Three Saints Players That Could Breakout In 2022

September 3, 2022

The Saints have added Tyrann Mathieu to an already star-studded roster this offseason. With Mathieu, Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and Cameron Jordan ready to go, which other players might break out in 2022?

The Saints roster is full of stars throughout all three phases of the game. Names like Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Cameron Jordan, and Tyrann Mathieu are just a few of the well-known elite players that make up the New Orleans roster. With those players in mind, who might break out in the 2022 season?

Two Saints Players That Could Massively Improve In 2022

Offense- Juwan Johnson (Tight End)

The idea of arguably your best pass-catching tight end juggling the ball isn’t a great thought, is it? Well, for Juwan Johnson, juggling is a huge part of his pre-game warmup. He juggles tennis balls up and down the field. He started this to help with his hand-eye coordination. The converted wide receiver will be a big asset for the Saints in the 2022 season.

I am trying to be the leader of the Juwan Johnson fan club. He’s now into his second season after converting from wide receiver. His first season at the tight end position went okay. He showed flashes of being a potential monster up the seams while also showing he could be a weapon in the RedZone. With that said his final stat line for the season was a fairly unassuming 13 catches for 159 yards and four touchdowns in 14 games.

So why do I think he will break out this season? Well, the TE position is not just about catching the football, blocking plays a significant role in the success of a TE. If a TE can be relied upon to block it means the defense has less of a chance to know if the play is going to be a run or a pass. Whereas if a solely pass-catching TE is on the field the defense can prepare with a lot more certainty for a pass play.

Johnson should be better in this department than a year ago for two reasons: One, He’s bulked up from the 235 pounds. He played last year at 250 pounds. He said this was specifically to help be a better blocker.

Two, his head coach had a glowing comment on Johnson’s improvement in this area. Read HC DA’s quote here:

He also looked to hold his own very well throughout the preseason. Especially during the last preseason game against the Chargers.

I’m not saying Johnson will be an elite blocking TE this season, all he needs is to be able to block enough to keep the defense guessing when he is on the field.

Early in the offseason, Adam Trautman, Taysom Hill, and even Lucas Krull were all receiving headlines about their play. As those have died down either through injury or just fewer plays being made, Johnson started to shine. Towards the end of camp, which is crunch time as the Saints lead up to the season, started to make a lot of plays, with several Saints beat reports highlighting the big catches he’s been making.

My final reason for optimism? The Saints now have far more weapons at wide receiver, this should open up the passing game a lot more for all the TEs, with Johnson already showing he has excellent receiving skills and previous chemistry with QB Jameis Winston, he should get plenty of favorable matchups.

Stat line prediction:

I’m thinking numbers similar to what David Njoku and Gerald Everett put up a season ago:

34 catches for 425 yards and five touchdowns that would average about 12.5 yards a catch. This doesn’t seem like a lot but, the Saints do have Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry, Chris Olave, Alvin Kamara, and others to feed. There are only so many targets to go around. This would also mark a huge increase in catches and yards from a season ago.

Defense- Tanoh Kpassagnon (DE)

The Saints certainly have a type at the defensive end position. If you’re six-foot-four plus and have bigger than 34-inch arms then there’s a good chance you’ll be on the Saints radar (Marcus Davenport being the only DE below 34, with 33 ⅝”). With this in mind, it’s no surprise than when Tanoh Kpassagnon (six-foot-seven and 35 5/8″ arms) became a free agent last year the Saints snapped him up on a two-year deal.

In his first year in New Orleans, Kpassagnon impressed in his eight games, with four sacks, 11 QB pressures, and three TFLs. These are solid but not otherworldly stats.

Kpassagnon plays across the defensive line and can move inside to defensive tackle as well. The difference this year compared to last is right now he looks to be third or fourth in the pass rush rotation, whereas last year he would start a lot of the games he played in. Kpassagnon started five out of his eight games last year. The benefit to being lower down in the pass rush rotation is you are coming off the bench fresh after the opposing offensive linemen have just been worn down by the likes of Cam Jordan, Marcus Davenport, and David Onyemata.

Mentioning the names above brings me to the next biggest reason to think Kpassagnon could break out. A healthier D-line this year. The Saints were without, Davenport, Onyemata and first-round pick Peyton Turner for extended periods of time last season, Kpassagnon himself missed nine games and played at less than 100% in some games he played.

Bringing those players back into the rotation with Kpassagnon is an enticing option for the Saints this year and should mean Kpassagnon should have far less attention on him than he had a season ago. Tanoh also now has another year of excellent D-line coaching under his belt, from Co-Defensive Coordinator Ryan Nielsen.

Imagining a pash rush combination of Davenport, and Jordan on the outside, with Onyemata and Kpassagnon on the inside, is a frightening option for the Saints to roll out.

Stat line prediction:

I know this isn’t how stats from one year to the next work, but I think if you extrapolated his stats from last season across the whole 17-game season, it would look about where I am thinking for Kpassagnon this season:

8.5 sacks, 23 QB pressures, and 7 TFLs.

One Saints Special Teamer That Could Become All-Pro In 2022

Blake Gillikin (Punter)

Now, I know what you’re thinking, those that paid attention to special teams know that arguably Gillikin already broke out last season. I will concede that’s probably true. However, the type of breakout I’m talking about is something more significant than those I’ve mentioned above. I’m predicting Blake Gillikin could break out this season as an All-Pro Punter, possibly even the best in the NFL.

In his first year starting in the NFL last year, Gillikin had 29 punts which caused the opposition to start inside their own 20-yard line, which was fourth best in the NFL last season. In week five against Washington, Gillikin became the first punter since at least 2000 to have three punts of at least 53 yards down inside the three-yard line, according to the Saints. Now I am certainly no expert on punting but, I think that’s pretty damn good.

Gillikin has been in good form during the preseason and has one of the best gunners in the league to help keep the punt numbers good in all-pro special teamer J.T Gray. Overall, the Saints should have one of the better special team units led by their excellent special teams coach Darren Rizzi.

Stat line prediction:

I’ve never tried to predict a punters stat line before, but here we go:

65 punts, 29 (45%) inside the 20, an average of 50.5, and a net average of 43.5. I am very interested to see if I can get anywhere near this prediction!!

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