The New Orleans Saints 2021 season is officially over. Since 2016, the Saints will not be a part of the playoff conversation for the first time. The team finished the season with a 9-8 record; however, they were not in total control of their playoff fate.
They needed the Los Angeles Rams to defeat division rival the San Francisco 49ers in the last game of the year to qualify for a playoff berth. The Rams failed to get the job done, and the Saints remained on the outside looking in at the NFC playoff picture. Despite not qualifying for a postseason berth, New Orleans has a lot to be proud of this season.
The team fought through periods of adversity and remained determined to fight until there was nothing else to strive for this year. If other franchises experienced what the Saints went through this season, they would have folded up a long time ago and positioned themselves for a better draft selection. New Orleans ignored all of the outside noise and fought until the end. Now that the season is over, we’ll take a look at four takeaways from the Saints 2021 campaign.
Quarterback Issue Remained Unsolved
One of the biggest mysteries going into 2021 was how the Saints would look like without the presence of future Hall of Famer Drew Brees under center for an entire season. Due to injuries at the quarterback position, there was a revolving door at the team’s most vital spot. We only saw a brief sample size of what Jameis Winston could do in a Sean Payton-driven offense. The 2015 number one pick season ended after suffering a devastating injury against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
A total of four different signal-callers saw time as the Saints’ starting quarterback this season. Only Taysom Hill and Winston had winning records under center. Both QBs combined for a 9-3 record. Did Winston do enough for the Saints to go all-in on him next season, or will they pursue other options? By far, finding the heir-apparent will be the Saints’ number one priority in the offseason.
Dome-Field Advantage Was Nonexistent
It is hard to determine what happened to the Saints vibe at the Superdome. This season, the mantra of having “dome-field advantage” was not a factor. Packed crowds were allowed to attend the now Caesars Superdome after not being able to in 2020 due to the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
The loudest that it got was when the team knocked off the Buccaneers after losing Winston to an injury. Their overall record at home in 2021 was 2-5, which is very unusual for a team known for having one of the most ruckus environments in team sports. Hopefully, in 2022, the Superdome can return to its pre-pandemic levels.
Paulson Adebo Was the Steal of the Draft for New Orleans
The cornerback position opposite of Marshon Lattimore was viewed as a concern. Lattimore was facing a possible suspension due to an off-the-field incident in March. Janoris Jenkins had become a cap casualty and did not return to the team. The Lattimore suspension never happened, but the cornerback slot opposite of him remained a mystery.
Third-round selection Paulson Adebo came in and immediately erased those doubts. He made his presence known in Week 1 when he intercepted a pass from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. At the time, Green Bay was deep into Saints territory and was trailing 17-3. Adebo’s interception allowed New Orleans to add more points to their lead. For depth purposes, the Saints may select another cornerback in the later rounds of this year’s draft. However, the newcomers will face stiff competition if they aspire to become the Saints CB2.
Defense Became the Cornerstone of the Team
For the past four years, you saw glimpses of the defense slowly becoming the cornerstone unit in New Orleans. In 2021, it came to fruition. The Saints defense was once again recognized as one of the league’s premier groups. One of their biggest strengths such as stopping the run remain a crucial trait of what they do so well. In 2021 the Saints rush defense finished fourth in the league by only allowing 93.5 rushing yards per game.
Another positive from the Saints defense is that Marcus Davenport finally came into the form. The Saints 2018 first overall selection recorded a career best nine sacks. Fellow teammate Cam Jordan reminded everyone that he’s still one of the league’s best players when he finished the season on a tear. Jordan racked up 8.5 sacks in his last four games of the season. For many years, the Saints defense was viewed as the primary weak spot on the team. Fast forward to 2021 and they are now the strongest element of the franchise.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
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