It's crazy to think we're just seven weeks away from the return of the NFL, but still don't have a definitive picture as to what things will really look like when it's all said and done. The New Orleans Saints are going to be one of the top teams to look at in 2020, and they'll be tested right from the jump against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1. Assuming it holds, it should be a must-see matchup. We continue looking at and profiling our top players heading into the new season for the Saints, and look at one of their most underrated pickups and players from last season.
No. 22 - Malcom Brown
Not many talk about Malcom Brown as an impact player, but he ended up being a great pickup by the Saints from free agency. Brown appeared and started in all 16 games for Dennis Allen's defense in 2019, tallying 34 total tackles (18 solo), 6 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, a pass defense and fumble recovery. He helped anchor a defense that surrendered the fourth-lowest rushing yards per game at 91.3 behind the Buccaneers, Jets, and Eagles.
Perhaps one of the most impressive performances of the season from the front four was against the Bears, a game in which they allowed the fifth-lowest amount of rushing yards against an opponent in franchise history since 2000 (Panthers - 10). Chicago didn't get a rushing first down in the game whatsoever, something that had only happened three times previously for the Saints.
The former first-rounder graded out 67.9 for the season, which doesn't sound super appealing on the surface. However, it was better than his 2018 year with the Patriots (64.4 overall, 75th out of 112 interior defenders). He ended up being 51st out of 118 in 2019. He appeared in 528 snaps (45.9 percent), right behind David Onyemata. New Orleans has an impressive streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher in 43 straight games (both regular season and postseason), and Brown had a hand in preventing it from happening.
Brown's Outlook in 2020
One season in, the 3-year, $15 million deal for the ex-Patriot looks like a bargain. Brown should continue to start and pair opposite of Onyemata for the new season, rotating with Sheldon Rankins and Shy Tuttle. He's a stout space and block eater along the defensive line, and should only be better in his second season in New Orleans for the 26-year-old. In 2020, the Saints again have some interesting running back matchups on their hands, and Brown should prove once again that he's an underrated presence who should have a bit more appreciation for the work he does.