Saints face mounting list of obstacles

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Jameis Winston Saints camp
(Photo: Parker Waters)

You just wonder if it is too much to overcome.

In the past two weeks, the New Orleans Saints have been hit with a boatload of bad developments.

The club’s best defensive tackle, David Onyemata, announced on social media that had been suspended six games for used of a banned substance.

Wide receiver Michael Thomas likely won’t be ready for the start of the 2021 regular season after ankle surgery in June that Saints head coach Sean Payton noted should have happened sooner.

This past week, Payton acknowledged the NFL discipline could be on the horizon for return specialist and wide receiver Deonte Harris, who was arrested in Baltimore for suspicion of Driving Under the Influence.

The 2021 campaign was already shaping up to be an uphill climb, with the retirement of quarterback Drew Brees and a less formidable payroll slashing to get under the salary cap.

So, how the do the Saints overcome?

I have heard a ton of speculation, saying the club must be conservative and count on being able to run the football. After all, the Saints have invested heavily in draft picks up front.

So, just give the ball to Alvin Kamara, eat clock, shorten the game and win. Could it be that simple?

To me, the only way the Saints have a big year – as in, a season that ends up in the playoffs – is if one of their quarterbacks, Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston, steps up and plays extremely well.

It is easy to see why the Saints like Winston.

In practice, he looks like the first pick in the draft six years ago. He’s tall, athletic, with some mobility, and can make every one of the throws.

Every once in a while, Winston will hit you with that wow moment.

Hill is a bit more subtle. He doesn’t ‘wow’ you in practice because one of his biggest strengths, tucking the football and running – isn’t a practice option.

One of the two will have to step up their game considerably.

Pro Football Almanac says the Saints are headed for a precipitous drop. Since NFL free agency in 1993, the Saints will be the 10th different franchise to replace a quarterback who played at least 10 seasons with them and is or certainly will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Almanac says that such teams won collectively 4.3 less games than the previous year.

No one expects Winston or Hill to play at the level of Brees but if the Saints can’t get consistent play from their quarterbacks, there will be more pressure on Kamara and a New Orleans defense that was outstanding a year ago.

Regardless, 2021 is looking like a difficult journey.

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Ed Daniels

WGNO Sports Director/106.1 FM

Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…

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