Everybody knows and appreciates the Alvin Kamara’s, the Demario Davis’s and the Terron Armstead’s of the world, and those guys get their deserved props.
But what about the guys who do all the dirty work, providing immense value to team success, who don’t necessarily get all the attention?
Well, today they’re going to get a little love too.
Here are three of the most underrated or underappreciated Saints from the 2020-2021 season:
1. Malcom Brown
This is an easy one.
Malcom Brown did so much in the run game this year that went unnoticed because he isn’t the flashy pass rusher. He’s a two-down player who stuffs the run on early down and pushes the pocket on play action passes.
And while the value might not be there for a guy with a role like this, compared to a pass rusher racking up pressures and sacks, the fact remains that he did a hell of a job contributing to a defense that was once again one of the best run defenses in the league.
Despite only playing a total of 390 defensive snaps and 158 total run defense snaps, Brown recorded 15 run stops, via PFF — which are tackles that constitute a “loss” for the offense, whether it be an actual loss of yardage or a tackle short of the marker on a third-and-short.
This gives him a run stop % of 11.5%, which is 6th-highest among qualifying DTs in 2020.
So, on a play-for-play basis, the guy was just extremely effective at plugging gaps, eating up double teams and making it hard for the offensive line to get a push on running plays.
There have been some murmurs that he might not be with the Saints next year, as they are pretty tight against the cap and they have pretty good depth on the D line. While that may be a necessary move, it would be a significant loss as far as the run defense of this team, because Malcom Brown is a good player.
2. Erik McCoy
McCoy sometimes gets accidentally thrusted into the “weak interior offensive line” discourse of the Saints offense, when in reality, he’s often times the only thing holding the interior of the line together.
Cesar Ruiz had a pretty disastrous rookie season, getting destroyed in pass protection when he faced any type of real competition. And Andrus Peat played better than he did last year, mainly in the run game, but still just loses his leverage in pass pro far too easily and often.
McCoy allowed a few more pressures and hurries than last year, but overall, he was steady in both the run and pass game.
His overall PFF grade of 70.1 was 9th among 32 qualifying centers. And his 14 pressures allowed are tied for 21st-most out of those 32.
The former second-rounder is no star, but his consistency and reliability at an important position deserve more recognition than received.
3. Emmanuel Sanders
This one may raise some eyebrows, as a lot of you probably already think Sanders is good. But his tendency to step up when the offense needed him most is something I feel like isn’t mentioned enough.
Despite missing two weeks in the regular season, Sanders produced at a level that is more than satisfactory for a second/third option in an offense. He caught 61 balls for 726 yards and five touchdowns in the regular season.
Most impressively, he caught 75.3% of his targets, which was good for T-13th among 84 qualifying receivers with at least 50 targets.
What stands out to me, however, is how big he came up in games when Michael Thomas and/or Drew Brees were out.
After taking two weeks to adjust to the offense, he caught his stride in Week 3 against the Packers, with four catches on five targets for 56 yards and a huge TD right before the half.
Then as the Saints were in a 1-2 hole going into Week 4 vs. the Lions, he went off.
In Weeks 4 and 5, as the number one receiver on the offense, he caught 18 of 22 targets for 215 yards (and a should’ve been TD that was called an inch short after review in the Chargers game) — in two close wins where the offense was in catch-up mode.
In these two weeks alone, his 83.6 PFF grade was the 8th-highest among 51 qualifying receivers, his 81.8% catch rate was 5th and he recorded zero drops.
That’s what you call stepping up to the plate.
And the only thing that could slow him down was COVID-19, as he tested positive and missed the following two weeks just as he caught his rhythm.
Even with Taysom Hill was at QB, he made an impact, getting open deep on multiple occasions for huge plays in the Falcons and Eagles games.
There were also plenty of instances in the Taysom games where he got open downfield, but was either ignored or underthrown.
The guy was huge for the offense all year, getting open in a myriad of different ways. He should be a solid safety blanket for whoever is at QB next year.
Who do you think are the most underappreciated players from the 2020 season? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @AndrewBell_98.