Everyone usually loves their team after the draft.
Every season, fans convince themselves that holes in their roster are filled and that production from the previous year will just trickle down, along with the added services of new draftees or free agents.
The reality is, it doesn’t happen like that. Players usually progress or regress every single season, no matter what their reputation is.
In this article, I try to identify which Saints players are due for some regression in 2020. Because, even though you might not want to hear it, it’s coming. It’s just a matter of who it might be.
This one’s pretty simple. There’s only one ball, and the Saints have added multiple solid pass-catchers to the offense over the past couple years.
Emmanuel Sanders and healthy Jared Cook are sure to take a good bit of targets away from Thomas, while guys like Adam Trautman and Deonte Harris could fill out the lower levels of the Saints passing game if they reach their potential. Not to mention, Taysom Hill showed he can be a viable option running routes last year.
Thomas absolutely lit the league on fire last year, setting an NFL record with 149 catches and racking up 1,725 receiving yards, which was the fourth-most ever recorded in a single season. He averaged 107.8 yards a game on a catch rate of 80.5 percent. Just silly numbers.
I have little doubt he will keep up a similar rate of efficiency in 2020. I would just expect the sheer volume of targets to tone down some. Not that he can’t handle it, but Drew Brees and the Saints have shown they are at their best when there are multiple reliable targets in the passing game who can make a difference.
It seems like they finally have the personnel to surround Brees with such a receiving core, for the first time in quite a while.
Thomas’s numbers might crack down a tick, but I’m sure a Super Bowl victory would make him okay with it. And with the current look of the roster, that is a distinct possibility.
This one is mostly just a product of Williams playing an extremely volatile position. He had a fantastic year in 2019, racking up four picks and six pass break-ups, per Pro Football Focus.
He achieved this while only allowing 12 catches on the year at a rate of 11.6 yards per catch. He allowed one touchdown and a catch rate of 50 percent (12 of 24 targets). He nearly picked off/deflected more passes than he gave up catches on, for goodness sake!
When all was said and done, PFF gave him an overall defensive grade of 88.2, which was fourth-highest in the NFL among qualifying safeties.
While it was a productive season, secondary members just rarely put together elite seasons back-to-back due to their production relying heavily on the offenses and passing attacks they face annually. Marshon Lattimore, for example, hasn’t been able to replicate his effectiveness from 2017, despite still being a solid no. 1 corner in Dennis Allen’s defense the past couple of years.
Marcus Williams has also shown this tendency to fluctuate in performance level year-by-year. He started his career off on fire, with 5 interceptions and three pass break-ups, compared to only one TD allowed. He also allowed a catch rate of 40 percent (6 of 15 targets) and ranked in the top 10 of PFF’s highest-graded safeties, at 89.2.
He followed that up with a sophomore slump-ish campaign in 2018, allowing five TDs, picking off only two passes and not breaking up a single pass. On top of that, he allowed a career-worst 73.7 percent of passes targeted his way to be caught (14 of 19), and gave up 18.5 yards per catch. This added up to a 71.1 PFF grade.
While I don’t necessarily expect him to have a bad year, I don’t expect him to put up the numbers he did in 2019. Which might not exactly bode well for his upcoming contract extension.
Speaking of sophomore slumps…
As good as I think McCoy is and will be for a while, there are some factors that point to him possibly having a slight-down year in 2020. And to be fair, I might be nitpicking a tiny bit here, just because it’s hard to find many under-performers on this stacked roster.
McCoy had a heck of a rookie year manning the center position, allowing only 14 pressures and one sack. He fit right into the top-tier offensive line room, protecting Brees and making up for mistakes from both guard positions around him.
However, we might be seeing a position change from him next year, with the drafting of center Cesar Ruiz and rumors (LINK) about trading Larry Warford. And you never know what types of struggles a change like this might bring.
McCoy has very limited experience playing guard in college:
Erik McCoy played 2,811 snaps in college. 2,793 at center and 18 at left guard.— Andrew Bell (@andy_b_123) April 24, 2020
He has plenty of athleticism to make the transition, but this is a very small sample size of playing time at guard. With a new face on the interior of the line in Ruiz, I could also see an adjustment period taking effect early in the season.
This one is somewhat dependent on the thought that McCoy would move to guard. If he doesn’t, that changes things.
But considering this possible change and the level of play he put on display at the center position last year, I could see a limited amount of regression hitting for the sophomore.
Which Saints do you think are due for regression? Be sure and let us know what you think in the comments! Also make sure to follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter @SaintsCSC, like us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. And of course, you can follow me on Twitter @andy_b_123.