The New Orleans Saints will lean a lot on their defense this coming 2022 NFL season, and their secondary unit will be the anchor.
Through both free agency and the NFL Draft, New Orleans has done a good job this summer of improving several key areas. Though not technically finished, the Saints have finished the bulk of the labor-intensive work. There are undoubtedly several roster spots on the Saints that warrant worry as training camp draws near. These positions of concern include running back, tight end, and guard. On the other hand, in the lead-up to the regular season, the Saints can lean on the fact that their defense should be among the best in the league.
Looking back, the New Orleans Saints’ strongest position groupings at this time last year, except for the offensive line, were probably all on the defensive side of the ball. That trend continues this year, with the Saints counting their linebackers and secondary positions among their top strengths.
The Saints’ pass defense, in fact, was among the best in the NFL last season. They allowed only an 81.7 passer rating. That was the fifth-lowest in the league. This year, however, Malcolm Jenkins has retired and Marcus Williams left during free agency. As such, the Saints’ secondary will be a key position group to spotlight entering the new NFL season.
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Saints Key Position Group For 2022 NFL Season
Now, before the past few weeks, this would have just been cornerback, as the safety position looked like it’d be taking a huge step back with the losses of Williams and Jenkins.
That flipped when Tyrann Mathieu ended up joining his hometown team, and when the Saints paired him with free-agent addition Marcus Maye. These were terrific moves that re-injected strength into the team’s safety positions.
Two Nola boys back home. Saints Jarvis Landry and Tyrann Mathieu. pic.twitter.com/h0jDBQgvjH
— NFL Rumors (@nflrums) June 3, 2022
The fact that the Saints were able to completely overhaul their safeties for the next three seasons by getting Mathieu and Maye for less salary per year combined than Minkah Fitzpatrick and Jamal Adams make individually was one of the biggest free agency wins of the offseason. Even without Jenkins and Williams, there’s reason to believe New Orleans upgraded at safety.
As for cornerback, this is a position that in recent years has needed some help. Not this year, though. They are pretty loaded.
Marshon Lattimore leads the charge at the position along with Paulson Adebo, who had a nice rookie year. Pundits considered Lattimore the second-most valued cornerback last season. Meanwhile, Adebo’s second campaign ought to be even better. Fourth-year pro C.J. Gardner-Johnson could also slide over to the cornerback side of things after mostly playing safety the past three seasons. He actually allowed the second-lowest passer rating among slot corners last year.
Marshon Lattimore finished the 2021 season with 19 forced incompletions
That is the most in the NFL💪💪💪 pic.twitter.com/hq45tDP0NM
— PFF NO Saints (@PFF_Saints) May 5, 2022
In addition, the Saints drafted Alontae Taylor in the second round. He is another option to help out at cornerback. They also brought back P.J. Williams, who is no stranger to being moved around in the secondary.
That’s a lot of skill and depth in the secondary. It’s no wonder the Saints have been ranked pretty high at this position group so far by multiple pundits.
Having said that, there are a couple of caveats. Keep in mind that in each of the previous three seasons, Marcus Williams has received higher coverage grades than Tyrann Mathieu. For his part, Marcus Maye won’t have much of an early-season effect because of his Achilles’ recuperation. This means that there’s still room for improvement even in this strong position group for the Saints.
As things stand, though, the Saints’ secondary should still be considered among the major strengths of this team. Taken in the context of a pass-happy league, that’s very welcome news.