Last year’s New Orleans Saints offense was a rough watch. A far cry from what the Who Dat Nation had grown accustomed to under the Drew Brees and Sean Payton era. Not a single receiver had over 50 catches or 700 yards. Alvin Kamara had a career-low yards-per-carry average. And four different quarterbacks started games under center.
The absence of Drew Brees is glaring. But under new head coach Dennis Allen, the Saints made promising strides to address the offensive problems. They brought Jarvis Landry to the team in free agency and, with their two first-round draft picks, selected receiver Chris Olave and offensive tackle Trevor Penning.
The offense will look different this year, fans hope. But unfortunately, their schedule has a slate of tough defenses. So let’s look at five of the most challenging matchups the Saints’ offense will face on the 2022 schedule.
5. CINCINNATI BENGALS
When the New Orleans Saints host the Cincinnati Bengals in week 6, it’s reasonable to suspect all eyes will be on Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ high-powered offense. But their defense is stacked with talent, and they invested much into their defense through the draft.
Jamies Winston will have to deal with the fierce safety trio of Jessie Bates, Vonn Bell, and first-round draft pick Daxton Hill when it comes to establishing a deep passing attack.
But even if the deep ball was an option, defensive ends Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard will be applying plenty of pressure on the QB. They combined for 21.5 sacks last year, so offensive tackles Ryan Ramczyk and a rotation of Trevor Penning and James Hurst will have a long day trying to keep them out of the backfield.
Linebacker Logan Wilson made a name for himself in the Bengals’ playoff run last season. He led the team in tackles and became the heart and soul of the defense. But with losing Larry Ogunjobi, the run defense may suffer, and Alvin Kamara could benefit from it. If left single-covered, Mike Thomas and Chris Olave can beat Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple. But the safety cover could very well limit their success.
4. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
The Steelers defense will be a problem for the Saints when they make the journey to Pittsburgh in Week 10. It looks relatively the same as last season but slightly better.
They inked the best safety in football, Minkah Fitzpatrick, to an extension while adding Larry Ogunjobi, Myles Jack, Levi Wallace, and Genard Avery, among others. And don’t forget their returning players, TJ Watt, Devin Bush, and Cam Heyward.
The biggest name they lost on that side of the ball is Taco Charlton, who wasn’t a consistent starter last year. As a result, it’s a matchup nightmare for any offense. Charlton is now a Saint, but even that may not be a long-term venture for the former first-round pick.
In a similar fashion to the Bengals game, deep balls will be a no-go. But not due to lockdown coverage, but if a QB holds the ball for more than 2.5 seconds, TJ Watt and Cam Heyward will come crashing down on him. And this offensive line may not be good enough to stop that.
The Steelers ranked 32nd against the run last year. It’s a stat I’m having a hard time understanding with the quality of players they have on the team. It can be the same this year, especially with the potential weakness of the Saints’ interior line. Short, quick throws should be the game plan for the Saints in this game.
3. BALTIMORE RAVENS
The Ravens were miserable in some areas of their defense last season, which led to them parting ways with defensive coordinator Wink Martindale.
Last season they were 27th in allowed passer rating, and they have addressed that in the offseason by adding some huge pieces to their secondary. They acquired Marcus Williams from the Saints and Kyle Fuller from the Broncos and drafted Kyle Hamilton at safety.
The weak spot on this defense got a lot better, making it much more difficult to move the ball on them. They led the league against the run last year, and the boys that spearheaded that are all back.
Calais Campbell, Michael Pierce, and Justin Madupbuike up on the defensive front make it off-putting even to consider running the ball at them. The Saints may not have much hope running the ball when they host Baltimore. Even if Alvin Kamara returns to his usual playmaking self, the Saints will need big plays from Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry, and Chris Olave to have a chance. They’ll have to beat their guys in coverage and find space to move the chains.
2. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
The 49ers are a prime example of how important it is to address depth. This offseason, they lost a lot of rotational guys but replaced them well. They didn’t move mountains in the offseason, but they didn’t need to.
Nick Bosa still runs this defense. The best o-line coaches and offensive coordinators in the league can try to create ways to slow him down. But ultimately, he’s going to get in the backfield. He’s going to get his sacks. And he will disrupt an opposing offense in more ways than one.
Last year the San Francisco 49ers’ run defense was the key to their success. They can stop the run and force offenses to become one-dimensional. And with the Saints’ rushing attack, they won’t be able to stick to it for long. And in turn, shifting the game onto Jamies Winston’s shoulders.
Overall, the defense is stacked top to bottom. They wreak havoc on opposing offenses, and everywhere you look, they have talent. A low-scoring game might be the only chance the Saints have if their defense can’t stop the 49ers’ offense. Or if the Saints can’t move the ball on this defense, it could get ugly. In the 48-46 shootout in 2019, the Saints successfully went through the air to attack the 49ers’ defense. They may have to follow that same line of thinking in the 2022 matchup.
1. LOS ANGELES RAMS
Unsurprisingly the Rams had one of the best defenses in the league last year. After all, defenses win championships. However, dealing with Aaron Donald keeps offensive coordinators up all night. There’s nothing more to say about him. He’s the best player in the league. He’ll cause the Saints o-line problems all day.
Von Miller is no longer on the team. But with Leonard Floyd and A’Shawn Robinson, the Rams will still rack up the sack numbers. The acquisition of Bobby Wagner cannot go understated either. He is still a force in the middle of the field and will impact this unit.
A matchup between Jalen Ramsey and Michael Thomas would’ve been a tasteful heavyweight bout in 2019. But we haven’t seen Thomas return to his dominant ways since then, but I expect him to ramp back up to his 2019 form slowly.
If Ramsey is in a heated battle with Thomas, the Saints will try to attack the new addition to the Rams, Troy Hill, on the opposing side. On paper, the Saints receivers could exploit areas of this secondary. But the edge rushers will be a menace on the QB all game.
The best defenses force offenses to become one-dimensional. The Rams were 6th in the league last season in preventing the run. If Kamara can’t get going against this defensive front, Jamies Winston will be haunted all game by Aaron Donald, A’Shawn Robinson, and Leonard Floyd. Hopefully, Winston’s ability to establish the short to the intermediate passing game will be up to speed.
Show Your Support
Support the great work of the Strike 7 Sports Saints Discussions Section by buying licensed NFL fan gear. Items ranged from Saints hats, jerseys, t-shirts, socks, etc. We would greatly appreciate it if you would buy these items from the text link below. The revenue generated from today’s offer goes into the funding of the Strike 7 Sports platform. Click on the link below if you are interested.