There’s a weird air around New Orleans football heading into the 2021 season. Coming off of a fourth straight division title and a fourth straight disappointing postseason, the Saints are entering the year without a presence that has steadily been there since 2006: Drew Brees. The inevitable Hall of Famer’s retirement dominated headlines this offseason for the Saints, but with offseason activities beginning in earnest, the question of who will be quarterbacking for the Saints in 2021 is on everyone’s mind.
Indeed, the last time the Saints went into a season with a question at quarterback was... 2006. When Brees and Sean Payton came to New Orleans, Payton was an up-and-comer whereas Brees was a risk in free agency. The Saints made it to the NFC Championship in that first season, and from there they were, if nothing else, competitive.
The Saints, in theory, should remain competitive. That sounds tough to say, but they have a lot of the roster in place, not to mention Payton. However, there’s an uneasy air, an almost palpable optimism among Saints fans that can be sliced with a knife. It’s so thick as to feel fraudulent, because the reality is Saints fans don’t know what they have with Jameis Winston — the presumed starter — or Taysom Hill.
The optimism isn’t unfounded. When Brees was hurt the past two seasons with a myriad of injuries, Payton led Teddy Bridgewater and Hill to 5-0 and 3-1 records, respectively. While none of those games came without flaws, strong defensive performances (and, let’s be honest, a lot of luck) kept the Saints in them.
In 2021, the Saints still have a boatload of talent. There are some things we know. Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara will get touches, whoever plays quarterback will be well-protected behind a strong offensive line, and Demario Davis will be outstanding. But there are questions. Who will be playing cornerback opposite Marshon Lattimore? Who is going to help Davis at the second level? And can the other Saints receivers step up?
On top of all of this, there is a 17-game schedule this year, which introduces other variables. It will makes things longer, and it’s a strategy that hasn’t been unearthed by anyone yet. Payton knows his players, and he can manage them, but there are undoubtedly question marks.
The real challenge for the Saints heading into this season is the unknown. Winston may be better after spending a year with Brees, or he might be the same 30-30 quarterback. Thomas is battling injuries, so whether or not he’s healthy is a question mark. Then, going beyond this season, Ryan Ramczyk, Terron Armstead and Marshon Lattimore are all due for extensions, not to mention Marcus Williams who is playing on the franchise tag.
This is an offseason full of uncertainty for the Saints, which is exciting in its own way, but also spawns a lot of conversation about “who’s up next” and who the team should be looking for. With all of this in mind, how many wins do you predict the Saints will end up with this season? Keeping in mind that their over under is set at 9.5 wins.
How many games will the Saints win this season?
This poll is closed
Fewer than 9 games
More than 10 games