3 Saints Storylines to Keep An Eye On This Season
Last week I covered some Saints players I found to be underestimated on a star-studded defense.
Today I want to talk about the other two phases of the game.
The Saints offense last year wasn't great. Between injury and the loss of Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, it was evident that things were changing in the Big Easy.
Jameis still hadn't earned the trust of his coaches, and right when it looked like he was ready to be unleashed, he tore his ACL and was forced to watch for the rest of 2021.
Now Sean is gone, and new head coach Dennis Allen is already dealing with a lot.
This year, two big offensive storylines stand out to me, outside of the obvious return of Famous Jameis. Those would be Taysom Hill and Mark Ingram, or more specifically, Taysom being officially moved to tight end, and Mark Ingram having to step up in the place of Alvin Kamara, who will likely be suspended for the first few games of the season due to his issues in Vegas.
I want to preface this by saying that I think this will not be a huge problem nor a huge change for Taysom. He already laid down tremendous blocks in the run game, and lined up fist down quite often.
This is more indicative of new head coach Dennis Allen making a statement. Sean Payton's belief in Taysom as a quarterback may have been decently well-placed, but Hill never developed enough to be worth using at that position over his "Joker" role. Rotating Taysom around as a tight end, fullback, wide receiver, and wildcat quarterback is a better fit for the Saints and for him.
As it stands right now, Taysom is listed alongside Saints vets Adam Trautman, Juwan Johnson, and Nick Vannett. No official depth chart has been released, but depending on what his coaches saw during camp, I think he may be listed near the top.
Trautman, Johnson, and Hill all have their strengths and weaknesses, but I wouldn't be surprised if Saints fans saw quite a bit of all three over the course of the season.
Which leads me to the conclusion that while fans may not see Taysom sling the ball anymore (outside of the occasional trick play), they will still see him bowl over defenders in that way that they love so much.
Alvin Kamara will almost certainly be suspended for at least the first four, if not more, games this season.
While he's gone, it would seem that the role of lead back falls to an old friend.
Mark Ingram has been great over the years for the Saints. After some fumble issues early on in his career, the dynamic duo he and Kamara formed gave defenses fits for years.
Now, going into his 12th year in the NFL, he has lost a step or two here and there. This begs the question, can he really be that two-to-three down back that he was in the past, and that Kamara has been for the Saints recently?
I think not. Ingram is going to need to rely on the young talent in the Black and Gold's running back room. This includes Tony Jones Jr, Devine Ozigbo, and Dwayne Washington, all of whom combined for 155 NFL yards last season, and rookie back Abram Smith out of Baylor.
Will that be enough for a likely run-heavy Saints offense this season? Only time will tell.
Now to move on to the third and final phase of the game...
Special Teams Double Trouble
An underrated aspect of the Saints success has been the incredibly talented and well-coached special teams.
We saw exactly how important that was last year with the kicking carousel brought in to attempt to replace Wil Lutz, who was out following complications from an injury.
Ask any Saints fan, and they'll tell you they lost a few games last season because of that. His return is greatly anticipated.
The bright spot last year, and and a player who is primed for another impressive season, is punter Blake Gillikin. All season he stuck opposing offenses on "Gillikin's Island", landing 29 of his 83 punts into opponents' red zones and recording the 6th highest average punt distance, within three yards of the first ranked punter.
Saints fans can expect another strong year on special teams, lead by a revitalized Wil Lutz, and a young stud punter in Blake Gillikin.
These three storylines are the ones to watch this season. The ceiling of the Black and Gold will likely be set by the offense this year, so its important to keep all the angles in mind.
You know Dennis Allen is.
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