Saints News Network's Intern, Joseph Mcguan, takes an in-depth look at the New Orleans Saints' 2009 and 2020 offensive personnel.
In the final game of the 2005 regular season, while playing for the San Diego Chargers, QB Drew Brees tore his labrum in his right shoulder. On that play, Brees snapped the ball, faked a hand-off to running back LaDainian Tomlinson, dropped back to pass, and was hit from behind. The ball came out, and when Brees attempted to recover the fumble. He was met with a Denver Bronco defensive player who awkwardly landed on his shoulder, tearing his labrum. Brees’ NFL career was now in doubt.
Brees had a 360-degree tear of his labrum and a 50 percent tear of his rotator cuff. The former San Diego Charger had surgery to repair the torn labrum but would it ever be the same?
Three months later, in March of 2006, Drew Brees signed a 6-year, $60 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. New Orleans took a shot on Brees and gave him the one chance he needed to defy all odds and come back from this significant injury better than ever. He did just that.
Dr. James Andrews, who performed the shoulder surgery on Brees, stated, “most remarkable comeback that I’ve ever treated.”
The rest is history.
The Comparison: 2009 vs. 2020 Offense
The Saints have had multiple winning seasons with a variety of teams. Every season brings in new players to fill a 53-man roster, whether that be from the draft, free agency, or players from the prior year. In 2009, I believe the Saints assembled the best roster they have ever put together.
New Orleans’ 2009 roster was comprised of leaders, talent, toughness, intelligence, and depth. This team helped the Saints achieve a Super Bowl victory and set the bar on expectations of what a Super Bowl roster comprises. Comparing the 2009 Saints’ team to the current 2020 roster, they hold similar traits to that championship team.
In 2009, the Saints had the league’s best offense. The offense averaged 403.8 yards a game (1st), 31.9 points per game (1st), 131.6 rush yards a game (6th), and 272.2 passing yards a game (4th). This offense was deadly and loaded with weapons at every position.
This current Saints roster possesses the depth and talent to be a lethal force towards any opposing defenses.
In his 4th season with the Saints, Drew Brees led the franchise to its first 13-win season. He led the NFL in completion percentage at 70.6% in the regular season. Brees passed for 4,388 yards and had a league-high 34 Touchdowns and a QBR of 83.4.
Brees was proficient in the playoffs having a completion percentage of 70.6%, passing for 8 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. This impeccable performance led the Saints to achieve a Super Bowl title.
Drew Brees, the man who led the Saints to a Super Bowl victory, returned for his 20th NFL Season. Brees posted a QB rating of 91.4 in 2019 while posting a league-high 74.34% completion percentage in 2019 compared to his 70.62% back in 2009. Brees is looking for another shot at a Super Bowl title.
In his first 4 games of the 2020 season, Brees has a 71.3% completion rate with 1,006 passing yards, 8 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Although the Saints have started their 2020 season slow, Brees is still looking to lead this team to a winning season and beyond.
Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston are the backup QB’s, compared to 2009 where Mark Brunell was the backup. Taysom Hill is a versatile weapon that continues to help out this Saints team in any way possible. Jameis Winston just arrived in New Orleans after playing 5 seasons with Tampa Bay. Winston led the NFL with a league-high of 5,104 passing yards in 2019.
Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, and Mike Bell split the backfield for the Saints in ’09. As the season continued, Bell gained Sean Payton's confidence and was featured more in the running game with 172 attempts for 654 rushing yards with 5 touchdowns. Bell only saw 4 targets in the passing game.
Bush was a dual-threat the passing and running game. He had 70 rushing attempts for 390 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 47 receptions for 335 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Thomas led the team with 793 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns, he also had 39 receptions for 302 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The trio rushers ran for a combined 1,873 yards in 2006. The Saints were ranked 6th overall with a total of 2,106 rushing yards.
Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, leads the backfield for the Saints. Kamara is an elusive back used as a running back and receiving back. The 3x Pro Bowler has posted 4,476 all-purpose yards in his first three seasons with the Saints, along with averaging 5.1 yards per carry and 8.5 yards per reception. Kamara has earned an overall PFF rushing grade of 84.2 and overall PFF, receiving a 91.9 grade. He is used heavily in the passing game because of his receiving abilities, speed, and elusiveness shedding tackles.
Although Kamara and Murray split snaps, Murray seems to be used more in the run game than the passing game. When Kamara missed time in 2019, Murray started two games and had over 100 yards rushing in both contests and earning a 73.9 PFF grade in 2019 and averaging 4.4 yards per on the ground.
In his first 4 games of 2020, Kamara has been the heartbeat of this Saints offense. The 4th year running back has rushed for 236 yards and has 30 receptions for 321 yards and a total of 7 touchdowns on the season. Kamara continues to impress by posting a league-high 308 yards after the catch and breaking 17 total tackles on the season.
Latavius Murray pounded in 2 rushing touchdowns in week 4 against the Detroit Lions and ultimately helping the Saints secure a win by a score of 35-29. Murray has 184 rushing yards with 2 touchdowns on the season. The Pro Bowl running back has helped the Saints in short-yardage situations by picking up 14 first downs.
Marques Colston led the receiving core with 70 receptions for 1,074 yards and 9 touchdowns on the season. Standing at 6’4”, Colston was Brees’ favorite target. He was targeted 107 times, 24 more targets than the next Saints receiver.
Devery Henderson caught 51 targets for 804 yards and 2 touchdowns while Robert Meachem contributed 722 yards on 45 catches with 9 touchdowns. Lance Moore only appeared in 7 games catching 14 of his 19 targets for 153 yards and 2 scores. Henderson and Moore both caught 83.3% of their targets in the playoffs, ultimately helping this offense reach the Super Bowl.
The 2009 Saints had one of the best receiving corps they’ve had in the Sean Payton era. Drew Brees enjoyed throwing to Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore, and Courtney Roby.
This year, the Saints added Emmanuel Sanders to go along with arguably the best wide receivers in football, Michael Thomas.
In 2019, Michael Thomas broke Marvin Harrison’s previous record of 143 receptions in a single season. Thomas had 149 receptions (NFL Record) and 1,725 receiving yards in 2019, and 5,512 yards in his first four seasons with the Saints. Thomas earned Offensive Player of the Year in 2019 and is now looking to have a huge 2020 season.
Emmanuel Sanders is coming off a season where he played with the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers. Sanders hauled in 66 receptions for 869 yards with 5 TDs. Sanders dropped 2 passes out of his 97 targets in 2019. Sanders now has the chance to play with a Hall of Fame QB who can help raise his talent to the next level. Sanders adds veteran talent and leadership to the Saints.
The Saints WR room comprises Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Tre’Quan Smith, speedy return specialist Deonte Harris, and rookie Marquez Callaway.
With Michael Thomas being out the last 3 weeks due to an ankle injury, the Saints receiving corps has yet to show their full potential.
Besides Kamara leading the team with the most receiving yards, Tre’Quan Smith leads the wide receiver group with 186 total yards on 14 catches paired with 2 touchdowns, and Emmanuel Sanders with 14 catches for 182 yards and 2 scores.
Thomas will look to return in week 5 against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Before the 2008 season, the Saints traded for Jeremy Shockey, reuniting the All-Pro tight end with Sean Payton.
Out of all pass catchers on the Saints in 2009, Jeremy Shockey was 4th in receiving yards with 569 yards on 48 receptions paired with 3 touchdowns.
Tight end David Thomas contributed his part to the championship squad by pulling in 35 targets for 356 yards and 1 touchdown.
In his first season with the Saints, TE Jared Cook posted 43 receptions for 705 yards and 9 TDs. Cook will continue to be a huge target for Brees and help the Offensive Line when needed. Cook is ranked as the 9th best tight end entering the 2020 season and receiving a PFF 80.8 receiving grade for the 6th best in the NFL.
Josh Hill caught a career-high 25 receptions in 2019. He returns for his 8th season with New Orleans. The Saints add more depth to their tight end room by drafting rookie Adam Trautman out of the University of Dayton. Trautman adds his size, skill, and strength to an already loaded offense.
Jared Cook hauled in 114 yards receiving and 1 touchdown through his first 3 games of the season. The 2x Pro Bowler missed week 4 to a groin injury.
Everyone knows that it will be challenging to build a successful passing and the run game without a stout offensive line; it will be challenging to build success in the passing game and run game. The 2009 offensive line ranked 4th best overall by PFF, ranking 2nd in the run game and 13th in the passing game. They allowed 20 sacks, which was the 5th best that year.
The Offensive Line was composed of LT Jermon Bushrod, LG Carl Nicks, C Jonathan Goodwin, RG Jhari Evans, and RT Jon Stinchcomb. This championship Offensive Line surrendered 2 sacks throughout the 2009 playoffs.
At the end of the 2019 season, the Saints offensive line was ranked 5th best overall. The Saints added Cesar Ruiz, and a first-round draft pick out of the University of Michigan.
New Orleans drafted Cesar Ruiz in the first round out of the University of Michigan. Cesar Ruiz will help to bolster the stalwart offensive line that includes RT Ryan Ramczyk, LT Terron Armstead, LG Andrus Peat, and C Erik McCoy. The Saints offensive line is currently ranked 2nd overall in the NFL.
Nick Easton replaced Ruiz in the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ruiz made his debut on Monday night, subbing for an injured guard Nick Easton. Before the season began, Sean Payton had Ruiz and McCoy working at the center and right guard positions in training camp. It appears the Saints will keep McCoy at the center spot for the remainder of the season.
Andrus Peat left the game early in Week 3 against the Packers with an ankle injury. Nick Easton will be at LG, and rookie Cesar Ruiz will take Easton’s spot at RG. Besides losing Andrus Peat for a couple of weeks, the Saints Offensive Line has been strong through these first 4 games only allowing 5 sacks. C Erik McCoy help setup an Alvin Kamara touchdown in week 3 with a huge block downfield.
In week 4 against the Lions, the Saints' offensive line didn’t get healthier. All-Pro tackle Ryan Ramczyk left the game early due to a concussion and was replaced by Ethan Greenridge.
Due to other injuries like Andrus Peat, Rookie guard Cesar Ruiz played on all 70 snaps and Nick Easton and center Erik McCoy. New Orleans signed veteran tackle James Hurst this offseason but had to serve a 4-game suspension. When reinstated form his suspension, Hurst will add depth to a slightly banged-up offensive line.
Look for rookie guard Cesar Ruiz to continue to step up with Andrus Peat out Week 5 and beyond.