Saints hoping to break through in 2019

Kyle Riviere
In 2018, Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw 32 touchdown passes, with just five interceptions.

For the past two seasons, the Saints have been on the cusp on reaching their second Super Bowl, just to have the rug pulled out from under them at the last second.

In 2017, they were one tackle away from reaching the NFC Championship Game, when they fell victim to the "Minneapolis Miracle." And last season, a terrible non-interference call in the final minutes of the conference championship kept them out of the big game.

They're hoping the third try will be the charm in 2019.

New Orleans certainly has the pieces to duplicate what they did last season when they went 13-3, won their division and locked up the NFC's top seed in the playoffs.

Offensively, they bring back Drew Brees, a guy that has been their quarterback and team leader for nearly 15 years. 

Brees finished second in MVP voting last season as he passed for just under 4,000 yards with 32 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

However, he's now 40 years old, and there was a noticeable dip in his production toward the end of last season. 

In the first 10 games, he averaged 296 yards passing per game with 25 touchdowns and just one interception. In the final seven games, he averaged just 225 yards with seven touchdowns and four picks.

But he will have a nice array of weapons to choose from, as Michael Thomas returns, after setting the Saints' single-season receiving record last year with 1,400 yards.

A healthy Ted Ginn, Jr. returns, after missing most of last season. New Orleans also acquired tight end Jared Cook during the offseason. Cook is coming off of a career season in Oakland in which he had 896 yards receiving and six touchdowns.

Alvin Kamara is back for his third season. Kamara has been so dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield. Last season, he had 81 catches for 709 yards and four scores--good enough to make him the Saints' most productive receiver, outside of Thomas.

His running mate Mark Ingram left during the offseason, and in his place, the Saints signed Vikings running back Latavius Murray, who rushed for 578 yards and six touchdowns in 2018.

He'll have big shoes to fill. Last season, despite not playing in the first four games of the season, Ingram had 645 yards rushing and six scores, along with 21 catches for 170 yards and an additional touchdown.

The Saints return almost their entire offensive line, but they will be missing starting center Max Unger, who decided to retire during the offseason. It appears that they'll be depending on rookie first-round pick Erik McCoy to fill the void.

Defensively, the Saints will still have a strong pass rush with Pro Bowler Cam Jordan, along with David Onyemata and Marcus Davenport. 

But it's on the interior of the defensive line where they will lack depth. Sheldon Rankins could be out for as many as the first six games of the season as he continues to rehab from a ruptured Achilles he sustained late in 2018.

Also, in the offseason, they lost Tyeler Davison.

Fortunately for New Orleans, they are still very deep at both linebacker and defensive back.

At linebacker, Demario Davis returns after a huge first season with the Saints in which he came up with 110 tackles and five sacks. Joining him will be Alex Anzalone and A.J. Klein.

This has the potential to be one of the best secondaries the Saints have had in a long time.

Top two cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Eli Apple return, along with P.J. Williams and offseason acquisition Kayvon Webster. Also, after missing virtually all of last season with an injury, Patrick Robinson returns as the nickle back.

At safety, the Saints will still have Marcus Williams and Vonn Bell. Also, Florida rookie Chauncey Gardner-Johnson has been getting rave reviews from training camp.

And the Saints will be in good hands when it comes to the kicking game. Will Lutz made 33 of 36 field goals all of last year.