As the organization prepares for the final games of the Drew Brees era, high expectations surround the 2020 New Orleans Saints roster. Through 2019 growth and off-season player additions, the 2020 Saints could be the most talented roster in history. In 2011, the same kind of expectations surrounded the Saints who were two years off of a Super Bowl victory and adding talent through free agency and the draft. The expectations were too heavy to overcome even for a very talented roster and the season ended in disappointment. The letdown carried from an Alex Smith scramble haunted the Saints organization for several years. The weight from repeating a Super Bowl run is still ongoing into this upcoming season. Can the 2020 Saints do something in which the 2011 team could not and make it to another Super Bowl? The similarities between the teams begin with Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton and continue through various units and players. For an organization with Super-Bowl-Or-Bust expectations, the differences will be what determines if the 2020 Saints can succeed.
2020 New Orleans Saints Roster: The Most Talented in History?
2011 New Orleans Saints Roster
In 2011, the Saints were coming off of an 11-win season and looking to bounce back from a devastating loss at the hands of Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle Seahawks. The 2011 draft saw the Saints have two first-round picks. Each first-rounder turned into perennial producers, Cameron Jordan and Mark Ingram. Unfortunately, having two more picks in the third round did not help the Saints. They drafted Martez Wilson (linebacker) and Johnny Patrick (defensive back) who turned out to be letdowns. The talents of Ingram and Jordan were still enough to count the 2011 draft as a win for the Saints. The signing of Darren Sproles also looked to maintain the offense after the exit of Reggie Bush to Miami.
Expectations were high going into the 2011 season, the Saints were +1400 Super Bowl favorites with an Over/Under set at 10 wins. The organization returned starters Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Carl Nicks, Jermon Bushrod, and Pierre Thomas on offense. Meanwhile, Roman Harper, Malcolm Jenkins, Tracy Porter, Jonathan Vilma, and Will Smith anchored the defensive side of the ball. With a trusted receiving corps and a deep backfield, the Saints would go on to finish second in total offense in 2011. They ranked sixth in rushing and first in passing. Meanwhile, the young defense finished the season ranked 13th, mainly led by the rushing defense. The passing defense was the issue and ranked near the bottom of the league at 30th.
2020 New Orleans Saints Roster
This should seem very familiar territory for the Saints going into 2020. Currently, the Saints are at +1400 odds to win the 2020 Super Bowl with a 10 game Over/Under on Draftkings Sportbook. The team is coming off of another devastating playoff loss at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings. The 2019 season also saw the re-emergence of the San Francisco 49ers who the Saints fell to in 2011. During the 2020 off-season, the Saints sought to bolster their roster which won 13 games in 2019. In Free Agency, the Saints added Emmanuel Sanders (wide receiver), Malcolm Jenkins (safety), D.J. Swearinger (safety), and drafted interior offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz and linebacker Zach Baun. According to Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_ on Twitter), this brings the Saints up to 31 former first- or second-day NFL Draft picks, 11 Pro Bowlers, 6 All-Pros, and 7 Elite PFF Graded players.
With the success in 2019 and off-season player additions, the incoming 2020 team could be deeper and more talented than even the 2011 iteration. The 2019 Saints also ranked 13th in overall defense according to Pro Football Reference. The passing defense was much better coming in ranked 20th while the rushing defense finished fourth overall. The passing defense from 2019 was much better than the 2011 unit and with the addition of D.J. Swearinger and Zach Baun, it is hard to imagine any regression. Any team improvement with veterans Jenkins and Swearinger could make a significant difference, especially in the postseason. With the rushing defense not losing any significant contributor from 2019, staying the course should be enough to sustain the overall defensive success.
2020 Roster Improvements
Head Coach Sean Payton has kept the machine that is the Saints offense constant. Led by Drew Brees, the offense has set record after record and perenially been at the top of the league’s rankings. In 2011, the Saints had one of it’s most consistent receiving corps led by Marques Colston. They also had consistent contributors from the rest of the receiving crew Robert Meachem, Lance Moore, and Devery Henderson. Tight end Jimmy Graham emerged in 2010 and was set to have another great season as Brees’ favorite red-zone target. Payton has always kept a very deep backfield and in 2011 this consisted of then-rookie Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, and Darren Sproles. Brees had a weapon for every situation and was protected by an offensive line that finished 2011 near the top of the League’s rankings.
Going into 2020, the Saints will need improvement from several offensive players to replicate the success from previous years. Jared Cook is still developing and will need to become more consistent if he wishes to replicate the success Jimmy Graham had with Brees. A slim wide receiver corps will have to improve overall. The additions of Emmanuel Sanders and Ty Montgomery adds a veteran presence to the unit which only had 58 receptions from receivers not named Michael Thomas in 2019. The Saints drafted interior offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz in hopes of keeping the middle pass-rush from reaching Brees which was a major issue in the 2019 playoff loss. Alvin Kamara will need to produce 2018 numbers and stay healthy for the full season as well.
The similarities between the 2011 and 2020 teams are vast. The defense consists of talented young players and veterans. The backfield has multiple talented and diverse running backs. Drew Brees continues to play at a high level. The Saints have built team after team of perennial winners, yet since 2009 the Super Bowl has been elusive. In 2020, the New Orleans Saints roster will have to learn from all previous seasons and especially 2011. The team will need to fix the issues from last season and run the gauntlet of the deep NFC teams like San Francisco, Minnesota, Seattle, Philadelphia, and now Tampa. If the addition of Sanders, Montgomery, Swearinger, and the returning Jenkins pay off on the field, the 2020 iteration of the New Orleans Saints will be the most talented roster since 2011. If they are to finally make it back to the Super Bowl, it will all depend on the differences between the two rosters instead of the similarities.