For the first time since 2005, the New Orleans Saints begin a football season without either quarterback Drew Brees or head coach Sean Payton as part of the organization. The duo presided over the lengthiest, most successful era in franchise history in which they made nine playoff appearances and won Super Bowl XLIX against Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts. The final year of the Payton era in 2021 was his only in New Orleans without Brees as his quarterback, and the shift was evident.
New Orleans finished 19th in points scored among NFL teams last season and 28th in yards gained on offense. Both were easily the team’s worst finishes during Payton’s tenure. The defense proved to be formidable, holding opponents to the fourth-least points scored and seventh-fewest yards gained in a second consecutive strong year for that unit.
Can Jameis Winston Get the Offense Back on Track in 2022?
Four different quarterbacks started at least one game for the Saints in 2021, led by Jameis Winston with seven. Winston held a 5-2 record in those games. Taysom Hill started five games and is responsible for the other four victories the Saints earned last season, going 4-1 in those contests. Trevor Siemian and Ian Book combined to go 0-5 in the remaining five games and the Saints missed the playoffs by a game.
Winston remains the starter heading into the 2022 season, the team’s first under head coach Dennis Allen. Running back Alvin Kamara was named to his fifth-straight Pro Bowl in 2021 as he put together his fifth year in a row of 1,300+ scrimmage yards. Mark Ingram returns to New Orleans to provide some punch behind Kamara on the running back depth chart.
Speaking of returns, receiver Michael Thomas is back from an ankle injury that kept him off the field for the entire 2021 season. He’ll partner with veteran free agent acquisition Jarvis Landry and first-round draft pick Chris Olave to form Winston’s group of pass catchers.
Mathieu and Maye Should Help Bolster Saints’ Defense
On the defensive half of the field, free agent signees Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye were brought in on three-year deals collectively worth over $50 million. Those two will step into the starting safety roles on a team that saw Marcus Williams depart via free agency this offseason.
Like Kamara, defensive end Cameron Jordan made his fifth straight Pro Bowl as he eclipsed the 100-sack mark for his career with 12.5 logged in 2021. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore was named to his fourth Pro Bowl in five seasons as a pro. It will be fun to was Lattimore operate with Mathieu and Maye covering him over the top.
Normally kickers don’t factor into preseason previews, but the return of Pro Bowler Will Lutz is a significant boost to the Saints kicking game. Lutz is third in franchise history in points and field goals and has been as automatic as kickers can be for a team that plays more than half its games in a dome. They will eagerly welcome Lutz back in 2022.
What Will 2022 Have In Store for New Orleans?
That brings us to the Saints’ projection for the season. Their win total is listed at 8.5 according to Action Network’s consensus, and they are 40-1 to win the Super Bowl.
It’s hard to expect the Saints to compete with the Buccaneers in the NFC South as long as Tom Brady is there, and they will have their hands full in trying to set a new course as a franchise after Payton’s departure.
With a 48.5% chance to make the playoffs according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Saints are poised to be fighting til the last whistle in Week 18. That should be entertaining to follow.