The New Orleans Saints have question marks on offense heading into the 2022 season, but they continue to boast the potential to field a smothering defense.
From a front led by Cameron Jordan, Marcus Davenport, David Onyemata and Shy Tuttle, to a linebacker corps highlighted by stud Demario Davis, to a secondary boasting Marshon Lattimore, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and new safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye, there isn't a glaring hole in Dennis Allen's defense.
Joining NFL Network's Good Morning Football on Friday, CJGJ was asked if the Saints sport the best defense in the NFL.
"Of course, I mean from first level, second level, third level," Gardner-Johnson said. "I mean, you got Cam and the front to pop it off, Shy (Tuttle), Marcus Davenport. Then you got Demario in the middle calling all the shots. ... You saw what they were doing last year with ... Pete [Werner], [Kaden] Elliss, all those guys in the middle. Then the back end, bringing in the Honey Badger (Mathieu). We just had a Super Bowl safety, two-time Super Bowl safety (Malcolm Jenkins), now we are bringing in another hometown hero, won a Super Bowl, Pro Bowler. So he knows, and we know what to expect. We're just going to go out there and dominate and take advantage of the opportunity. Cause all this talent, why not? Can't waste it."
Of course, Johnson is going to suggest the Saints have the best D. What else is he supposed to say?
In 2021, the Saints ranked fourth in points per game (19.7), fourth in rush yards allowed (93.5), fourth in opposing passer rating (81.7) seventh in total yards allowed (318.2), and first in opponent red zone percent (43.5).
New Orleans put up those numbers despite propping up an offense that did it no favors. Even a mid-level offense in 2022 could allow the Saints D to be in more advantageous spots to be even better.
The key to Allen's team remaining one of the top D's in the NFL as he moves from DC to head coach will be Mathieu and Maye taking over for former safeties Marcus Williams (Ravens) and Jenkins (retired). Williams was a keystone for Allen's ability to run multiple sets. Mathieu brings similar ability and a bulldog mentality that will mesh well with his hometown team. Maye, if fully healthy coming off an Achilles injury, also provides range and playmaking on the back end.
If all the pieces meld together and the young players like Davenport, Payton Turner, Werner, and others develop into playmakers, CJGJ will be proven correct.