Analysis

Grading Every New Orleans Saints Positional Group Heading into 2022

Grading Every New Orleans Saints Positional Group Heading into 2022

The Saints enter the 2022 season with a new head coach. It is going to be the first year since 2005 with Sean Payton not on the sidelines. Dennis Kelly takes over and inherits a pretty good roster. A lot of the success will ride on whether Jameis Winston can replicate the success he had in the first half of last year before the injury.

There is also a big question mark with Alvin Kamara and his availability to begin the year. The NFC South is going to be tough as Tom Brady is back with a loaded Buccaneers roster. The Saints will have their work cut out for them but the front office has done a good job of replacing key players that have left to try and make it back to the postseason.

QB: Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, Ian Book

Winston took over for the Saints in 2021 after future Hall of Fame quarterback, Drew Brees, retired. He had big shoes to fill and much to prove as he had thrown for 30 interceptions in his last full season as a starter in 2019 for the Buccaneers. Winston certainly showed improvement after leading the Saints to a 5-2 start while throwing for 1,170 yards, 14 touchdowns, and only three interceptions.

His season was cut short due to a season-ending ACL tear. 2022 will be a big season to replicate the success he had and sustain it for an entire season while staying healthy. The Saints have the weapons around him to make them a threat to the Buccaneers in the NFC South.

Andy Dalton was brought in as a veteran backup who is an accomplished QB in his own right. 2022 will be a big year for the Saints under a new coaching staff to try and get back to the postseason.

Grade: B

RB: Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Tony Jones Jr, Dwayne Washington, Devine Ozigbo, Abram Smith

Grading this position group is tough due to the uncertainty of Pro Bowl running back, Alvin Kamara. The possibility of a suspension looms and his absence would hinder this position group and offense as a whole a great amount. Kamara is up there with McCaffrey where he poses a threat in both the running game and passing game. He had 898 yards rushing and 439 yards receiving in 13 games last season and is a player that opposing defenses game plan for.

Ingram is a veteran back but has only played 7 games the past two seasons. If Kamara is to miss time, he needs to stay healthy. Tony Jones Jr. is entering his third year and only had 54 total carries all of last season. He will definitely need to step up in an increased role in 2022. A lot of uncertainty with this unit in 2022 and it will depend on when the league comes forth with a punishment.

Grade: B-

WR: Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry, Chris Olave, Marquez Callaway, Tre’Quan Smith, Deonte Harty, Kevin White, Kawaan Baker, Easop Winston Jr, Kirk Merritt, Dai’Jean Dixon, Rashid Shaheen

Michael Thomas had four straight seasons of over 1,000 yards from 2016-2019, 2019 being the receiving yards leader. However, injuries have plagued him as he only played seven games in 2020 and none in 2021. He is poised to return in 2022 and questions will have to be answered if he can return to his normal production before his injury. Either way, his return will improve this receiving room.

The Saints also made a splash in bringing in Jarvis Landry this off-season. Landry is a veteran who is a solid number two option. The Saints also made improvements to this unit in drafting Chris Olave in the first round of the NFL Draft. Olave had over 900 yards receiving last year for Ohio State and is an instant upgrade.

Behind these three, Callaway and Harty played significant time last season and played fairly well. They will be solid rotational players in this offense. This is a unit that could be poised to have a big year in 2022.

Grade: B+

TE: Adam Trautman, Taysom Hill, Nick Vannett, Juwan Johnson, Brandon Dillon, Lucas Krull, Dylan Soehner, JP Holtz

Hill is the Swiss Army Knife of this offense. He is listed as a tight end but will play many different positions. He only had four receptions last season but had 374 yards rushing and can also can play quarterback. His versatility is something defenses struggle to game plan against. It will be interesting to see if his usage is changed at all after Sean Payton steps away.

Other than Hill, Trautman is a solid option. He had 263 yards receiving last year so a little more production would be nice to add to this position group.

Grade: B

OL: James Hurst, Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy, Cesar Ruiz, Ryan Ramczyk, Trevor Penning, Forrest Lamp, Calvin Throckmorton, Landon Young, Sage Doxtater, Josh Andrews, Lewis Kidd, Jerald Hawkins, Derek Schweiger, Ethan Greenidge, Khalique Washington

The loss of Terron Armstead to the Dolphins significantly hurts this unit. Ramczyk is still an All-Pro OT and one of the best in the entire NFL. The big question will be how the Saints’ other first round pick, Trevor Penning, will adjust to the speed and play of the NFL.

Penning is coming from an FCS school so the talent jump will be a little more than most rookies see but he is big and a nasty competitor. Training camp will be big to see if he is ready to step in Week 1 and be the starting tackle.

On the interior, Ruiz and McCoy are solid and Peat has had his share of good play. This was a very good unit in 2021 and previous years but 2022 will be a big eye opening year for this unit to see how much of a drop off, if any, there will be with the loss of Armstead.

Grade: B

DL: Cameron Jordan, Shy Tuttle, David Onyemata, Marcus Davenport, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Albert Huggins, Kentavius Street, Payton Turner, Carl Granderson, Malcolm Roach, Jaleel Johnson, Jordan Jackson, Taco Charlton, Josh Black, Kaden Elliss

There are not many defensive lines as dominant as this group, if at all. Jordan and Davenport are two of the best edge rushers in the NFL. Jordan had 12.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles while Davenport had 9 sacks and 3 forced fumbles, in 11 games. The only issue is health as Davenport has only played 11 games the two previous years.

On the inside, Tuttle is a run stuffer who had 48 total tackles in 2021. Onyemata only played 11 games last season but still had 34 tackles and 2 sacks. The Saints will hope Turner can bounce back from injury and continue his development going into year two.

This is a very solid group that will create all sorts of problems for opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks will need to be aware. Expect another big year from this unit in 2022.

Grade: A

LB: Pete Werner, Demario Davis, Zack Baun, Eric Wilson, Andrew Dowell, D’Marco Jackson, Isaiah Pryor, Nephi Sewell

Demario Davis is one of the better off-ball linebackers in the NFL. He had 105 tackles a season ago and also added 3 sacks as well. Werner was a rookie but played very well in the snaps he received, earning a 79.9 defensive rating from PFF.

Baun will have to prove himself in 2022 and show he can play more on defense and show why he was so highly touted coming out of Wisconsin. Behind Werner and Davis there isn’t much depth.

Wilson has only played 7 games the past two seasons but was a significant part of Minnesota’s defense prior. A lot of this groups success will depend on Werner to replicate his success from his rookie year and Demario Davis to not lose stride.

Grade: B+

CB: Paulson Adebo, Marshon Lattimore, Alontae Taylor, PJ Williams, Bradley Roby, Jordan Miller, Dylan Mabin, DeMarcus Fields, Vincent Gray

Lattimore is one of the best all around corners in the game. He had 68 total tackles and 3 interceptions last season and has put up consistent numbers every year he’s been in the NFL since 2017.

Adebo had a solid rookie season but the Saints will hope he takes another step going into year two. Alontae Taylor was a second round pick in this past draft and will have every opportunity to compete and earn playing time on defense.

PJ Williams is also a quality backup who is a veteran and has played a significant amount of games. Overall, this position is in good standing with quality up and down the depth chart.

Grade: B

S: Tyrann Mathieu, Marcus Maye, CJ Gardner-Johnson, Daniel Sorensen, Justin Evans, JT Gray, Smoke Monday

Explanation: Marcus Maye comes over from the Jets on a three year deal. He was hurt for most of last year but received a nice pay day because of his production from the years prior. The Saints hope he can bounce back into his 2020 form.

Mathieu was also a huge signing as he is an experienced veteran and a very good safety in both the run and pass game. This is a very solid safety duo in New Orleans.

Gardner-Johnson is also a very solid player. He had 2 sacks and 3 interceptions a season ago. Sorensen has had his struggles but has played a lot of meaningful football that will be valuable to this defense and position group. Overall, after losing both Marcus Williams and Malcolm Jenkins, the Saints did a solid job in rebuilding this unit.

Grade: B