After a wild offseason, the New Orleans Saints went into training camp and started preparing for the season opener against the Falcons, in Atlanta on Sunday, Sept. 11.
After seeing the reports out of training camp, there should be few questions on whether QB Jameis Winston and WR Michael Thomas are recovered from their injuries and are ready to go. More questions linger about the immediate future of RB Alvin Kamara and a possible suspension, as his court case for battery charges over an incident that occurred in February has been delayed another two months. We have also yet to hear anything about a suspension for S Marcus Maye, but his hearing for a DUI arrest that occurred last year is currently scheduled for Nov. 16, and he was arrested Sept. 1 for aggravated assault with a firearm stemming from a road rage incident where he’s been identified as the driver of a black SUV who pointed a gun at a car full of juveniles.
Coach Dennis Allen has stepped into his new role as head coach seamlessly, earning praise from both players and staff. It still remains to be seen if Allen will continue those postgame locker room celebrations that Sean Payton was so famous for.
"I knew he was special."— Jacques Doucet (@JacquesDoucet) February 9, 2022
Greg McMahon - a @Saints assistant coach from 2006 - 2016 - has plenty of praise for their new head coach Dennis Allen.
"The thing that was obvious about Dennis, is that he's extremely intelligent. Great people skills." pic.twitter.com/uKlywoOLZw
Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas, who are both coming back from injuries, were held out of the first preseason game against the Texans along with several other starters, but both are expected to be fully ready for Week 1.
Last season, injuries were something that seemed to plague the Saints as well as the lack of a solid wide receiving group, but with the return of Thomas and the additions of Jarvis Landry and Chris Olave, Winston now has some big weapons to connect with downfield. Look for the offense to improve on the ranking of 28th in total yards last season.
The defense minimized personnel losses and should be as dependable as ever, especially with the additions of veteran safeties Marcus Maye (if he’s not suspended in 2022) and Tyrann Mathieu, who should only make this group stronger. In 2021, the defense allowed the fourth-lowest average QB rating (81.7), the third-lowest touchdown rate (3.4%) and the lowest yards-per-rush allowed (3.7).
I fully expect the Saints to be a top-five defense again this season.
Special teams remain solid, with kicker Wil Lutz back and fully recovered after missing last season due to an injury; punter Blake Gillikin, who averaged 47.7 yards per punt last season which was a team high since 2016, and return specialist Deonte Harty, who racked up 690 kick return and 199 punt return yards last season.
Overall, I think that the Saints will improve on last season’s record of 9-8, by going 11-6 or 10-7 to win the NFC South and make the playoffs this year. On paper, this team has everything it needs to go after a second Lombardi; the key is that everyone MUST stay healthy.
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