New Orleans Saints are still in primetime spotlight despite roster changes | Detillier

Mike Detillier
Special to The Courier

Nothing stays the same in the NFL. The league is in constant change with players, coaches and front office personnel.

But one thing has remained the same in 2021 and that is the New Orleans Saints are still primetime gold for the NFL.

When you get primetime games it is about respect from the NFL due to winning, high television ratings and storylines.

The NFL does not schedule you in primetime games because they feel sorry for you. They want their best teams on primetime to boost ratings.

That is the NFL. It’s all about how much money they can generate and little else.

The Saints have lost some big-name talent with the departures of  quarterback Drew Brees, punter Thomas Morstead, tight end Jared Cook, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, defensive end Trey Hendrickson, defensive tackles Sheldon Rankins and Malcolm Brown, special teams star Justin Hardee and outside linebacker Kwon Alexander.

But they return wide receiver Michael Thomas, halfback Alvin Kamara, five starting offensive linemen, defensive end Cam Jordan, linebacker Demario Davis, and a budding star in defensive tackle David Onyemata.

The Saints have a very successful and colorful coach in Sean Payton. While they have not been able to get back to the Super Bowl since the 2009 season, the Saints are 49-15 the last four regular seasons.

I grew up in the 1970s and saw the Saints win 42 games, lose 98 games, have four ties and zero playoff appearances in that decade.

NFL:Saints will have to develop several prospects from 2021 NFL Draft | Detillier

NFL:Young New Orleans Saints players are now heart of the team|Detillier

But the league is totally different today and we look at Super Bowl appearances and not playoff games and NFC South titles. Right or wrong, it is the standard in which you are judged by today in the NFL.

The storylines this season will be built around who will replace Brees and there is no doubt that Jameis Winston has the very strong inside edge. Payton will also use Taysom Hill in a role no other player in the league has been able to duplicate.

Right now there is a huge hole at cornerback due to the salary cap release of Janoris Jenkins, who signed with the Tennessee Titans. There will also be uncertainty with starting cornerback Marshon Lattimore due to off-the-field matters.

What the Saints have at cornerback other than Lattimore is Patrick Robinson, who will turn 34 in September, P.J. Williams, who is best suited to play the “dime” safety spot, and rookie Paulson Adebo.

There is no way the Saints enter the 2021 season with what is on the roster at cornerback.

For the first time since the beginning of the 2017 season, the Saints aren’t considered the front-runner in the NFC South. The oddsmakers in Las Vegas place the win total of the Saints at 9½ wins and all 22 starters from the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers return for another run at the Lombardi Trophy.

Like it or not, the Buccaneers are the team to beat in the NFC South.

The NFL gave the Saints seven primetime feature games against Green Bay (Week 1; Sunday afternoon slot), Seattle (Week 7; Monday Night Football), Tampa Bay (Week 8; Sunday afternoon slot), Buffalo (Week 12; Thanksgiving night), Dallas (Week 13, Thursday night), Tampa Bay (Week 15; Monday Night Football) and Miami (Week 16; Monday Night Football).

Brees’ retirement and Winston’s play will be heavily covered all season. Winston will get to face his former team twice in the Buccaneers, which will be an interesting storyline.

Teams in the NFL don’t stay the same. The Saints will have to adjust to changes. They will have to rely more on their rushing attack, the defensive side of the ball and on their special teams.

The Saints will have a new punter in Blake Gillikin. They will have key kick returner Deonte Harris. They hope kicker Wil Lutz will return back to form. Lutz has a higher field goal percentage hit rate than Morten Andersen did at the same time in their careers.

Despite the changes, the NFL feels the Saints are still in the hunt to be a playoff team. Their schedule tells you that fully.  

NFL analyst Mike Detillier is based in Raceland.