The moment will finally hit many Saints fans on Sunday when the Saints trot out for their first offensive series. The realization that after 15 years, Drew Brees is no longer the starting quarterback of the New Orleans Saints. Sunday begins a new year and a new era for the Bayou Boys and it begins with a difficult task. Sean Payton's group with square against the NFC North's reigning champions, the Green Bay Packers.
However, the "home game" that was on the schedule for the Saints is no longer a true "home game". Following the aftermath of Hurricane Ida on the state of Louisiana, the NFL has moved the Week 1 contest to Jacksonville, Florida. The New Orleans Saints had choices to where they wanted the game to be played but "it was not like Baskin-Robbins" according to Sean Payton.
Though there are many factors not swinging momentum in the Saints' favor headed into the NFL's opening weekend, there are a few players who can move the pendulum back towards the Black and Gold. Below are the New Orleans Saints' X-Factors for Week 1 of the 2021 NFL Season.
Offensive X-Factor: QB Jameis Winston
Following an offseason long quarterback battle between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill, Sean Payton announced last week that Jameis Winston would be the starting quarterback for the New Orleans Saints in 2021. This season serves as a new beginning for Winston who saw his final year as a starter in Tampa Bay end with the NFL's first 30 touchdown and 30 interception season.
The former number one overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft is backed by majority of the Who Dat Nation but more importantly the Saints' coaching staff and front office. Jameis' one-year deal to return to New Orleans is full of incentives and is an opportunity for Winston to bet on himself and cash a massive contract next season.
The future is now for the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner as he begins his "second life" in the NFL. He is staged with a tough task against the Green Bay Packers in week one but for the Saints to come out with a victory and prove to be contenders yet again, Winston will have to show he is a different quarterback than years past.
The Saints will go as far as Jameis can take them and he has a golden opportunity to prove the Saints made the right choice in Week 1.
Defensive X-Factor: DE Marcus Davenport
Throughout training camp, former first-round draft pick Marcus Davenport has been the hot name in the press. The former first-round selection has seen a rollercoaster ride to start his NFL career and is in the midst of a make or break contract year in 2021.
The Saints have newfound depth at the defensive end position with a healthy Davenport and intriguing prospects in Carl Granderson and Payton Turner but someone needs to step up opposite Cameron Jordan. Last season it was Trey Hendrickson, who has since signed with the Bengals, which opens the door for one of the aforementioned three to earn a starting job.
With a top-tier offense in Green Bay, pressuring the future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the top priority. With Davenport's unique blend of size and speed Week 1 will be a perfect time to unleash what we have seen in training camp to the rest of the NFL World.
Wild-Card X-Factor: CB Paulson Adebo
A new face lines up on the opposite side of cornerback Marshon Lattimore for the Saints for the fifth consecutive season. This time it is the 2021 third-round draft pick from Stanford Paulson Adebo. The wide receiver turned cornerback sat out the 2020 college football season because of the COVID-19 pandemic and will play his first meaningful game since November 9th 2019 on Sunday.
Adebo faces a difficult task in his NFL debut, battling future hall-of-fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a highly touted Green Bay Packers offense. With Marson Lattimore likely shadowing All-Pro wide-out Davante Adams throughout the afternoon's contest, Adebo will likely be left to manage the Packers' second and third options at wide receiver.
New Orleans will have reinforcements ready at corner throughout the remainder of the 2021 NFL season, allowing Adebo time to learn and grow into his NFL career. The Saints added two veterans this week. Bradley Roby joins the Saints via trade with the Houston Texans, while Desmond Trufant comes via free agency. However, for at least Week 1 it will be baptism by fire for Adebo who needs to step up big if the Saints want to begin the season with a victory.
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