It was the end of an era this offseason for the New Orleans Saints. After 15 seasons with the team and a 20-year career, Drew Brees called it quits and retired.
While they will have a new starting quarterback under center for the first time since 2005, this is still a very good Saints roster that should not be taken lightly. While adjusting to life after Brees will have its challenges, New Orleans should still be considered a playoff contender in the NFC.
The team still has a window of opportunity to compete with the roster they have put together. Here are four reasons the Saints will win the NFC South in 2021.
4. Star Power On Offense
Even without Drew Brees, this offense still boasts some impressive playmakers. At running back, Alvin Kamara is one of the best in the business. He gets it done on the ground and is a dynamic receiver as well, as opponents struggle to contain the dual-threat.
At wide receiver, Michael Thomas is looking to bounce back in a major way. After a down 2020 that saw him battle injuries and team suspensions, he still has all the physical tools to return to form and torch opposing secondaries.
Latavius Murray is a great change of pace back for Kamara, and the two can even share the field given Kamara’s pass-catching ability. The team is also hoping for a second-year jump from 2020 third-round pick, tight end Adam Trautman to help replace Jared Cook.
With Brees’ arm strength deteriorating in recent seasons, the offense may receive a boost with a quarterback that can threaten defenses downfield.
3. Motivated Jameis Winston
After sitting behind Drew Brees in 2020 and being passed over by Taysom Hill to start when Brees was sidelined, Jameis Winston will be motivated to prove people wrong in 2021. A motivated Winston will be a good thing for the Saints.
It was only two years ago that Winston led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards while adding 33 touchdowns. He did throw 30 interceptions, but there is optimism that sitting and learning behind Brees will help with his decision-making.
There is no denying the talent that Winston has, it is now up to him to hone those skills and translate them to the field. Playing against his former team and reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers twice should be motiving as well.
2. Very Strong Defense
For a long time during the Drew Brees era, the Saints relied heavily on their offense to win them games. The defense was a sieve and relying on them getting stops was a quick way to lose games. In recent years, that had begun to change.
New Orleans began turning things around in 2017. Since then they have not finished worse than 13th in points allowed or 17th in yards gained. In 2020, they finished fifth in points allowed and four in yards allowed, the first time since 2013 they were top five in both and only the second time since 1992.
Cameron Jordan, Demario Davis, Marshon Lattimore and Malcolm Jenkins make up the core of the defense that performed so well in 2020 and all four are back for more in 2021. If they can get more production from 2018 first-round pick Marcus Davenport, the defense could take another step forward.
1. They Still Have Sean Payton
While people are down on the Saints because Drew Brees is no longer with the team, the architect, Sean Payton, to the offense and schemes that have made them so successful is still manning the sidelines.
Payton has done wonders in recent years when Brees had to miss time with injuries. Using Taysom Hill and Teddy Bridgewater the previous two seasons for nine games, Payton went 8-1. If he can get the job done with them, he can certainly get it done with Jameis Winston, who has more raw talent than both.
People are also forgetting that it was the Saints, not Buccaneers, that won the division last year. As long as Payton is on the sidelines working his magic, New Orleans should be considered contenders for the NFC South.