We continue recapping the 2019 NFL season with our fellow SB Nation blogs. Today, we take a look at the team that has won more regular season games than any other since 2017 — the New Orleans Saints. Ross Jackson of Canal Street Chronicles was able to answer a few questions on New Orleans’ 2019 campaign.
1. How much longer do you think Drew Brees will remain the starting quarterback in New Orleans? After posting one of his best seasons yet, is there any reason at all to be skeptical of his ability to continue performing at a dominant level in that offense?
I don’t believe there’s any reason to be skeptical about his ability to operate in Sean Payton’s system even at 41. That being said, I believe this will likely be his final season. All the talk about how he would love to play until he was 45 is cute and fun, but this past offseason seemed like the first time he completely considered retiring. That, paired with the Saints’ seemingly complete faith in Taysom Hill as the next in line should allow for a smooth, at least transactionally, transition to the future. Maybe I’m crazy, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if the possible 17th game turned out to be an influencing factor as well.
2. Is all the talk about Taysom Hill potentially being Drew Brees’ heir for real? Whether or not it is, do you think it would even make sense for the Saints to consider him as an option to be the team’s next starting quarterback?
I mean, it’s certainly for real at face value but there’s always the chance that another QB becomes available in the draft, free agency, or via trade that makes this all null and void. But with the way New Orleans decides to approach its upcoming negotiations with both of these QBs will tell us a lot. If we see an escalating contract structure in terms of pay for Taysom, should they reach an agreement, that creates an expectation that Coach Payton and GM Mickey Loomis are ready to put their money where their mouths are.
3. The Saints have three key secondary pieces set to hit the market in Eli Apple, Vonn Bell, and P.J. Williams. How do see the team handling these three players?
The biggest emphasis outside of the QBs for New Orleans should be retaining Vonn Bell. He just played out his final year of his rookie contract and somehow found a way to get better and add new elements to his game every season. As for Apple and Williams, the Saints will likely try to retain them as well but with less ferver. They’ll likely set a cap number they’re willing to commit to each of them and if they want more than that - they’ll be out the door. New Orleans already has replacements for both of those guys on the roster with Janoris Jenkins on the outside on contract for 2020 and second-year defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson who showed fantastic ability in the slot and all over as a roving chess piece on defense. Of the three, keeping Bell on Airline Dr. is the biggest priority.
4. In each of the past two seasons, New Orleans’ defense has ranked 11th in DVOA. Where do the unit’s strengths lie, and in what areas can it improve to make that leap into the upper echelon?
Run defense and pass rush have been pretty excellent in New Orleans these past couple of years. The run defense has steadily been a top 3/top 5 unit and they just went over 50 sacks in a season for the first time since 2001. First time ever since Coach Payton stepped in in 2006. The rotation of the defensive line was remarkable until injuries set in on DT Sheldon Rankins and DE Marcus Davenport. They regularly saw 9 different bodies on the trenches every game. The Saints’ second level also started off vastly improved from years prior thanks to Demario Davis.
If they want to take the next step, it’ll have to be via the pass defense. It’s been great to see a top run defense and a top 20 pass defense as the Who Dat Nation had grown accustomed to both being awful. But If I had my druthers, we’d be watching a top pass defense even if it meant downgrading to a second tier run defense.. That would have been a key shift in games like the week 14 home game vs. San Francisco that ended as a 46-48 loss.
5. Over the last three seasons, the Saints have the best regular season record in the NFL (.771) but no Super Bowl appearances to show for it. Is there something missing that the Saints could use to get over the top, or are they a championship-ready team that has simply been the victim of miraculous playoff finishes?
Well two of the three playoff exits are pretty self explanatory, so I won’t be a dead horse there. It’s clear that this team could have done more in both of those instances that might have led to them avoiding the playoff heartbreak they’ve experienced But rarely do you play the game of football trying to protect yourself from a miracle fluke play and Bill Vinovich.
As for last season, there was nothing to blame that was out of sorts, no fluke plays, just a failure to execute on a what happened to be a big stage. Drew Brees was coming off of maybe the best football month he’s played, the offense was on fire, and the defense despite its injury losses was in good shape. However, they hit that wildcard game against the Vikings and all of a sudden couldn’t block the run, couldn’t protect on the interior of the offensive line, and couldn’t get the offense in gear. That was a Saints loss that came down to execution.
What could help them avoid that? Another weapon on offense would be nice. Health along the defensive line that had been so impressive all season long would be nice. Interior offensive line help is a must this offseason, that’s for sure. Any number of things could help the Saints take that next step. This offseason is a very important one as Brees saddles up for what may be his last ride.
6. If you could add one offensive and one defensive player from the 2019 Jets to the current iteration of the Saints, who would you choose?
Defense is easy. Jamal Adams. I talked about how the Saints having a better pass defense is better for them that having a slightly worse run defense is bad for them, Adams gives you one without sacrificing the other. As a New Orleans native, I’ve been a big fan of Adams since his LSU days of course. Paring him with either Vonn Bell or Marcus Williams Williams in the defensive backfield would be a dream scenario.
If only Osemele could stay on the field (cue collective groan from Jets fans), but since he can’t I’ll go with someone the Saints do have an opportunity to add this offseason in Robby Anderson. He’d fill a need for another WR top compliment Michael Thomas. My only reservation with his is his catch rate which, career-wise is the same as Ted Ginn, Jr. who ended up becoming notorious yet again for his hands or lack thereof after putting up a career-best percentage in 2017. But Anderson as a young, speedy option would be nice for New Orleans if they’re willing to spend the cash.
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