One of the most successful eras of football officially ended in 2021. Saints head coach Sean Payton followed his future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees into retirement. However, all signs point to Payton returning in 2023 as a head coach of a different NFL franchise. Dennis Allen goes from the defensive coordinator role to head coach. The team could have easily dismantled its roster and received significant draft compensation. But the front office, led by Mickie Loomis, decided to keep the team intact minus a few losses to its core foundation.
Leading up to the draft, the team decided to strengthen its position by giving the Philadelphia Eagles the 18th overall pick, a 2022 third-round pick, a 2022 seventh-round pick, a 2023 first-round pick, and a 2024 second-round pick in return for the 16th and 19th selection in this year’s draft. New Orleans would move up again on the night of the draft to the 11th spot to take wideout Chris Olave out of Ohio State. At 19, the Saints selected offensive tackle, Trevor Penning out of Northern Iowa.
Previewing the Saints’ Offense
Sean Payton is one of the NFL’s most innovative minds in creating an offense. However, 2021 was a dismal year for a Saints offense that is usually highly regarded around the league. The unit did have one wide receiver that reached at least 700 yards last season.
The group also had four different starting quarterbacks see action throughout the year. In 2022 the offense is expecting a different outcome. Star wideout Michael Thomas will return to the starting lineup after missing the entire 2021 campaign due to recovering from an injury.
Unlike previous years, it will not be Thomas and everyone standing around watching. Fellow Ohio State Buckeye Chris Olave will join Thomas in the Saints’ upgraded receiving room. New Orleans did not stop with the addition of Olave. The team also signed former Lutcher Bulldog and LSU Tiger Jarvis Landry. The veteran wideout solves numerous problems that have plagued the Saints wide receiver group over the years. Based on the optics, running back Alvin Kamara will be available for the entire season.
On the night before the Pro Bowl, Kamara was involved in an altercation that led to him being arrested by Las Vegas police. The notion was that he would be suspended for at least six games to start the season, but the trial date has been pushed back once again. The offensive line no longer has its cornerstone player in Terron Armstead. He is now a member of the Miami Dolphins. Veteran James Hurst will take over for Armstead at left tackle. However, the position’s future is expected to be manned by rookie Trevor Penning.
Previewing the Saints’ Defense
The Saints’ defense will have a few new faces, like the offense. Marcus Williams signed with the Baltimore Ravens during free agency, and Malcolm Jenkins retired from playing football. Marcus Maye and New Orleans native Tyrann Mathieu will be stepping into their roles. Scouting reports suggest that Maye is a better overall tackler than Williams, even though he does not have the range to cover deep like him. Mathieu is expected to play in the box and become an integral part of the unit. The cornerback position has the most depth that it has ever had before. Paulson Adebo is expected to play on the opposite side of All-Pro Marshon Lattimore.
Bradley Roby is another option that the Saints can turn to if Adebo regresses or an injury to Lattimore occurs. New Orleans decided not to bring back fan favorite Kwon Alexander. Alexander was a player that meshed well with Demario Davis, and the rest of the defense vibed off his energy. All eyes will be on second-year linebacker Pete Warner and how he produces as the full-time starter at the position. He is currently recovering from a groin injury that occurred during training camp.
Quick Update: The Saints lost an integral member of their defense when they traded cornerback C.J. Gardner-Johnson to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Saints received the Eagles’ 2022 fifth-round draft pick and the 2024 sixth-round pick (the lower of the Eagles’ two). The transaction occurred on Tuesday, August 30.
Buccaneers: September 18/December 5
Vikings: October 2
Bengals: October 16
Raiders: October 30
Ravens: November 7
Rams: November 20
49ers: November 27
Eagles: January 1
Win-Loss Projections: 11-6 (NFC South Division Winner)
Health will play an important role in how far the Saints will go this season. The team has a tailored roster to stop a team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They start the year with five winnable games, but the gauntlet begins with Joe Burrow’s homecoming matchup on October 16. However, showing up in big games has never been an issue for the New Orleans Saints. Don’t expect that to change with Allen as the head coach this season.
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