NFL.com‘s writer, Chris Wesseling, rates the New Orleans Saints as the “Top Offense” in the National Football League. The Patriots, Steelers, Falcons, and Chargers respectively complete his list of the top five offenses. Here are his grades for the Saints:
1) New Orleans Saints
Quarterback: A- | Drew Brees, Tom Savage, Taysom Hill, J.T. Barrett
The scouting report suggests Brees’ declining arm strength is an issue downfield, yet he continues to be one of the most effective deep passers in the league. Buoyed by an explosive ground attack, he’s a perennial MVP candidate until we see evidence to the contrary.
If there’s a weakness on Sean Payton’s offense, it’s the depth chart at quarterback. After Deshaun Watson directed Houston to a five-game stretch as the highest-scoring unit in the league last October, Savage’s offense finished 30th in Football Outsiders’ weighted DVOA, a metric that reflects how the team was playing later in the season. If Brees goes down, the Saints can kiss their Super Bowl hopes goodbye.
Backfield: A+ | Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara, Trey Edmunds, Jonathan Williams, Boston Scott, Zach Line
Unseating Atlanta’s Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman as the NFL’s most productive and well-rounded backfield tandem, Ingram and Kamara combined for more than 3,000 yards from scrimmage and 25 touchdowns last year. Unlike previous iterations in New Orleans, there’s no telegraphing of plays due to niche skill sets. A tackle-breaking inside runner, Ingram has improved his receiving ability enough to remain in the game on key passing downs. Although it’s hard to find a bigger mismatch than Kamara in the receiving game, he’s also a strong enough runner to move the chains against base defenses on early downs.
Receiving corps: B+ | Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr., Cameron Meredith, Brandon Coleman, Tommylee Lewis, Tre’Quan Smith, Austin Carr, Ben Watson (TE), Josh Hill (TE)
Thomas is a prototypical No. 1 “X” receiver, capable of drawing and beating double teams. He does his best work on third downs as Brees’ go-to target. Even at age 33, Ginn has the rare speed to take the top off a defense as a deep threat. Signed away from the Bears, Meredith is a wild card returning from ACL surgery. If he regains 2016 form, this could be one of the best wide-receiver groups of the Payton-Brees era.
Kamara and the wideouts are strong enough to compensate for a lackluster cast of characters at tight end. The Saints made it a priority to upgrade on free-agent bust Coby Fleener, only to settle for the homecoming of Watson. Once among the most athletic tight ends in football, the 37-year-old is no longer a playmaking threat after the catch.
Offensive line: A- | Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, Max Unger, Larry Warford, Ryan Ramczyk, Jermon Bushrod, Rick Leonard, Bryce Harris
More ink is spilled on the Cowboys’ celebrated offensive line than all other blocking units combined. When this unit is healthy, though, it takes a back seat to no one. It all came together last season, with Peat moving inside to guard, Warford arriving to jump-start the running game and Ramczyk solidifying the pass protection at right tackle. Armstead has All-Pro potential on Brees’ blind side.