New Orleans Saints 2021 Preview

The regular season presents early obstacles as the Saints turn the page from Drew Brees to Jameis Winston.
Author:
and
Updated:
Original:

New Orleans has dominated the NFC South the previous four years, but new challenges are ahead in the 2021-22 regular season. Questions regarding the team's direction have swirled the podcasts and articles since Drew Brees' retirement. Jamies Winston earned the right to be named the starter.  Will the team respond and win?

In the meantime, the football gods have been busy jousting New Orleans and its fans this past offseason with drama and intrigue among star players.

All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle surgery) and starting defensive tackle David Onyemata (six-game suspension) are sidelined at the start of the regular season for several weeks. Still, the NFL front office has not ruled out a suspension for lockdown cornerback Marshon Lattimore. 

Just as the dust was beginning to settle, then a more sinister event hit the Gulf Coast region on Aug. 29. Hurricane Ida invited herself to Hurricane Katrina's 16th anniversary and quickly displaced the Saints and the inhabitants of southern Louisiana.

The New Orleans Saints are nomads for September. On Sept. 12 in Jacksonville, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers will find a resilient host team inside TIAA Bank Stadium. A resilience that runs through the veins of the coach, new quarterback, and players who truly win for their fans along the Gulf Coast. The symbiotic relationship runs strong, deep, and true. 

The 2021 New Orleans Saints' goal is simple. Come through the early tests, win in the postseason, and take a trip to SoFi Stadium for an opportunity to hoist the franchise's second Lombardi Trophy.

OFFENSE

Once the first overall selection of the 2015 NFL Draft, Jameis Winston is at a crossroads in his career. He has the monumental task of filling the shoes of QB Drew Brees, an all-time great.

Winston also has a great offensive mind in Sean Payton, a stable organization, and an established playoff roster around him. His challenge will be capitalizing on his immense talent while avoiding the costly turnovers and poor decisions that have crippled his career.

He won't have to do it alone. RB Alvin Kamara, 26, is one of the NFL's finest offensive players and coming off the best season of his career. New Orleans will need to rely even more heavily on Kamara's versatility early in the year because of the absence of another superstar. 

The Saints will be without All-Pro WR Michael Thomas for at least six games because of ankle surgery. It's a big blow to an already understaffed receiving corps. Despite that, New Orleans still has some intriguing weapons for Winston to target in the passing game. 

Second-year WR Marquez Callaway had a spectacular preseason and may be on the verge of a breakout year. Explosive kick returner Deonte Harris also flashed impressive receiving ability before he was injured last year. 

The Saints desperately need another receiver to emerge. Versatile WR/RB Ty Montgomery may be the answer if inconsistent and oft-injured Tre'Quan Smith continues to disappoint.

Look for second-year TE Adam Trautman or converted wideout Juwan Johnson to play a big role in the offense. Trautman had a quiet training camp but has the physical tools to be a star. Johnson stood out in both preseason games and training camp practices and could be a fantasy sleeper.

Winston and the offense are supported by the league's most dominant offensive line. Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead are the NFL's best tandem of tackles. C Erik McCoy played at a Pro Bowl level last season as guards Cesar Ruiz and Andrus Peat mauled defenders inside.

DEFENSE

Known for their offensive production over the 15-year tenure of Drew Brees and Sean Payton, the Saints have quietly developed into one of the league's best defensive teams. 

New Orleans returns much of the same core that ranked in the top-five of every major category in 2020.

The Saints have one of the deepest edge positions in the NFL.  Perennial Pro Bowler Cameron Jordan leads a disruptive crew that includes former first-round picks Marcus Davenport and rookie Payton Turner, breakout candidate Carl Granderson, and underrated free-agent addition Tanoh Kpassagnon. 

The Saints will start the year without DT David Onyemata, suspended for six games.  Young tackles Shy Tuttle and Malcolm Roach must remain stout in the middle for one of the NFL's best-run defenses. 

A linebacking unit that had depth questions entering the offseason may turn out to be a team strength.  Athletic LB Kwon Alexander was re-signed to complement All-Pro Demario Davis.

Rookie second-round pick Pete Werner is a promising addition. Second-year LB Zack Baun was one of the team’s training camp studs.

Marcus Williams, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and Malcolm Jenkins are a trio of versatile safeties, combined with Pro Bowl CB Marshon Lattimore, for a playmaking secondary. 

Veteran Ken Crawley and rookie third-round choice Paulson Adebo need to show they are up to the task of replacing departed Janoris Jenkins at cornerback opposite Lattimore. 

The Saints will create chaos with their front seven.  If Adebo and Crawley can adequately complement Lattimore, Gardner-Johnson, and Williams in the secondary, this will again be among the NFL's top defenses. 

PREDICTED RECORD

11-6; 2nd in NFC South

Expected Depth Chart

QUARTERBACK 

  1. Jameis Winston 
  2. Taysom Hill 
  3. Ian Book 

RUNNING BACK 

  1. Alvin Kamara 
  2. Tony Jones Jr.
  3. Latavius Murray 
  4. Dwayne Washington 
  5. Adam Prentice (fullback)

WIDE RECEIVER 

  1. Marquez Callaway 
  2. Deonte Harris 
  3. Ty Montgomery 
  4. Tre'Quan Smith 
  5. Lil'Jordan Humphrey 

TIGHT END 

  1. Adam Trautman 
  2. Juwan Johnson 
  3. Nick Vannett 
  4. Garrett Griffin 

OFFENSIVE LINE 

  1. LT Terron Armstead 
  2. LG Andrus Peat 
  3. C Erik McCoy 
  4. RG Cesar Ruiz 
  5. RT Ryan Ramczyk 
  6. T/G - James Hurst 
  7. T - Landon Young 
  8. C/G - Will Clapp 
  9. G/T - Calvin Throckmorton 

DEFENSIVE END 

  1. Cam Jordan 
  2. Marcus Davenport 
  3. Payton Turner 
  4. Carl Granderson 
  5. Tanoh Kpassagnon (DE/DT)

DEFENSIVE TACKLE 

  1. Shy Tuttle 
  2. Jaleel Johnson 
  3. Malcolm Roach 
  4. Christian Ringo 
  5. Montravius Adams 

LINEBACKER 

  1. Demario Davis 
  2. Kwon Alexander 
  3. Zack Baun 
  4. Pete Werner 
  5. Kaden Elliss 
  6. Andrew Dowell  

CORNERBACK 

  1. Marshon Lattimore 
  2. Ken Crawley 
  3. Paulson Adebo 
  4. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
  5. P.J. Williams 

SAFETY 

  1. Marcus Williams
  2. Malcolm Jenkins 
  3. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson 
  4. P.J. Williams 
  5. Jeff Heath

SPECIAL TEAMS

  1. Blake Gillikin - Punter
  2. Aldrick Rosas - Kicker