After an inauspicious start, the New Orleans Saints are surging. Sean Payton’s team is currently 9-2, they lead the NFC South, and they are now holding the number one seed in the NFC. After consecutive primetime defeats in September, New Orleans has gone on an eight-game win streak.
In that time the team has battled a slew of injuries. Superstar Michael Thomas has missed several games; meanwhile, quarterback Drew Brees is out for the foreseeable future. The team has also added several veterans such as Malcolm Jenkins and Janoris Jenkins. Maybe that slow start was understandable with key injuries and the addition of new players in a truncated pre-season.
However, since that defeat to the Raiders in Week 3, New Orleans has been rampant. The team is in a boom or bust year; it is Super Bowl or nothing for New Orleans; the Saints are playing well at the right time. The bedrock of this win streak has come from the defense. It is a talent-packed unit, but it did start very poorly. Since then, it has been outstanding. It is currently ranked 5th in scoring defense, it is 5th in passing yardage allowed, and is a staggering 2nd in rushing yardage allowed. Everywhere you look, big players are making big plays on the defense.
David Onyemata and Sheldon Rankins are clogging running lanes. Cam Jordan had his usual dominant game against Atlanta; he is still a problem for offensive linemen. At the same time, Trey Hendrickson is having a breakout year. The 3rd year player is 2nd in sacks throughout the NFL.
Hendrickson brings superb speed as a defensive end. He is tall; plus, he has excellent length. He has firmly put himself in the conversation for defensive player of the year. Demario Davis has become the heartbeat of the team in Brees’ absence. Alex Anzalone is a tackling machine; meanwhile, Kwon Alexander has slotted in very well after his trade. Marshon Lattimore is locking up receivers on the outside; Julio Jones and Mike Evans had miserable days against the cornerback. He is reverting to the pro bowl level we have seen from him before.
Currently, this defense is playing at a dominant level. It is the best we have seen the Saints defense look in the last four years. They will need it to continue if New Orleans wants to bring back the Lombardi trophy to the Big Easy.
September was the last time New Orleans lost. In that month, many experts were proclaiming loudly that Drew Brees should retire. Many sections of the football cognoscenti had written him off. How dare they write a future Hall of Famer off like that. It was disrespectful.
Brees looked like a 40-year old quarterback without his number one target. His adjusted yards gained per pass attempt is at 8.1. That has not dropped off a cliff; it is still hovering above his career average. His QBR right now is 81.2, which is higher than his QBR totals for the last five years. Once he got his full complement of weapons back, Brees was fine, but he is now injured; that means we are all on the Taysom Hill rollercoaster.
Hill is now the starter for New Orleans. The man Sean Payton has been fascinated with for three years now has the chance to be the man in the Bayou. Hill has started two games, and he has been okay. In his start against the Falcons, Hill was 18 out of 23 with two rushing touchdowns. He brings something completely different from the Saints offense; plus, Hill is an uncompromising runner who can run through tackles.
The Saints have leaned on RPO plays in the last two games. With an outstanding player in Kamara, this makes complete sense. Hill allows the Saints to become a dominant run team. That will suit Sean Payton. The Saints can tire out defenses on long drives and then let their defense put the clamps on the opposing offense. Sean Payton is one of the very best play-callers in the NFL. He will have so many options for Hill and that offense.
All Hill needs to do is not turn the ball over and be efficient. The Saints went 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater last year. Hill will be sufficient for New Orleans; although, this team still needs its leader, its heartbeat. For the Saints to keep marching in the NFC, they need Drew Brees back.
The Saints knew coming into 2020 that it was an all or nothing year. The team knew it, the front office knew it, and all of Louisiana knew it. A shaky start had the NFL world questioning whether it was one year too many for this squad. The next eight wins have shown it is anything, but the New Orleans Saints mean business, and how about this; the Saints are 9-2, yet they have only had Drew Brees and Michael Thomas on the field together for two complete games. We know the Saints are the complete team in the NFC, we know they are the best team in the NFC. Now, New Orleans needs to prove it to the rest.