New Orleans Saints 2021 Season Preview: Marching in, or Sean of the Dead?

    The New Orleans Saints 2021 season preview looks significantly different without Drew Brees. The roster is strong, but QB is a scary spot.

    The New Orleans Saints have been extremely consistent since 2017. Over the past three years, they’ve placed themselves in the top 10 of both offensive and defensive efficiency each season. That’s an incredible feat, given the parity in the NFL and the lack of defensive continuity from season to season. The Saints 2021 season preview looks much different than it has since 2006, as it’s the first time they go into a season without Drew Brees.

    New Orleans Saints 2021 season preview

    The Saints head into the new year with one big unknown surrounding an excellent roster. Quarterback is the most valuable position in sports, and New Orleans is heading into 2021 with Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. They are also tied for the seventh-toughest schedule in the NFL.

    However, three of their four most challenging games are in front of the home crowd in the Superdome. The Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will all visit New Orleans in 2021. Furthermore, within the NFC South, the Saints should be heavily favored against both the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers in the four meetings. In addition, New Orleans has the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, and New York Jets on their schedule. Therefore, their schedule is a good mix of easy and difficult overall.

    Offseason additions and losses

    The other thing that makes the waters murky in 2021 are the losses New Orleans sustained through free agency. The taxman finally showed up at the Saints’ front door, and it cost them a lot of talent. Brees was the Saints’ biggest loss, but his retirement was far from the only one.

    Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was the only legitimate target outside of Michael Thomas in 2020, and Thomas missed a majority of the season due to injury. Tight end Jared Cook received the third-highest target share on the team, and he walked to the West Coast to play with Justin Herbert.

    The Saints also lost defensive line talent in Trey Hendrickson and former first-round picks Sheldon Rankins and Malcom Brown.

    Their biggest “additions” come from in-house signings. They retained safety Marcus Williams by placing the franchise tag on him. Additionally, the Saints kept Winston around on a one-year “prove it” deal and re-signed James Hurst as their swing tackle.

    2021 NFL Draft

    New Orleans didn’t have much to work with during the 2021 NFL Draft. They surprised some with the selection of Houston defensive end Payton Turner in Round 1, but the whispers that he would be a first-round pick heated up before the draft. Turner possesses great footwork for his size and powerful hands. He can also slide inside as a rusher, given his power and explosion.

    The Saints doubled down on defense in Round 2 by drafting Pete Werner from Ohio State. Werner will be a good pairing with Demario Davis, who is a phenomenal player, but at an elevated age. Werner will immediately contribute in coverage where he thrives.

    New Orleans went for the…”3 Peat”… on defense with the selection of Paulson Adebo. His best college tape came from 2018, but his high-end play flashed first-round potential. Hopefully, he’s able to learn quickly from veteran Marshon Lattimore and his positional coaching to tighten up his aggressive play a bit.

    Ian Book was an odd pick for the Saints, but Sean Payton knows his quarterbacks, so we’ll give him and the Saints’ scouting department a pass. Book is an athletic quarterback with a blue-collar attitude toward the game. Moreover, Kentucky’s Landon Young provides depth at offensive tackle and South Alabama’s Kawaan Baker offers a piece at wide receiver to develop.

    Where do New Orleans players rank in PFN’s Top 100?

    Which Saints’ players rank in the PFN Top 100 and where do they fall?

    84) Marshon Lattimore

    The Saints certainly aren’t short on talent. Lattimore had a down season in 2020, but even so, he is deserving of a lofty ranking. He has the ability to be a top-five cornerback in the league.

    66) Michael Thomas

    Thomas suffered a similar fate as Lattimore in 2020. He battled through injury, and his production slipped a bit. He looks to bounce back as the Saints’ only legitimate outside receiving option.

    62) Cameron Jordan

    Jordan is part of a dying breed. He’s a powerful technician who lacks high-end explosive traits. Despite that, he’s been one of the most productive pass rushers in the league since 2013.

    Ryan Ramczyk (50) & Terron Armstead (28)

    Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead make up the best offensive tackle duo in the NFL as part of the best offensive line in the league. Armstead is one of the most physically gifted offensive tackles we’ve ever seen in the game. Ramczyk, meanwhile, is the typical former Wisconsin player that is a technical wizard and a better athlete than he’s given credit for.

    27) Alvin Kamara

    Kamara pairs with this offensive line beautifully. His workout videos are legendary, showcasing some of the most impressive balancing drills I’ve ever seen. He’s a phenomenal receiving back who could produce outrageous numbers if he gets the touches.

    Saints 2021 prediction

    Despite the losses in free agency, the Saints still possess an impressive overall depth chart. Their success for the season lies solely with what sort of play they can find at quarterback. If Winston truly is new and improved, this team can still compete in the NFC South and the NFC in general. However, they won’t be viewed as a favorite until Winston proves it in the playoffs.

    Offense

    The Saints’ offense has been a machine for years now. Even as Brees faced injury, New Orleans has won games left and right. They lack a complementary receiver to Thomas, but Payton will figure out how to get this offense humming.

    Defense

    Defensively, the Saints have lost some pieces. Still, they worked hard to replace those pieces in the draft. If those rookies can develop throughout Year 1, this defense could mimic the defenses they’ve put on the field in the past few seasons.

    2021 Saints record prediction

    The Saints 2021 schedule isn’t kind to them, but it’s not impossible upon further inspection. Home field advantage should help in their most difficult contests. If Winston can keep the mistakes to a minimum, this could be a 12-win team. If he’s the same quarterback he has been, New Orleans could go 8-9. Our official prediction is 10-7.

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