The New Orleans Saints made only a couple of big moves on the offensive side of the ball during the 2019 offseason. First, they lost Mark Ingram at running back, and elected instead to downgrade to Latavius Murray. On the other hand, they found a massive upgrade at the tight end position, replacing the retired-turned-Patriot Ben Watson with Pro Bowler Jared Cook.
On the offensive line, the Saints lost Pro Bowl center Max Unger to retirement, and have brought in two capable bodies to compete for that role in Nick Easton of the Minnesota Vikings and Erik McCoy out of Texas A&M.
Aside from those moves, the Saints offensive roster has largely stayed the same from 2018. For that reason, it should come as little to no surprise that the Saints topped NFL.com’s Top 10 offenses in the NFL:
1) New Orleans Saints
Neck-and-neck with Kansas City’s sophomore sensation Patrick Mahomesin the MVP race through Thanksgiving, Brees suffered through one of the bleakest slumps of his Saints career in December and January. The 40-year-old was particularly ineffective on intermediate and deep throws, leaving onlookers to wonder if he was suffering through a nagging injury or -- worse -- losing what was left of his fastball. If his arm strength does return to 2017 form, he might take home his first career MVP award after all. In the meantime, Swiss Army knife Taysom Hill looms as an intriguing change-up to keep opposing defensive coordinators on their toes.
Former Vikings power back Latavius Murray represents a downgrade from the well-rounded Mark Ingram(who signed with Baltimore in free agency), but it’s hard to quibble with any backfield led by Kamara. Arguably the most complete back in the game, Kamara combines obvious mismatch potential in the passing game with surprising power as a runner. With 2017 Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurleyfacing questions about a lingering knee injury, Kamara has emerged as the gold standard at the position.
Speaking of gold standard, Thomas is vying with Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins as the league’s preeminent strong-handed possession receiver. He’s complemented by Cook, who played at a Pro Bowllevel as Derek Carr’s most reliable target with the Raiders last season. Depth is a question mark, with Ginn, Smith, Meredith and Kirkwood failing to emerge as consistent threats behind Thomas.
Much like Brees, New Orleans’ offensive line was cruising through the season as a top-notch unit for three months, only to contribute to the late-season malaise amid a string of injuries. Veteran center Max Unger retired this offseason, leaving McCoy, a second-round pick, to do battle with former Vikings lineman Nick Easton for the starting job. The rest of the line returns healthier and happier.
It will probably come as a slap in the face to die-hard Saints fans, but the B+ grade for Brees is fair at a minimum, and is arguably a little high. It’s also frankly a little surprising the Saints wide receivers received a B+ grade. Even counting the aforementioned Cook, plus the presence of Michael Thomas, the rest of the group are largely a bunch of unknowns.
The A- grade for Alvin Kamara seems just right and the B+ grade for the offensive line might be a little low. Still, it’s hard to complain too much considering the Saints sit atop the list.
In case you’re curious, the NFC South rival Atlanta Falcons came in at #4 (I wonder how the defense ranked...), and the Los Angeles Rams were right behind them at #5. The Kansas City Chiefs, after losing Kareem Hunt and likely to miss Tyreek Hill for a brief suspension, were #6.