New Orleans Saints 2019 Season Preview

Russell S. Baxter

New Orleans Saints 2019 Season Preview

By Bob Rose

Special to Pro Football Guru

The New Orleans Saints ended their 2018 season on the brink of a second championship, but instead fell just short in both infuriating and frustrating fashion. The ridiculous “no-call” on an obvious pass interference was one of the primary reasons the team fell to the Los Angeles Rams in last season’s NFC Championship Game. That followed the shocking final second defeat to the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Divisional Payoffs the year before. Sean Payton’s squad is again among the top Super Bowl favorites entering the 2019 season though, with a future Hall of Fame quarterback still at the helm and one of the most talented rosters in the league.

Offense: The Saints averaged 31.5 points per game last season, good for third in the NFL. They are no longer dependent on the elite passing skills of quarterback Drew Brees, instead bludgeoning opponents with one of the league’s most balanced attacks. The prolific passer set an NFL record for completion percentage (74.4) while throwing 32 touchdown passes and just 5 interceptions. Protecting him, and setting the tone for a dynamic rushing game, is one of the league’s most dominant offensive lines. The Saints possess a lethal 1-2 punch with wide receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara. New Orleans expects Latavius Murray to fill the shoes of Mark Ingram. And Brees’ arsenal got even more dangerous when the team inked veteran tight end Jared Cook.

Defense: All-Pro end Cam Jordan is one of the league’s best all-around defenders, while second-year end Marcus Davenport has shown great potential. Star defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins is expected back at midseason from an Achilles injury, with David Onyemata and offseason signee Malcom Brown expected to capably man the middle until his return. New Orleans has put together an excellent front seven. Demario Davis and Alex Anzalone have given the team its best linebacking unit in years, while Marshon Lattimore and Eli Apple form a solid duo at cornerback. The Saints expect more plays on the back end from safeties Marcus Williams and Vonn Bell, and added an athletic and versatile defensive back in Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in the draft’s fourth round.

Special Teams: Kicker Wil Lutz has the accuracy and leg strength, while veteran punter Thomas Morstead is a valuable weapon in the battle for field position. The Saints have athletic coverage units as well. They do hope to cure one of the team’s biggest weaknesses this preseason, auditioning several kick return candidates. Free agent addition Marcus Sherels is competing with lightning fast wideouts Deonte Harris and Cyril Grayson in hopes of adding another dangerous element to a championship pursuit.

Prediction: Rumors of a massive decline by Brees seem premature. Injuries along the offensive line caused the Saints’ attack to sputter down the stretch. Rookie second-round pick Erik McCoy is poised to assume the center spot vacated by the retirement of Max Unger. The New Orleans attack will again be aggressive and well balanced. The defense looks like a potential Top 10 unit, as long as they can generate a consistent pass rush, limit big plays on the back end, and generate more turnovers than last year. All told, Payton has a deep roster at his disposal. This is going to be a squad that plays with a chip on its shoulder and a week-to-week mission to dominate. Expect them to finally hoist their second Lombardi trophy in February.

Win-Loss Record: 12-4 (1st Place, NFC South, Super Bowl LIV champions)

Bob Rose (@bobbyr2613) covers the New Orleans Saints for Canal Street Chronicles.

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