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Recent string of bad news causes shaky confidence in 2021 Saints

It’s been a long time since the Saints had a piece of good news for their fans.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The news rarely gets better for the New Orleans Saints.

Drew Brees retires. The Saints lose players in free agency. Marshon Lattimore gets arrested. David Onyemata tests positive for performance enhancing drugs. Michael Thomas will miss multiple weeks due to injury. Deonte Harris gets suspended.

With multiple issues with the Saints roster and ongoing questions about the quarterback position, there should be little surprise that confidence in the Saints in 2021 might be faltering.

Back in May, the Saints were projected to win 11 games. Fast forward to early August, and the Saints are now projected to win just 9 according to Bleacher Report:

The New Orleans Saints are trying to replace the retired Drew Brees at quarterback, which will not be an easy task. The looming camp competition between Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston, however, should yield at least a serviceable starter.

Winston already has 70 games of starting experience, while Hill went 3-1 as a starter last year. Both quarterbacks are well-versed in Sean Payton’s offense.

However, the Saints lost a few key pieces—notably wideout Emmanuel Sanders, tight end Jared Cook and pass-rusher Trey Hendrickson—in the offseason. They’re also set to play a chunk of the season without No. 1 receiver Michael Thomas, who underwent ankle surgery in June.

“Obviously we would’ve liked that to happen earlier than later. And quite honestly, it should’ve,” Payton said, per ESPN’s Mike Triplett.

With Thomas out and a new quarterback taking the reins, New Orleans could stumble early. There’s still enough talent here for the Saints to be a playoff team, but they may not be legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

Prediction: 9-8

We’ve covered repeatedly how even a 9-8 season would be surprising for the Saints at this juncture considering the history in the NFL of teams dealing with the departure of a Hall of Famer at quarterback. But beyond just a departed quarterback, the Saints are dealing with additional departures from 2020, at least to start the 2021 season:

  • Saints 2020 leading rusher (Trey Hendrickson)
  • #1 cornerback (Marshon Lattimore)
  • His replacement (Janoris Jenkins)
  • #1 receiving tight end (Jared Cook)
  • His replacement (Josh Hill)
  • Top defensive tackle (Sheldon Rankin)
  • His first replacement (David Onyemata)
  • His second replacement (Malcom Brown)
  • #1 wide receiver (Michael Thomas)
  • His first replacement (Emmanuel Sanders)
  • His second replacement (Deonte Harris)
  • and more

With this in mind, it’s easy to find reason to question the Saints chances of stringing together 9 wins in 2021, even with an extended 17-game season. But if there’s any coach and organization that could defy the odds and beat the current projections, it’s Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints.

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