There were a lot of questions surrounding the Saints ahead of their season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic which forced teams to cancel traditional offseason activities and prompted the NFL to cancel preseason games.
The Saints, however, were able to earn a 34-23 win against the Tom Brady led Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Here’s five things we learned about the 2020 New Orleans Saints.
The Saints are quite deep in the secondary
Throughout training camp, Saints coaches often touted the depth of this group of defensive backs and on Sunday the unit showed why.
Five of the members of the secondary, safeties Malcolm Jenkins, Marcus Williams and C.J. Gardner-Johnson along with cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins, played at least 60 percent of the defensive snaps and safety D.J. Swearinger played nearly half of them as well.
Not only were several defensive backs on the field Sunday, but the unit played well as a whole. Williams and Janoris Jenkins each intercepted a pass and the secondary broke up five passes.
The defensive line is deep as well
The Saints defensive line was outstanding Sunday. Trey Hendrickson and Carl Granderson each recorded sacks and Cam Jordan, Malcom Roach and Marcus Hunt each added a tackle for a loss.
The group also got significant pressure against Tom Brady despite playing without starting defensive end Marcus Davenport who missed the opener due to an elbow injury.
The special teams unit is still impressive
New Orleans boasted one of the NFL’s best special team’s units last season and the group impressed Sunday making highlight reel plays. Marcus Hunt blocked a field goal in the first half and in the second half receiver Bennie Fowler recovered a sky kick to give steal a possession from the Buccaneers.
All-Pro kick returner Deonte Harris also averaged nearly 15 yards per punt return after averaging 9.4 last season.
Jared Cook looks comfortable
Tight end Jared Cook said coming in to Sunday’s matchup that he thought he’d built a good rapport with quarterback Drew Brees. That showed Sunday as he finished with a game-high 80 receiving yards, and tied Alvin Kamara for a team high five catches.
Cook’s first game with similar stats last season didn’t come until Week 7.
The offense can get better
The Saints finished Sunday’s game with 271 yards of total offense. That was their lowest yardage total since Week 4 of 2019.
Players and coaches said after the game that the offense could improve and will improve. Saints coach Sean Payton shouldered some of the blame for the team’s offensive output.
“Offensively, that was probably as bad of a game as I have had as a play caller, just trying to find a rhythm and a tempo. It was awful,” Payton said. “There will be a lot that we have to correct and clean up. There always is after the first week of the regular season and, certainly, the first game for us to play. There is a lot of things that we are going to look at that we are going to need to clean up. We will try to do that at the beginning of this week."