The New Orleans Saints will be ushering in a new football season with levels of optimism that we have not seen in years. But is it because of the new face at the head coach position, Dennis Allen? Or is it because the team finally fulfilled the Who Dat Nations three-year request of wanting a capable wide receiver that can line up opposite of All-Pro Michael Thomas? The fan base is also excited because two homegrown talents, Tyrann Matheiu and Jarvis Landry, decided to be a part of the team.
But unfortunately, the narrative under previous head coach Sean Payton is that the Saints were never really interested in selecting LSU players. So, despite everyone’s excitement for this season, the team still has to go out on the field and put everything together as one unit. Today, Saints Discussions will list five critical factors that will determine the Saints’ level of success in 2022.
Dennis Allen’s Ability to Navigate Through the Tougher Portion of the Saints Schedule
One of Sean Payton’s most prominent attributes as a head coach was his ability to keep the Saints playing at a high level despite having a brutal slate of opponents. In 2019, Drew Brees missed six games because of a thumb injury against the L.A. Rams in Week 2. The Saints’ next opponents would be the Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Chicago Bears. At the time, teams such as Seattle, Dallas, and Chicago were viewed as potential Super Bowl contenders.
However, without Brees under center, the Saints went 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater as their starting quarterback. Can Dennis Allen achieve the same level of success as Payton did in this area? New Orleans enters a difficult phase of their 2022 schedule when they host the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 6. After the Bengals game, the Saints will face Arizona, Las Vegas, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Those six games will likely determine if the Saints are playoff contenders for this season.
The Health and the Progression of Jameis Winston Operating Within the Saints Offense
The quarterback position is the essential element of a franchise. The success or failure of a team hinges on how they operate on the football field. As for Jameis Winston, he gets another opportunity to show that he is the guy that can lead the Saints into a new era of winning football. Before the season-ending injury occurred against Tampa Bay, Winston led the Saints to a 5-2 record. With a plethora of new weapons to work with in the passing game, it will be up to Winston to demonstrate that he is the Saints’ long-term option at quarterback. More importantly, Winston’s growth in a Sean Payton-influenced offense will determine how potent the team can be while he is under center.
Michael Thomas Getting Back to Playing at A High Level
For a three-year stretch, Micahel Thomas was the best wide receiver in the National Football League. He recorded at least 1,000 yards receiving and 100 receptions in three consecutive seasons. His career-best was in 2019 when he broke Marvin Harrison’s single-season reception record with 149. Those achievements would allow Thomas to win the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year Award. Unfortunately, the following two seasons for Thomas were filled with battling an ankle injury that occurred in Week 1 of the 2020 campaign. After a second surgery on the injured ankle, he was shut down for the entire 2021 season. The Saints have upgraded their wide receiver group, but Thomas needs to be the primary catalyst when the whole unit is on the field.
Filling the Void that Terron Armstead Left Behind at Left Tackle
The Saints’ long-term answer at left tackle is projected to be 2022 first-round selection Trevor Penning. However, according to reports, the job is not guaranteed to Penning this season. Instead, he will compete with veteran OT James Hurst for the starting role in 2022. Hurst has shown that he can step in and provide protection for whichever quarterback is under center for New Orleans. However, the difference between this season and previous campaigns is that Hurst may have to perform in that role for the entire year instead of appearing in a few games. Therefore, Penning’s growth as an offensive tackle will be vital during this period.
The Production of the Running Game Without the Possibility of Having Alvin Kamara
I will not discuss why Alvin Kamara may not be available for the beginning of the Saints 2022 campaign. However, if you are a Saints fan or just a hardcore follower of the league, then you know the circumstances he is facing. If Kamara is out for the six games that numerous outlets have reported, then New Orleans will need viable options to carry the load while he is out. Whatever combination they decide to roll with, they don’t need to perform like Kamara; they just need to be productive when called upon.
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