The Saints are a team that many are trying to figure out as we get closer to the season. Vegas has New Orleans set at 9 wins in the new 17-game season in their first year without Drew Brees in charge. This is a team who has a lot of great talent and a young core to work with, so to suggest that they'll fall flat on their faces in 2021 is a bit farfetched. However, there's a few position groups who could make or break their bid for the postseason.
Demario Davis is a stud, and it's hard not to see him put together another strong campaign. The big question is around who becomes his new partner in crime and if they can measure up to what Kwon Alexander brought to the table last year. Most of the defensive personnel in 2020 involved the Saints running a lot of nickel, and it made sense because it was hard not to put C.J. Gardner-Johnson on the field.
Pete Werner would be the early favorite to start alongside Davis, but we should expect some interesting competition from Zack Baun and Chase Hansen. The competition is wide open, and it wouldn't be surprising to see some lesser-known players on the roster push up the depth charts. The durability of this group will be key to success in the new season.
Assuming an extension isn't reached soon, Marshon Lattimore is presumably playing for a new contract. We're still waiting to see if he will face any league discipline for his off-the-field arrest during the offseason, which could potentially force him to miss the first game or two. While the verdict is still out there, the reality is that there are lofty expectations on rookie Paulson Adebo to fill the starting spot opposite of Lattimore.
What's concerning is the depth behind these two, which has veterans Patrick Robinson and Ken Crawley in addition to some young and unproven guys like Grant Haley, Keith Washington, Deuce Wallace, Bryce Thompson, and Lawrence Woods. The Saints have been linked to a couple of veterans, so the possibility is there for them to bring a player like Dre Kirkpatrick or Richard Sherman into the mix ahead of training camp. However, one bad injury could seriously derail this group.
It seems like a given that Michael Thomas should rebound in a big way. Of course, we want to keep a close watch on that ankle. Outside of Thomas, the competition is wide open and has a lot riding on them. Tre'Quan Smith is pegged as a breakout candidate in a contract year, and will really need to come into his own to help the group produce.
Aside Thomas and Smith, there's ample opportunity for the third and fourth wide receiver spots. Marquez Callaway figures to be one of those guys after impressing in his rookie campaign, while Deonte Harris could take on more of a role in the offense aside from his normal return duties. Expect the Saints to carry at least five receivers on the final roster, and the early nod goes to rookie Kawaan Baker. However, we can't just dismiss Lil'Jordan Humphrey and the unknown from players like Jalen McCleskey.
There's probably no bigger area for the Saints. Whether it's Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill starting (and we've had plenty of thoughts on that), life without Drew Brees is going to bring unfamiliarity at quarterback. New Orleans will have certain elements that does benefit them with Winston or Hill, like the ability to stretch the field more and be a bit more aggressive in the passing game.
Both Hill and Winston have a lot to prove and want to live up to expectations. However, both are focusing on trying to be the best version of themselves rather than trying to emulate Brees. We're expecting a very entertaining training camp battle at quarterback, and whoever wins out will start a new era for the Saints.
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