Saints or Bucs: Who has the Upper Edge in the NFC South?
Kyle T. Mosley
Who Has the Upper Edge In The NFC South? Is it the Drew Brees and the Saints? Or, could it be Tom Brady and the Bucs?
The Buccaneers became a trendy pick among NFL analysts after acquiring quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski, and running back Lennard Fournette. However, the Saints retained the majority of one of the deepest rosters in the NFL. Also, GM Mickey Loomis' team made some splashes in free agency of their own, which could catapult the team to their 4th straight division title.
When comparing New Orleans with Tampa, the overwhelming amount of depth the Saints have becomes apparent. There is no weak link for the Black and Gold, as the Saints have paired developing young talent with veteran leaders at almost every position. Even usual weaknesses during the Sean Payton era, such as the secondary, have gradually progressed, which has set up prolonged success for the team.
The Saints 2020 starting secondary coming of CB Marshon Lattimore, CB Janoris Jenkins, S Malcolm Jenkins, S Marcus Williams, and DB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson have produced an average Pro Football Focus grade 72.4 in 2019. Their grade is a surprise, considering the defensive backfield's poor play against the pass over the last decade. The secondary is just one example of how deep the roster is in New Orleans.
When evaluating the Buccaneers roster, it may have the star power to battle with the Saints, but there are multiple holes in their roster. Tampa Bay’s secondary will be their biggest issue as it looks closer to the putrid Saints’ groups from 2014-2016 than one that will help contribute to a division title.
The Bucs do have three-fourths of their 2019 starters returning in 2020. However, those players did not grade well last season. The secondary group of CB Sean Murthy-Bunting, CB Carlton Davis, and FS Jordan White combined for a 60.2 Pro Football Focus grade, which is 14.3 points worse than the Saints starting trio of Lattimore, Jenkins, and Williams. Add to that an inexperienced rookie in Antonie Winfield Jr, and Tampa Bay may find serious problems defending the pass in 2020.
Opposed to upgrading their secondary, Tampa Bay improved their offense, which scored the 4th most points and accumulated the 3rd most yards. The moves to add Brady, Gronkowski, as well as Fournette are flashy and will help their offense more efficient in 2020. However, allocating all their resources to improving strength in a few areas does not seem like the most responsible scenario for the team. They need depth.
Down in the Big Easy, the Saints did the exact opposite of the Buccaneers. They may not have signed a large number of free-agents, but they do have the quality. They added two marquee veterans in safety Malcolm Jenkins and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to fill two of two critical holes.
Jenkins perfectly fits in the Saints’ secondary. He will help communicate with the young talent and will undoubtedly make Tom Brady frustrated when they match up. Sanders will be the perfect complementary receiving threat behind 2019 Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas. In addition to these free-agent additions, the Saints retained most of last year’s roster. They drafted three talented rookies expected to contribute right out of the gate in center/guard Cesar Ruiz, linebacker Zach Baun, and tight end Adam Trautman.
As much as the national media may want to go with the sexy pick and select Tampa Bay to win the NFC South, New Orleans is the better team. The Buccaneers feel like another cautionary tale about how winning the offseason does not typically correlate with winning come the Fall.
The Saints have elite depth, loads of star power, and made calculated offseason deals to improve for this season. This team looks not only headed for another NFC South division title over Tampa Bay but also a deep playoff run on the quest for their second Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans.