Mike Tannebaum of The 33rd Team recently wrote a column tiering the best offensive weapon groups in the league, and he gave the Saints a Tier 2 rating. He listed the skill group of Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry, Chris Olave, Taysom Hill, and Adam Trautman when listing out the players.
Here's a look at his explanation:
These teams possess high-end talent at the RB1 position and WR1 position but have question marks as you get further down the line. Many lack high-end TE talent, which is crucial. Others have worries about their top tier talent staying healthy for the remainder of the season or being the players they once were. While Tier 2 consists of players that help elevate the QB play on offense, they are missing the depth of talent across all of the main offense weapon groups.
It's hard to argue the rating, as New Orleans does have some question marks at certain areas on offense. A lot of the success for some of these players does hinge on Jameis Winston, but that does feel like an area to be optimistic about. So, what's the potential of the team's weaponry on the offensive side of the ball?
Pros: When Alvin Kamara is in the lineup, there's few that are better. He brings an element that is just hard to match. Opposing defenders have a tough time bringing him down, and the mismatches he helps create are advantageous for the Saints offense. Mark Ingram is a nice compliment back, and he does have something left in the tank for the new season.
Cons: This all stems from what happens with Alvin Kamara regarding his February arrest. The next court hearing is scheduled for Aug. 1, and even if things do get settled here, then he could still face league discipline. The NFL isn't exactly swift when it comes to handing down suspensions with this, and it's not always clear what goes into it. We just have to wait and see how this plays out, and the depth behind Kamara aside Ingram leaves a lot to the imagination.
Outlook: Kamara looks to get back into more of his 2020 form where he accounted for 21 total touchdowns. Jameis Winston discussed the need to be precise, accurate, and to be very good with his decision making, citing how Drew Brees did it while utilizing Kamara. If he can get back to the 80-catch mark in the offense, that would be ideal, but we'll have to see how things do actually go here.
If Kamara does end up getting suspended, then Ingram should be able to shoulder the load for a few games - at worst they'll have a running back by committee approach. Don't be surprised if the Saints end up looking at a veteran running back during training camp like they did with Devonta Freeman last year. They could also add to the practice squad or poach from another team, if needed.
Pros: It's the first time in a long time to be overly confident about what this group can bring to the table. The trio of Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, and Jarvis Landry certainly stack up well to other teams. The depth behind them (Tre'Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harty) will also be strong, but is obviously not set in stone. Having this many weapons on offense will make it even easier for Jameis Winston in 2022.
Cons: There's obviously concern for Michael Thomas, who Dennis Allen said 'isn't quite ready' right now. The optimism is that he'll be around for training camp, but this is certainly the only drawback for the receiver group. If Thomas were to be down for any length of time, then the Saints would still have good depth. However, it doesn't compensate for not having Thomas in the lineup.
Outlook: When Thomas gets back in the mix, then you can start getting super excited about their receiving corps. Without him, this is still a promising and formidable bunch. The hope is that Thomas returns more to his 2019 form, but even getting any of his production from the first few seasons would be a big boost for the Saints.
Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry will be very fun to watch work with Winston, and the competition from No. 4-6 on the depth chart will be one of the best training camp battles to watch. From Winston's big 5,000-yard plus season in 2019, Chris Godwin and Mike Evans accounted for just under 49 percent of the production. The Saints haven't had back-to-back 1,000-yard receivers since 2016 (Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas). Let that sink in.
Pros: The move for Taysom Hill should be a good one, as he has fit in well at the tight end spot over the years. He can catch, create mismatches, and block. It'll be fascinating to see what that looks like for a full season. Dan Roushar enters his second season as the team's run game coordinator/tight ends coach. He was the Saints' tight ends coach in 2015 when Ben Watson finished second on the team in catches and third in receiving yards, so there's optimism to what he can bring to the table with another year under his belt.
Cons: This is a group that is pretty underwhelming on paper, and there's valid reasons to be skeptical. Adam Trautman didn't deliver in what was expected to be a big second-year leap, while Nick Vannett ended up missing over half of the team's games. Juwan Johnson had the hot start, but went ice cold as the season progressed. Naturally, the biggest elephant in the room is when Hill comes back from his Lisfranc surgery and how he does in his new position. Call this a huge area of uncertainty.
Outlook: Many people worry about what the team will do on the offensive line, but tight end feels like a bigger worry right now. One thing to pay attention to is how players like J.P. Holtz and Lucas Krull do as training camp rolls on. Krull, who was undrafted, has a good bit of upside and could find himself unseating someone if he can put a solid few months together. Continuity and stability at quarterback absolutely helps someone like Juwan Johnson. We'll see what happens when Hill comes back, but for now, they have a lot to prove.
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