Including playoffs, the New Orleans Saints finished their 2020 season with a 13-5 record. They won the NFC South for the fourth consecutive year and went undefeated in divisional games during the regular season, the first time in the 19-year history of the division that either feat was accomplished.
Injuries battered the team's offense all year. A New Orleans season that began with high expectations ended with a whimper in a home loss to division rival Tampa Bay in the Divisional Playoffs. The Saints were hampered by a physically limited Drew Brees and Michael Thomas in that game, while also missing Taysom Hill and Latavius Murray. New Orleans still ranked 12th in total offense, 19th passing and 6th rushing. The offense averaged 30 points per game, fifth highest in the league, and held top-10 rankings in 3rd down conversions, red-zone efficiency, and turnovers.
The Saints were led by a dominant defense in 2020, a unit that finished 4th in total yardage and fifth in points allowed. New Orleans held top-five rankings in pass defense, interceptions, completion percentage allowed, sacks, QB hits, run defense, rushing scores allowed, yards per rush, and tackles for loss. Terrific depth, along with top-level talent like DE Cam Jordan, DT David Onyemata, LB Demario Davis, CB Janoris Jenkins, S Marcus Williams, and S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson made this a formidable unit.
The season may have ended in disappointment, but the several New Orleans players performed at a high level. Here were a few of their consistently best players in 2020.
TREY HENDRICKSON, DEFENSIVE END
Hendrickson entered 2020 with a total of 6.5 sacks, 19 QB hits, and six tackles for loss in three career seasons. He surpassed all those numbers this season. In a breakout campaign, Hendrickson tallied a team-high 13.5 sacks, 25 QB hits, 32 pressures, and 12 tackles for loss.
The Saints had a deep defensive line that performed at a high level in 2020, but the 26-Yr old Hendrickson was the most consistent performer. He had at least one sack in ten of his 15 games, with 8 of those against perennial Pro Bowlers Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, and Patrick Mahomes. A third-round choice in the 2017 draft, Hendrickson is a free agent that played his way into a huge payday with an outstanding year.
TERRON ARMSTEAD, LEFT TACKLE
Armstead earned his third consecutive Pro Bowl in what may have been his best season. The 29-Yr old Armstead overcame several injuries to help a dominant New Orleans offensive line pave the way for over 141 rushing yards per game. He dominated opponents at the point of attack, but is also athletic enough to get to the second level to spring big runs or lead the way on screens.
Armstead is an elite pass blocker that silences the NFL's top pass rushers. He helped the line provide a clean pocket for QB Drew Brees, who was sacked just 13 times in 11 games. The Saints were able to maintain offensive balance despite several injuries at the skill positions because of their ability to win in the trenches. Their offensive line got brilliant play from RT Ryan Ramczyk and C Erik McCoy, but Armstead was the biggest standout within this unit.
MARSHON LATTIMORE, CORNERBACK
A three-time Pro Bowler and 1st round pick in the 2017 draft, Lattimore had his finest season and was the best player in a secondary that had an excellent year after a shaky start. The Saints led the NFL with 18 interceptions and did not allow a 300-Yd passer while giving up less than 60% completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks.
Often asked to shadow their opponent's best receiver, Lattimore did so masterfully. He allowed just 53% completion percentage when targeted, intercepting 2 passes and breaking up 11 others. Lattimore's elite coverage skills allowed the defense to be more aggressive when rushing the passer and creative in its coverage packages.
DEMARIO DAVIS, LINEBACKER
Unbelievably, Davis was overlooked in Pro Bowl voting for the second year in a row. The 32-Yr old linebacker is one of the NFL's best defensive players and the team's major reason for success on that side of the ball. Davis led the Saints in tackles (119) for the third straight year. He had 10 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 12 QB hits, 16 pressures, and broke up 5 passes.
Davis was the catalyst for a New Orleans run defense that allowed just 94 yards per game, 3.9/carry, and a league-low 11 rushing scores. He is a difference maker as a run defender, pass rusher, or in coverage. Davis is a devastating blitzer and has the speed to cover opposing tight ends down the field or track down a ball carrier sideline-to-sideline. He has elite play diagnosis skills that allow him to burst into opposing backfields to make a play, and his bone-jarring hits often changed the momentum of a game.
ALVIN KAMARA, RUNNING BACK
An injury-depleted receiving corps and limitations in quarterback play caused defenses to focus all their attention on versatile New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara, and he responded with his best season. Kamara led the Saints with a career-high 932 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. He also led the team, and all NFL running backs, with 83 receptions for 756 yards and caught 5 touchdown passes.
Despite even more attention from defenses, Kamara averaged 112 yards from scrimmage and scored a league-high 21 touchdowns. His career-high 155 rushing yards and NFL-record 6 touchdowns against Minnesota on Christmas Day will be legendary, but he performed at a consistently high level every week for an offense that was reliant on his talents. Kamara had at least 75 yards rushing in seven games and at least 65 yards receiving in six others, catching five or more passes in nine contests.
New Orleans may have finished short of their goal in 2020, but this season will be memorable for several outstanding performances from a team with tons of talent on both sides of the ball.