We're one day closer to Saints training camp, and things certainly feel optimistic when looking at the team's season outlook. In order for New Orleans to get back into the postseason, they're going to depend heavily on their core talent to carry them. Some players are going to be in larger roles this season, and that's going to be a huge factor when looking at the successes or failures of the season.
Here's a few breakout candidates to consider for the Saints, and it's not going to include rookies on this list. Also, sticking to players who should be roster locks is the path, and it's not limited to just younger players. Fit, scheme changes, and other areas go into it.
It was obviously a disappointing year for the rookie, and he's definitely behind in living up to the first-round hype. However, the glimpses were there last season in what Turner could bring to the table, particularly against the Panthers in Week 2. Getting medically cleared from a major shoulder surgery is some of the best news for his outlook in 2022.
Turner's rep share and impact will be something to keep an eye on, especially when and where New Orleans uses him on the field. On paper, the Saints are certainly deep at defensive end, and in certain sub-rush packages, we saw players like Tanoh Kpassagnon anchor the middle. Having a strong training camp will do wonders for Turner, and he's primed for a strong season.
Werner's now in a premiere role alongside Demario Davis after sharing it with Kwon Alexander last season. Werner saw 394 snaps in 2021 to Alexander's 494 on defense. Werner was 'the guy' for two games, nearly going the distance against Washington in Week 5 (98.8 percent) and taking all reps against Miami in Week 16. What we saw on the field from his was extremely promising.
The Saints use a lot of two-linebacker looks on defense with C.J. Gardner-Johnson manning the slot, and Werner's going to be in the spotlight. Bob Rose did a great job tackling the Alexander vs. Werner question at the beginning of the month, and it can only be echoed that the pressure is on Werner to make a considerable impact. He has the tools and skills to do it, especially with his great sideline-to-sideline speed. Any drop off at this spot will be noticed, but Werner looks to be up to the challenge and should deliver.
If the Saints are going to have success, it's going to hinge heavily on Winston. He was off to a strong start last season and was poised to have a good year before a season-ending ACL injury hit. This year, he goes in as the unquestioned starter and it's his show to run.
Winston is turning heads with his workout videos, especially a most recent one that showed him working with his brace off. He mentioned at minicamp that he plans to keep it on and play with it during the season, but it's a good sign at where he is going into training camp. This could be a killer year for No. 2 with a truly upgraded wide receiver group.
At first glance, it seems weird putting Kamara on this list. However, he had a down season last year. Mind you, he did miss four games. Still, he had his lowest yards per attempt rushing average (3.7 yards/carry), target share (69), receptions (47) and reception yardage (439), and rushing touchdowns total (4). Part of this could be attributed to the quarterback situation and lack of support cast, which made it easier for defenses to key in on Kamara.
Naturally, things are going to have to play out from the legal process and then NFL discipline. However, he's in line for a big bounce back season. One of the things that Jameis Winston said in particular regarding Kamara that bodes well for his outlook is getting him involved more in the passing game. Winston said that he studied a lot of Drew Brees film and admittedly said that he could use him more in situations.
Kamara accounted for 21 total touchdowns in 2020, but then dropped off heavily to just 9 in 2021. With Kamara, the bottom line is we should see a bit better balance with him going forward that will maximize his production.
- Jarvis Landry - This could be an ideal pairing, as Landry looks to cash in by taking a major hometown discount for a year in New Orleans. Through the early stages, he's been extremely impressive and looks rejuvenated. He figures to be in the slot for the offense, and could end up being one of the best offseason moves.
- Taysom Hill - He has to get on the field first, but there's a good bit of optimism being with the tight end group this year. He'll undoubtedly be in the 'jack-of-all-trades' role with the team, but should see some good involvement with the offense. He's in line for some strong production if things click.
- Marcus Davenport - Davenport is one of several Saints facing their contract year, and despite missing six games last season, he still finished second on the team behind Cam Jordan with 9.0 sacks. He makes such an impact when in the lineup, but the durability is undoubtedly the concern. It's a scary thought to think what he could accomplish if he even goes 90 percent of the way during the regular season.
- David Onyemata - Onyemata is another player who is in a contract year, and he definitely needs a good showing. After serving a six-game suspension to start 2021, he came back and had a very down year in terms of sack production. He can be a dominant force on the interior, and the Saints are going to need him to be.
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