The Comeback is previewing all 32 NFL teams from worst to first leading up to the start of the 2017 regular season on Sept. 7. Coming in at No. 20 on our rankings are the New Orleans
Drew Breeses Saints.
2016 in a nutshell: Same ol’. The Brees-led offense was very good, while the talent-starved defense was really bad. As a result, the Saints finished 7-9 for the third season in a row and the fourth time in the last five years.
What’s different: Brees lost one of his top weapons in young two-time 1,100-yard receiver Brandin Cooks, who was traded to the New England Patriots for draft picks. The offense did, however, add Adrian Peterson and guard Larry Warford.
Why they could be awesome: Brees, who despite losing Cooks should be in for another off-the-charts season at the age of 38. Dude has passed for 5,000-plus yards in five separate seasons. Only four other quarterbacks have hit that mark once, and zero have done it twice. He also owns five of the eight most prolific seasons in terms of yardage in NFL history, and three of the four highest single-season completion rates this century.
Bengals @ Saints.@drewbrees' stat line: 37 completions, 2 TD, 510 (???) yards.
— NFL (@NFL) July 13, 2017
Why they could suck: The defense surrendered a league-high 29.8 points per game under Rob Ryan in 2015 and then ranked 31st in the league while giving up 28.4 points per game under Dennis Allen in 2016. That unit might be slightly better with some fresh faces and emerging youngsters, but it’s still likely to be pretty bad. Throw in the loss of Cooks and injuries to left tackle Terron Armstead and center Max Unger and it’s hard see the glass half full.
Major additions: Peterson (old), Warford (generally a disappointment in Detroit), Ted Ginn Jr. (a poor man’s Cooks), and new front-seven free-agent pickups A.J. Klein, Manti Te’o, Alex Okafor and Tony McDaniel. Those four should at least bolster things up front, but they won’t take over games.
New Orleans really needs rookie first-round cornerback Marshon Lattimore to make an impact early, but he’s been out most of camp with a knee injury. And rookie first-round offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk looks as though he’ll start in place of Armstead from the get-go.
Major losses: Cooks and Jairus Byrd. The latter never lived up to his salary anyway, and they have other (cheaper) options in the secondary.
Breakout watch: Recent and relatively recent first-round defenders Sheldon Rankins (2016), Kenny Vaccaro (2013) and Cameron Jordan (2011) still have room to flourish and help that D make a major leap.
VIDEO: #Saints WR Michael Thomas 2016 Rookie Season Review
— PirateLife Football (@PirateLifeFF) July 19, 2017
Position to watch: Interesting gamble they’re taking at receiver with the Cooks trade. They must have faith in Michael Thomas, who had a ridiculous rookie season in which he caught 76 percent of the passes thrown his way for 1,137 yards, as well as slot man Willie Snead, third-year Rutgers product Brandon Coleman and the newbie Ginn. In the past, Brees has shown an ability to make ballboys look like All-Pros, so we’ll see if the experiment pays off this time. They did get Ramczyk out of it, and it looks like they’ll need him right away.
Prediction: I’m sure the offense will still light up the scoreboard often, but the loss of Cooks, Brees’ age and those offensive line injuries concern me. I think the defense should be quite a bit better, but they’re still likely to struggle to post a winning record in that tough division.
7-9, last place in the NFC South