With the Saints entering a season of change, following the departures of Drew Brees and Sean Payton, things will certainly be different. For the team to be successful, these four players must play well.
The New Orleans Saints are entering a very pivotal season in 2022. The team has an extremely good roster with leadership, talent, and hard-working players. This will also be the first season without the two greatest pieces in Saints history. Both Sean Payton and Drew Brees sailed off into the sunset following last season. In order for this team to silence critics and get to where they want to go, they need these players to step up in very important years.
Four Players May Prove To Be The Most Important For The Saints
Jameis Winston, Quarterback
This upcoming season will be Winston’s third season as a Saints quarterback. In 2020, he backed up Brees while studying and learning how to become a more efficient and successful quarterback. Winston has raved about how Brees has helped him become not only a better quarterback but a better person. He had taken it upon himself to be the eventual successor for the future Hall of Famer.
In 2021, Winston took the reins after a training camp battle with Taysom Hill and put up very promising results. Winston threw 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions with a 102.8 passer rating in seven games before a devastating ACL/MCL injury that robbed him of the remainder of his season. The Saints were 5-2 in games Winston started.
The 2022 season should be the best season of Winston’s career. The Saints re-signed him over the summer to a two-year contract extension while firmly upgrading his supporting cast. The team traded up in the 2022 NFL Draft to grab the prolific Ohio State receiver Chris Olave while also signing five-time Pro-Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry. Michael Thomas should also be ready to play after missing nearly two years with various ankle injuries. Two-time All-Pro Alvin Kamara will be in the backfield as well.
Winston should deliver this season with a much upgraded supporting cast. Even though Sean Payton is gone, much of the offensive coaching staff remains the same. The New Orleans Saints will go as far as Winston takes them. It is also a big opportunity to silence the remaining doubters in his career
Cesar Ruiz, Guard
Cesar Ruiz was drafted by the Saints in the first round of the 2020 draft. Originally a center at Michigan, the Saints converted Ruiz to the guard position with Erik McCoy already being the center of the offensive line. The early returns of his abilities have been disappointing, to say the least. Ruiz had a slow start to his career due to the effects of COVID-19 around the NFL and an injury that limited him in the offseason. Ruiz slotted in as the starter at right guard and has been shaky for the past two seasons.
Last season, Ruiz finished with a dismal 57.6 PFF grade which ranked among the worst for right guards. Surprisingly, Ruiz was the only starter on the Saints’ offensive line to not miss a game. Terron Armstead, Erik McCoy, Ryan Ramzyck, and Andrus Peat all suffered various injuries last season that kept them out for some time.
Going into his third year, Ruiz is on the verge of being named a bust. Also, the Saints’ offensive line lost an elite tackle in Terron Armstead in the offseason. This puts pressure on Ruiz and the rest of the interior to step up and make life easy for Winston as he attempts a comeback journey.
Payton Turner, Defensive End
Another first-round pick! Payton Turner was chosen in the late first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Turner was a surprise pick by many fans and the media. The team desperately needed a wide receiver with Michael Thomas missing the entire 2021 season and struggling with injuries from the previous season. Likewise, the team did lose Pro Bowl edge rusher, Trey Hendrickson, to the Bengals earlier that offseason. Pass rush help was needed in some way.
Turner’s rookie season was cut short in 2021. He was mostly a rotational player but in Week Two against the Panthers, he was called into a starting role due to injuries with Marcus Davenport and Tanoh Kpassagnon. Turner impressed in a big way. He finished with five pressures, three tackles for losses, and a sack. Unfortunately, the Saints couldn’t get to see more as he went down with an injury in Week Nine against the Falcons.
Turner is back healthy and should have a lot to prove to the Saints. If he can deliver a breakout season, the New Orleans defensive front would be a menace to opposing offensive lines with Cam Jordan, David Onyemata, and Marcus Davenport there to wreak havoc.
Adam Trautman, Tight End
Finally, we have the tight end. Trautman was drafted late in the 2020 NFL Draft. He came from a relatively small school in Dayton. Trautman was drafted with the intent of giving the offense another big body weapon in the passing and blocking game. Just like Cesar Ruiz, Trautman had to deal with the effects of COVID-19 among rookies entering that year. There was no preseason, minicamp, or full training camp where rookies are supposed to get up to speed.
In his 2020 rookie season, Trautman showed some flashes of being a good pass catcher and blocker. He finished with 15 catches for 171 yards while also being named the best run-blocking tight end in the entire NFL by Pro Football Focus. There was some hope. After the season, the Saints released starting tight end Jared Cook leaving Trautman as the new starter. There was some hype about him having a breakout season and the hype quickly turned south in the 2021 season. Trautman finished with only 27 catches for 263 yards. He failed to stand out in a barren pass-catching corps and even had some bad penalties which cost the team some positive plays.
The Saints didn’t draft or pursue another tight end in free agency leaving Trautman as the starter once again. He has an opportunity to stand out with a vastly improved receiving corps with Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, Jarvis Landry, and Taysom Hill moving back to his versatile tight-end role.