Last week I took at look at what offseason moves the Atlanta Falcons had made and how they could affect the Buccaneers. In continuing in this series, I’m diving into what moves the reigning NFC South division champs New Orleans Saints have made and where they potentially improved their team.
The Saints took a gigantic step forward last year after three straight seasons of finishing 7-9 to win the division with an 11-5 record. They drafted well and their defense, usually their weak spot, jumped an incredible 23 spots, and went from 31st to 8th overall in defensive efficiency from 2016 to 2017. If not for a miraculous play by Stefon Diggs in the closing seconds of the NFC Divisional Playoff game, the Saints would have faced off against the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Conference Championship game. Clearly their team was not in a need of a ton of work heading into the 2018 offseason. But, like every single team in the league, they went out and made moves in hopes of improving their already solid team. Here are a few of their most impactful additions:
-Brees is a future 1st ballot lock for the Hall of Fame. Nobody really expected him to leave the Saints, but his new deal keeps him terrorizing NFC South defenses for another two years.
-Robinson had a bounce back season for the Eagles and was one of the best slot cornerbacks in the league. His 61.8 passer rating allowed from the slot was fourth lowest in the league last year. He posted career tying numbers in passes defended, interceptions, and sacks. Robinson joins an already formidable secondary that only allowed 224 passing yards per game.
-Davis had a very good 2018 season. He posted career highs in sacks and tackles. He also had 19 quarterback pressures and 65 defensive stops from the inside linebacker position.
-Meredith tore both his ACL and MCL in the third preseason game and sat out the entire 2017 season. His numbers from 2016 are solid, 66 catches/888 yards/4 TD, given the quarterback situation in Chicago during that season. He’ll provide Brees with yet another big target, Meredith is 6’3, and paired up with Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr, will create a formidable receiving trio.
-Davenport became the Saints first round draft pick when they traded up to get him at #14 overall. While many felt drafting Davenport at #14 was a big reach, there is no denying his potential to eventually be a dominant defensive end if he can continue developing his skillset. I think he’ll be used mostly on obviously passing situations this upcoming season.
The Saints and Bucs have been division rivals for sixteen years and split the season series nine times since 2002, with both winning a Super Bowl during that stretch. One team always seems to find a way to win a game versus the other no matter how good or bad the season/team might be that year. I’d love to proclaim I think the Bucs will sweep the season series, but the odds simply don’t stack up in their favor. Especially with the moves the Saints made this offseason. They strengthened their secondary, linebackers, wide receivers and oh yeah, brought back a Hall of Fame quarterback. Their secondary will be that much more difficult to pass against for Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston. But, it’s not all doom and gloom, Bucs fans! Your favorite teams secondary and especially the defensive line, are revamped and should be more than capable of better withstanding the offensive onslaught the Saints bring to town. In addition, the Bucs new offensive line should be able to create better holes for Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber to run through against the Saints sixteenth ranked run defense, offsetting the strength of their secondary.
What is your take on the Saints offseason moves? Do you feel they’re significantly better or about the same as last season? Do you predict another season split or will the Bucs finally sweep their bitter rivals?