The New Orleans Saints enter the 2019 season one game removed from a Super Bowl appearance, with many skeptics and fans claiming that the Saints were unfairly docked from the appearance by rigged officials. Whether this is true or not, the Saints return in 2019 with a reloaded roster and possibly even more talent.
Trying to cut the roster down to 53 people is a challenge for me as a writer, so I cannot imagine how difficult this has to be on the Saints front office. The roster is very deep, stocked with talent at almost every position.
That being said, here is my humble attempt at cutting this roster down to the acceptable size.
This is probably the easiest position to nail down on the roster. New Orleans managed to retain free agent quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for another year, who agreed to back up the aging veteran legend, Drew Brees. Bridgewater probably could have been signed in free agency to start for four different teams, but instead stays in a healthy situation while awaiting the impending retirement of Brees.
Brees’ retirement may be farther off then most people think or realize. Brees comes off of an MVP caliber season where he failed to throw for 4000 yards for the first time since 2005. His 74.4% completion rate and 115.7 passer rating were both league-leading marks. If by some chance Brees’ talent has diminished, the Saints have a back-up plan already in place.
Taysom Hill is the athlete who head-coach Sean Peyton sprinkles into the offense in a multitude of ways. Hill’s unique skill-set allows him to be utilized as both a runner, passer, and receiver.
The New Orleans Saints are looking to replace their power runner, longtime Saints running back Mark Ingram, who departed via free agency to the Baltimore Ravens. They added former Minnesota Vikings back Latavious Murray and former Ravens power runner Javorius Allen through free agency and signed undrafted free agent Devine Ozigbo out of Nebraska. All three backs are power runners and are designed to complement the skill-set of Alvin Kamara.
Kamara came on as a rookie in 2017, becoming the newest breed of stereotypical running backs. He brings a variety of versatility in both the run and pass attacks. Kamara finished last season with 1592 scrimmage yards and 18 touchdowns. He is a serious threat when on the field, and can gash defenses in a multitude of ways.
Going a little bit deeper into the line-up, Murray is a 6’2″ big runner. His bruising style of play combined with his ability to assist in the passing game as a receiver hits the sweet spot of Payton’s offense. While he won’t be as effective of a runner as Ingram was (due to his size), he can contribute to the Saints.
Javorius Allen is the same type of player as Murray, with a smaller size, standing at just 6’0″ and 218 pounds. While he has struggled with seeing the field as a runner, his receiving skill-set, again, fits what the Saints want to do on offense.
It’s hard to narrow down this list of players, as the Saints have a lot of guys who can make an impact on the field. However, here are the five that I can see them sticking with.
Obviously, Michael Thomas is one of the most talented receivers in the NFL. Last season, Thomas caught a ridiculous 85% of his 147 targets. The man almost never drops a ball and is by far the most talented receiver on the team.
After that, there are three guys that will compete for the number two slot. Ted Ginn held that spot last season, but he turns 34 this year and is coming off of a serious injury that sidelined him for 11 games last season. Tre’Quan Smith is the talented sophomore from UCF, and if he develops further he will be the clear cut number two receiver. If not, Rishard Matthews is a talented veteran who has experience in those types of roles.
Last but not least, undrafted free agent Lil’Jordan Humphrey from Texas is a talented guy. While his route running needs refining, he can make highlight catches and is excellent moving down the field after the catch. He reminds me of Cordarrelle Patterson, because of his lanky frame and explosive ability while moving in space.
There is such a deep group of tight ends that the Saints currently have, with Dan Arnold and Garrett Griffith projected to not make the final cut. Honestly, either player could make the cut over Alize Mack and/or Josh Hill. That being said, the Saints had to deal with the retirement of Ben Watson this offseason, who only returned four months later to sign a contract with the New England Patriots.
New Orleans made a big veteran signing this offseason by adding former Oakland Raider Jared Cook. Cook had spent time in several places across the league, including a solid few years in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers. He was Oakland’s most consistent target last season, catching 68 passes for 896 yards and 6 scores. He will most definitely be the starter and the Saints primary tight end threat.
Alize Mack has so much potential. The 7th round rookie out of Notre Dame could have (and should have) gone higher in the draft. He’s raw at the moment, and won’t contribute much in 2019, but looking forward he will be a good player in the league.
The New Orleans Saints lost a few pieces that they had last season. Josh LeRibeous and Max Unger are both departed, Unger having retired. The Saints replaced Unger with Nick Easton, who should be a good replacement.
The Saints took Erik McCoy in the second round, their first selection. McCoy can play both center and guard, and I believe the Saints desired his versatility. With Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead on the roster, the tackles are solid with good depth behind them. Ramczyk has been the biggest impact player that the Saints have seen in years, outside of Kamara.
Larry Warford should secure the left guard spot, replacing LeRibeous. I fully expect McCoy to slide into the right guard. Overall it’s a good unit that can handle injuries and anything else that may require them to eat into their depth.
The Saints have quite the rotation going on at the defensive end, thanks to some timely investments from the front office. The addition of Marcus Davenport appears ready to pay dividends, as Davenport’s pass rushing ability only got better in 2018. Paired with Cameron Jordan at the other end, the Saints are going to pressure tackle duo’s across the league very seriously in 2019.
The addition of Mario Edwards Jr helps the Saints pass rush too. Edwards was much improved his first season away from Oakland in 2018 with the New York Giants. In limited time, he was much more effective as a pass rusher than he had ever been with the Raiders. Now, he brings that depth to New Orleans. It should be a good move for the Saints.
Sheldon Rankins returns, but the Saints lost Tyeler Davison at defensive tackle. To try and balance this, the Saints added Sylvester Williams and Malcolm Brown in free agency. Both played in extremely limited time in 2018 but can play in bigger roles this season. Still, it’s not exactly a position of great talent for the Saints.
Demario Davis comes off of a career year, where he impacted each and every game in some serious manner. His stat line was absolutely incredible. Davis finished last season with 110 tackles, 11 for loss, 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and 4 pass deflections. Davis was an unstoppable force on defense, the beating heart of the Saints.
Behind him, the entire gang from last season returns. AJ Klein, Alex Anzalone and Craig Robertson all come back with a couple of young rookies added to the group. It’s a deep group and all can provide great depth in rotation with each other.
Marshon Lattimore has emerged as one of the leagues top cornerbacks, with his athletic abilities being through the roof. His turn technique to stay with receivers on deeper route patterns is probably the cleanest I have ever personally seen.
The addition of Eli Apple at the trade deadline last season helped shore up the inconsistencies in the number two corner position. With PJ Williams injured, Ken Crawley and Patrick Robinson struggled to hold the secondary down. Apple’s addition not only helped the passing game, but it further boosted the run defense that was already among the top in the league.
Marcus Sherels is listed at cornerback, but shouldn’t ever see the field to play the position. He is one of the most dynamic punt returners in the game, so I am positive we will see Sean Payton work ways to get him onto the field.
The secondary comes back intact for the Saints, only now with the addition of Florida defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Vonn Bell and Marcus Williams are both fine safeties, despite Williams being the player that balked on the Stefon Diggs tackle in the 2017 Divisional Round.
Gardner-Johnson is a huge addition for New Orleans, simply because he is projected to be the “big nickel” that the Saints like to use. With his athleticism and sure tackling ability, Gardner-Johnson could make a case to be the defensive rookie of the year with a solid outing in 2019.
K 3 Wil Lutz
P 6 Thomas Morstead
Wil Lutz was a solid kicker for the Saints in 2018 and should remain so for the 2019 season. He was 11 of 12 from 40-49 yards last season, and finished 28-30 on his field goal attempts.
Thomas Morstead is regarded as one of the finest punters in the NFL. He averaged 46.4 yards per punt last season, his longest going 60 yards. The Saints special teams unit is solid.
This is a solid team built for a Super Bowl and long term success. All of the Saints hopes rest squarely on the health and playing ability of Drew Brees. Without him, this offense struggles tremendously. The defense is strong no matter what, and both sides of the ball are loaded with good depth. One must wonder how far this team will go in 2019.