood has been the long snapper since 2017. No battles here for those three in the preseason, so it pretty much shows that that’s the Special Teams trio they’ll run with.
New Orleans will definitely be a playoff team once again. Hall of Famer Brees still plays at a high level and having weapons like Kamara and Thomas will only help. Acquired Murray and Cook via free agency may not make a ton of news, they were still solid additions to the offense. In addition, the offensive line looks to be intact once again.
The defense looks to be just as good once again in 2019. Brown being added to a defensive line that already has Davenport and Jordan only makes is better. The only downside is waiting to see when Rankins will be back fully healthy. The linebacking core is solid while the secondary, lead by Lattimore and Williams, will take another huge step forward.
The New Orleans Saints are definitely in the conversation as Super Bowl contenders. They are in a competitive NFC South division but are likely the division favorites. Let’s hope it is not a trilogy of bad playoff endings for the Saints.