The New Orleans Saints are beginning their most significant transition in 15 years.
Drew Brees has retired and dozens of other key players from the team last year have left for a variety of reasons.
When training camp for 2021 begins in late July, the four-time NFC Men’s defending champion Saints remains one of the more talented teams in the NFL. Sean Payton remains one of the longest-serving and most successful coaches in the league.
But everything is changing as New Orleans embarks on the post-Brees era.
Crescent City Sports takes a comprehensive look at this transition in this series as a building block to getting started in training camp.
One of the biggest questions facing the New Orleans Saints ahead of this season is who will replace Janoris Jenkins at starting left-back.
Will it be 12-year veteran Patrick Robinson? Or a younger veteran like PJ Williams or Ken Crawley? Or rookie Paulson Adebo third-round draft choice?
Or will it be someone else – perhaps someone not on the list to start training camp next week?
The Saints have been on the market for a veteran in the dark since they released Jenkins in a salary cap move. Jenkins signed a contract with Tennessee.
The organization was short of cash for most of the season and made more subtractions than additions to the roster.
But they had enough money to sign a veteran, although a leading candidate – Richard Sherman – appeared to have weighed himself with his arrest for domestic violence last week. He pleaded not guilty to five misdemeanors related to a family incident at his wife’s home.
It’s not the only off-field incident that could affect the Saints’ secondary. Coming from right-back, Marshon Lattimore could face disciplinary action for his out-of-season arrest on a gun felony charge in Ohio.
So it’s anyone’s guess who will be the full-back starter when the Saints open the season against Green Bay on September 12 in the Superdome.
The safety picture is much clearer as Malcolm Jenkins (strong) and Marcus Williams (free) entrenched from the start and CJ Gardner-Johnson established himself as a player in his second NFL season in 2020.
“We have a lot of veteran men who are willing and able to help newcomers and shape them,” says Marcus Williams.
Gardner-Johnson said he “feels like a kid” last season after coaches told him to “go out there and play football and relax.
“A lot of people play this game and go out there struggling,” says Gardner-Johnson. “I am myself. So when they say relax, slow down, just understand what you’re doing, that’s when I found my groove.”
The vulture can also be considered a starter as the Saints use the fifth defender almost as much as they use the third defender. Robinson and PJ Williams have been the main striker pair for the past two seasons, but if one or both are forced into corner duty, there will be a trickle-down effect.
High school freshman coach Kris Richard praised Lattimore, the 2017 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and three-time professional pitcher, for his “incredible competitive mindset and athleticism.”
Adebo was the first team of all Pac-12 Conferences at Stanford two seasons ago before sitting out in 2020 to focus on the draft after the league dropped at the end of the summer and decided to play a shortened season.
“I think we have to get him out there and throw as much at him as we can and see how he reacts to that,” said defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. “He’s big, long, can run, smart, lots of traits that we like in a corner.”
Adebo said he’s “a little bit champion” to put the pad after sitting out last season.
The Saints have re-signed safe JT Gray, who were once a particularly standout team, though they lost another exceptional team leader, Justin Hardee, to the New York Jets in free agency.
Other departures were the safety of DJ Swashinger and Karl Bademosi, and the Saints filled the depth chart with defenders Grant Haley, Keith Washington Jr., Deuce Wallace, Bryce Thompson and Lawrence Woods and safety. Eric Burrell
The most important addition to the subgroup was Richard, who was brought in after Aaron Glenn was hired as defensive coordinator in Detroit.
Richard is the placement coach for Seattle’s “Legion of Doom” sub-team, who helped the Seahawks win the Super Bowl after the 2013 season and returned to the main game after the 2014 season. He’s the post-season coach. Defensive guard and passing game coordinator in Dallas for two seasons before sitting out last season after Jason Garrett and his staff were fired.
Head coach Sean Payton said Richard “did a great job” as a candidate and cited Richard’s experience, attention to detail and ability to teach as key attributes.
Allen said he has “great respect” for Richard.
“I admire his work,” Allen said. “He is highly competitive. He’s extremely smart. He carried the championship pedigree that earned him instant credibility in that room. “
Allen said he’s learning from Richard, whose background in plans is different from what Allen is most familiar with.
Richard called the opportunity to join the Saints staff “a no-brainer”.
“A lot of protection is about the intensity and scope of protection,” says Malcolm Jenkins. “(Richard) is someone who will drive this group, bring that intensity to a group with so much potential. It needs someone who always pushes the best out of us. “
See each part of the feature sequence leading up to Holy Camp here.
https://crescentcitysports.com/saints-2021-preview-part-7-the-secondary/ | High School – Crescent City Sports