Super Bowl is the Goal for 2020 Saints
Welcome to the “Pre-Snap Read,” a weekly preview of the coming Saints game day focused on the most exciting headlines and star players, a breakdown of the head-to-head matchups, keys to victory, a look inside the division and bonus commentary.
Super Bowl is the goal for 2020 Saints
Strange season could be crowned with championship
With the COVID-19 pandemic and precautions – including prohibiting or reducing fan attendance, not to mention two hurricanes in three days hitting the Louisiana coast and interrupting preseason camp, the 2020 NFL season will be one for the history books. The New Orleans Saints are hoping it will be one for the record books, as well.
Best Roster Ever?
The Saints are three-peat NFC South champions but suffered crushing playoff elimination on the last play of the game in each of those seasons. Still, General Manager Mickey Loomis and Head Coach Sean Payton have given reason to believe. From top to bottom, the 2020 Saints’ roster may be the most talented in franchise history. Expected to be one of the best teams in the league, they are preseason favorites to win their fourth straight division crown and expected to contend for Super Bowl LV.
The Saints’ offense has been prolific under Payton’s leadership, and there’s no reason to think it won’t be one of the league’s best in 2020.
Quarterback Drew Brees has a plethora of weapons including running backs Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray; wide receivers Michael Thomas and newcomer Emmanuel Sanders; tight ends Jared Cook and Josh Hill; and “Swiss Army Knife” Taysom Hill. They’ll operate behind arguably the best offensive line in the NFL.
The Saints’ defense has steadily improved over the past few seasons and returns several familiar names. The D is expected to be anchored by left end Cameron Jordan, left tackle Sheldon Rankins, right tackle Malcom Brown, and right end Marcus Davenport. Kiko Alonso will serve as middle linebacker, with Alex Anzalone on the strong side and Demario Davis on the weak side. The secondary will feature safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Williams and cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins.
Special teams will be helmed by kicker Wil Lutz, punter Thomas Morstead, long snapper Zach Wood, and Deonte Harris as kick/punt returner.
Eye on Camp
With the elimination of preseason games and social distancing precautions at training camp, fans and media haven’t enjoyed getting a glimpse of the team as it’s put together. Interest hasn’t waned, and the Saints have shown intelligence in building the roster.
- Backup QB – The Saints signed former Heisman Trophy winner and top overall draft pick Jameis Winston in the offseason, and he has shown the talent which helped him garner those honors. While Payton believes Taysom Hill has the skill to be a starter, expect Winston to be named backup so that Hill can continue to play multiple roles in the team’s attack. In a clever way to keep four quarterbacks on the roster, the team moved Tommy Stevens, who they secured in a late draft day trade to tight end. He’ll likely be another multi-use weapon in the offensive arsenal.
- WR Options – Michael Thomas is, arguably, the best wide receiver in the NFL. Unfortunately, the rest of the unit has seemed to flounder. The Saints brought in 33-year-old Sanders to provide an additional option up field. Still, the unit needs additional threats to further optimize the Saints’ attack. Tre’Quan Smith, Bennie Fowler, Deonte Harris, Austin Carr, Emmanuel Butler, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Marquez Callaway and Juwan Johnson are competing to provide needed explosive depth.
- LB Depth – The Saints starting defense has solid talent across the board and good depth on the line and in the secondary. However, depth at linebacker are a concern. When healthy, Davis, Alonso, and Anzalone are a fearsome threesome, but Anzalone has missed significant time in two of his three NFL seasons and Alonso is recovering from an ACL tear (the third of his football career) in the Saints’ Wild Card Round loss to the Vikings. Craig Robertson is a dependable backup, and the team is expecting big things from rookie third-round pick Zack Baun. With a solid line and secondary, the Saints need to shore up the middle of the defense.
- O-Line Configuration – The offensive line has been the bedrock of the Saints’ success under Payton. They have a young, but respected unit with expected starters left tackle Terron Armstead, left guard Andrus Peat, center Erik McCoy, first-round draft pick Cesar Ruiz at right guard, and right tackle Ryan Ramczyk. The Saints have the luxury of having several players who can play center and guard, including Ruiz, Nick Easton, and Will Clapp. When Peat picked up a thumb injury in camp, Easton took his place. Ruiz has also had reps at center. After the Viking wrecked the middle of the Saints’ line in the playoffs, it will be interesting to see how players grade, mesh with one another, and where they fall on the depth chart.
Inside the NFC South
The biggest news of the offseason was six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady leaving the New England Patriots this spring and sailing to Tampa Bay. Brees and Brady are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in NFL career passing touchdowns and yardage. The forty-something QBs will now be in a race for the division as well as the record books.
If adding Brady to the NFC South wasn’t enough, beloved former backup Teddy Bridgewater signed with the division rival Panthers. Carolina is rebuilding and isn’t expected to do much this year. With running back Christian McCaffrey, they are still dangerous.
Atlanta remains an enigma. With QB Matt Ryan, RB Todd Gurley, WRs Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, they have talent, but can’t seem to win consistently. After starting 1-7 last year, they finished 6-2. Can the Falcons pick up where they left off?
With marquee players finding new homes, there will be heightened attention paid to the NFC South and its potential for drama.
The Extra Point: Adieu, Drew
This is widely expected to be Drew Brees’ last season, but it won’t be a retirement tour. The sure first-ballot NFL Hall of Famer isn’t ready for a rocking chair just yet. Saints fans have been anticipating the coming year since last season’s the final whistle. COVID precautions will prevent us from giving a full-throated Domefield Advantage, but the Who Dat? Nation, as always, will be backing the Black & Gold. If the “Greatest Saint” decides to hang up his pads for good and retire after this season, hopefully he does it as the NFL’s All-Time Leader in career passing TDs and yardage and two-time Super Bowl Championship. After all Saints fans have been through in 2020 (not to mention the past three seasons), a party with the Lombardi would be a fitting reward.