There are no two ways around it: The New Orleans Saints will have a decimated roster to start the 2021 season. Notable players missing, suspended, or facing possible suspensions are Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith, David Onyemata, Marshon Lattimore and Will Lutz. That means that wide receiver, defensive tackle, cornerback and kicker are all positions the Saints have to figure out before Week 1.
To make matters worse, the NFL’s newly instated 17-game schedule gives the Saints less time to do so. With a preseason game chopped off, the Saints can’t go with the tried and true method of easing players in Weeks 1 and 2, letting the starters ride in Week 3 and benching them in Week 4. Now, teams will have to figure out a new model.
For New Orleans, there’s no time for experimentation. The team has a lot of unknowns to work out. Key players to look for growth out of over these three weeks will include Carl Granderson, Josiah Bronson, and Shy Tuttle on the defensive line; Paulson Adebo and Bryan Poole at cornerback; and anyone at wide receiver.
Then, of course, there’s the quarterback situation. In addition to all of these shuffled positions, the Saints have to figure out who between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill can make the most of limited offensive weapons. It’s a lot to pay attention to. This season will certainly push Sean Payton’s ingenuity to its limits.
With the Saints, it’s all going to come down to collecting a lot of information from a little data. There is, believe it or not, a way to make the roster work as it is. It’s dependent upon playing the right quarterback, but the Saints have survived injury stretches before. Now they have to do it with a few key positions.
As fans, the thing to look out for is which players start to make an impact early. That missing preseason game is going to be a big difference-maker in how the players are evaluated. Take note of who is making the most of limited opportunities. With the roster being as wide open as it is, you might end up seeing a lot more of him as the season begins.