In That Number?

Without preseason, predicting Saints roster gets cloudy

 

After previously cutting each team’s 2020 preseason games from four to two, the National Football League announced Tuesday it will eliminate all preseason games and cut training camp roster spots from 90 to 80 in an effort to start the season on time while attempting to fight the COVID pandemic.

The elimination of the preseason is necessary to keep players, coaches, staff and the public healthy, however, losing them will make it harder for teams to judge players’ talent and fans to get a glimpse of what’s to come.

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While much is known about the 2020 Saints, there are a lot of factors on both sides of the ball usually ironed out in the preseason that have yet to be determined.

 

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Michael Thomas is, arguably, the best wide receiver in the NFL. Unfortunately, the rest of the unit has seemed to flounder. The team brought in 33-year-old Sanders to provide an additional option up field. Still, the unit needs additional threats to further optimize the Saints attack. Tre’Quan Smith, Deonte Harris, Austin Carr, Emmanuel Butler, Tommylee Lewis, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Marquez Callaway, Maurice Harris, Krishawn Hogan, and Juwan Johnson will compete to provide needed explosive depth.

 

Linebacker Depth

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The Saints starting defense has solid talent across the board and good depth provided by Trey Hendrickson, David Onyemata, and Mario Edwards, Jr., on the line and P.J. Williams, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, and Patrick Robinson in the secondary. However, depth at linebacker are a concern. When healthy, Davis, Alonso, and Anzalone are a fearsome threesome, but Anzalone has missed significant time in two of his three NFL seasons and Alonso is recovering from an ACL tear (the third of his football career) in the Saints’ Wild Card Round loss to the Vikings. Craig Robertson is a dependable backup, and the team is expecting big things from rookie third-round pick Zack Baun. With a solid line and secondary, the Saints need to shore up the middle of the defense.

 

Backup QB

One of the most anticipated competitions will be at backup quarterback. Payton believes Taysom Hill has the skill to be a starter, yet the team signed former top overall draft pick Jameis Winston after former backup Teddy Bridgewater signed with the division rival Carolina Panthers. With Brees expected to retire after this season, this race could provide a glimpse into the future once the “Greatest Saint” decides to hang up his pads for good. Expect Winston to be named backup so that Hill can continue to play multiple roles in the team’s attack. After making a late draft day trade to secure Tommy Stevens, I hope there is a way the team can find a spot for him on the active roster or development squad.

 

Young O-Line

While not glamourous, the Saints strength under Payton has been the offensive line. The team has a young, but respected unit. It will be interesting to see how players grade, mesh with one another, and where they fall on the depth chart.

 

Super Bowl Bound?

For the most part, observers know what the New Orleans Saints will bring to the gridiron in 2020. Quarterback Drew Brees has a plethora of weapons including running backs Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray; wide receivers Michael Thomas and newcomer Emmanuel Sanders; tight ends Jared Cook and Josh Hill; and “Swiss Army Knife” Taysom Hill. They’ll operate behind arguably the best line in the league, with expected starters left tackle Terron Armstead, left guard Andrus Peat, center Erik McCoy, first-round draft pick Cesar Ruiz at right guard, and right tackle Ryan Ramczyk. The Saints’ offense has been prolific under head coach Sean Payton’s leadership, and there’s no reason to think it won’t be one of the league’s best in 2020.

The Saints’ defense has steadily improved over the past few seasons and also returns several familiar names. The D-line will be anchored by left end Cameron Jordan, left tackle Sheldon Rankins, right tackle Malcom Brown, and right end Marcus Davenport. Kiko Alonso will serve as middle linebacker, with Alex Anzalone on the strong side and Demario Davis on the weak side. The secondary will feature safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Williams and cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins.

Special teams will be helmed by kicker Wil Lutz, punter Thomas Morstead, long snapper Zach Wood, and Deonte Harris as kick/punt returner.

 

Saints Projected Starters

Without Preseason NFL games in 2020 determining roster spots will be more difficult than usual, but New Orleans returns one of the best rosters in the league. Here are projected starters in a three wide receiver, one tight end set on offense, their base 4-3 defense, and special teams.

 

Offense

QB        Drew Brees

RB        Alvin Kamara/Latavius Murray

WR       Michael Thomas

WR       Emmanuel Sanders

WR       Tre’Quan Smith

TE        Jared Cook

LT         Terron Armstead

LG        Andrus Peat

C          Erik McCoy

RG        Cesar Ruiz

RT        Ryan Ramczyk

 

Defense

LDE      Cameron Jordan

LDT      Sheldon Rankins

RDT      Malcom Brown

RDE      Marcus Davenport

WLB     Demario Davis

MLB     Kiko Alonso

SLB       Alex Anzalone

LCB      Janoris Jenkins

SS         Malcolm Jenkins

FS         Marcus Williams

RCB      Marshon Lattimore

 

Special Teams

K          Wil Lutz

P          Thomas Morstead

H          Thomas Morstead

P/K R    Deonte Harris

LS         Zach Wood

 

 

 

 

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