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Know Your Enemy: New Orleans Saints

The final KYE for 2020 is the New Orleans Saints. The Saints had great success going 13-3 in the 2019 regular season but lost to the Vikings in New Orleans during the Wild Card Round. Ouch. Sean Payton returns after having COVID with another loaded roster. Drew Brees is back from one last dance with Mary Jane in a Hall of Fame career. Peter Carmichael is the OC and Dennis Allen returns at DC. Saints look like the best team in the NFC South.

Strengths

Passing Game

Drew Brees is a hall of famer. Brees notched 27 TDs and 4 interceptions over 70% completion in 11 games last year. Teddy Bridgewater kept the ship straight in 5 games and Taysom Hill is a nice gadget player/QB. Bridgewater got a payday with the Panthers to start and the man, the myth, the pick machine Jameis Winston will be the backup for the Saints. They have plenty of good QBs.

Brees still has weapons. Michael Thomas is one of the best WRs in the league. Thomas had 1,725 yards and 9 TDS in 2019. That’s a monster season. Jared Cook is a good tight end with 705 yards and 9 TDs in only 14 games. Emmanuel Sanders was a nice FA addition to be WR 2 after splitting last season with Broncos/49ers.  TreQuan Smith continues to develop as the 3rd WR. The Saints should pass the ball at will in 2020 and have a plan after Brees with Hill.

Run Game

The Saints run the ball as well as they pass it. Alvin Kamara had a down year for him but is a very good RB. He still managed 797 yards at 4.7 YPC with 5 TDS. Kamara is a nice receiving threat with 533 yards and is playing for a big contract. Backup RB Latavius Murray got more work with 637 yards at 4.4 YPC and Taysom Hill will get his gadget run plays too.

Offensive Line

The offensive line run blocks well. Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk are both top 10 tackles in the league. Cesar Ruiz was drafted in Round 1 out of Michigan. The rookie has high talent and could play center or guard.

Erik McCoy was the 4th ranked center in the league in 2019. LG Andrus Peat (72nd ranked out of 83) is the lone weak link but somehow got a big contract this offseason for continuity. Larry Warford was a good right guard but was cut for cap reasons and to make room for Ruiz. This line can run block and pass block well and is a big underrated reason for the Saints success.

Defensive End

Cameron Jordan is a long-time stud DE for the Saints. Jordan ranked 10th out 103 edge defenders and added 15.5 sacks with very consistent pass rush and good run defending. Marcus Davenport is finally giving the Saints a good reason why they would allow the Packers to fleece them. Davenport ranked 17th out of 103 and added 6 sacks with consistent pressure/good run defending. Trey Hendrickson(48th ranked) is an average backup and Mario Edwards (48th ranked tie) still has some talent. The Saints have some nice ends much like their number 1 super fan Nichels.

Secondary

Marshon Lattimore is a great corner but had a down 3rd year after two really strong seasons in 2017/2018. Janoris Jenkins is still a good veteran CB (and much better than Eli Apple) and ranked 30th in the league. PJ Williams and Patrick Robinson are solid back-up CBs that have been with the Saints for years. The Saints are pretty strong at CB but need the pass rush to help them.

Marcus Williams was the 4th ranked safety in 2019 and Chauncy Gardner-Johnson graded well in over 500 snaps for New Orleans. Malcolm Jenkins returns from Philadelphia for that veteran presence and DJ Swearinger is another veteran added for depth after losing Vonn Bell. The safeties are strong and deep. The Saints secondary is a strength and should be able to produce turnovers galore.

Could be Strength or Weakness

Linebacker

Demario Davis graded out as the best LB in the league in 2019 somehow. Kiko Alonso isn’t good but was decent in 300 snaps in 2019. Zach Baun was a nice addition drafted in Round 3 from Wisconsin. Nigel Bradham (former Eagle) is a solid veteran that can give you average to above average play. Alex Anzalone is oft-injured but has talent coming off an above average 2018 season.

Defensive Tackle

Sheldon Rankins has never reached his potential but is a solid 3 tech DT.. Malcolm Brown is an above average nose tackle and Shy Tuttle gave good production in over 300 snaps. Margus Hunt was added but he was very poor for the Bengals in 2019. DTs are solid but unspectacular and they will rely on their stud ends to lead the defensive line.

Overall

The Saints host the Packers in Week 3 (Sunday Night Football) and the Vikings in Week 16. New Orleans travels to Detroit in Week 4 and Chicago in Week 8. Saints should be favored against every NFC North team but they are still beatable. Vikings have their number in the playoffs and the rest of the North has the talent to take out Drew Brees. Fun fact, the Lions have beaten the Saints in 3 of the last 4 meetings. All four games should be entertaining.

There are many good enemies for the NFC North this season facing the AFC South and NFC South. Let’s hope we get through it COVID free and get to see the Lions crowned Super Bowl Champion this upcoming February.