NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Saints begin their quest for another Super Bowl title when they open up the season Sunday against NFC South Rival Tampa Bay.
Game time for play in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is set for 3:25 p.m.
Tampa Bay will be an anomaly for New Orleans and the rest of the league as they come into the 2020 season with a brand new offensive mind set.
In the offseason, the Buccaneers acquired future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady and lured his go to tight end Rob Gronkowski out of retirement. Add to that the signing of former LSU Tiger and Jacksonville Jaguar running back Leonard Fournette, giving Tampa Bay a strong ground game to go with head coach Bruce Arians’ no risk, no reward offense.
Tampa Bay has one of the best wide receiver tandems in the NFL with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. The Buccaneers also return starting running back Ronald Jones II. The third year pro will likely be named the starter again this season until Fournette is able to work his way into the line-up.
Probably the biggest question mark for Tampa Bay on the offensive side of the ball is up front. The Buccaneer offensive line had a terrible year in 2019, allowing 47 sacks. Tampa Bay returns four of their five starters and will be helped by Brady’s ability to get the ball out of his hands quickly.
Defensively, Tampa Bay gets back most of the players that allowed a league best 7.38 yards per game on the ground. Leading the way for the Buccaneers is the return of linebacker Shaquil Barrett.
Barrett led the NFL in sacks with 19.5, forced six fumbles and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl last season. He will definitely be helped out with returning outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul and defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea.
A major concern for the Buccaneers is the lack of depth on the defensive line. The secondary, featuring returning corners Carlton Davis III and Jamel Dean, will be shored up with the addition of Minnesota Gopher draftee Antonio Wingfield, Jr.
New Orleans will have to counter the Buccaneers with some tough defense of their own. As of right now, talk is that the Saints may have one of their best defenses they have had in a number of years.
Last season, the New Orleans defense posted 51 sacks, the most in the Sean Payton era since 2001. The Saint defense has not allow a 100 yard rusher in 43 games, including the playoffs.
New Orleans will get back the services up front of Sheldon Rankins and Marcus Davenport, both of whom had injuries that kept them out of games in 2019.
Anchoring the defensive front will be Pro-Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan. The 10 year veteran had one of his best seasons in 2019 as he recorded 53 tackles, a career-high 15.5 sacks, ranked third in the NFL, and 16 tackles for loss.
Joining Jordan and Davenport up front will be nose tackle Malcolm Brown.
Demario Davis highlights a linebacking corps that features some solid players. Davis, the dependable and sure-tackling defender led the Saints in stops for the second straight season and was selected as an AP first-team All-Pro for the first time in 2019, posting 111 tackles, four sacks, and an interception.
New Orleans will have Alex Anzalone back at the middle linebacker position along with second year pro Kaden Ellis. The seventh round draft choice in 2019 has found a spot at the will linebacker slot after re-habing and injury last season.
Wisconsin draftee, Zach Braun may push Ellis at that position. Head coach Sean Payton has praised Braun’s advancement so far in camp.
The New Orleans secondary added a huge piece in the offseason when they welcomed back safety Malcolm Jenkins into the fold. Jenkins, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles the last six seasons, is only one of two safeties in franchise history to be named to the All-Pro team.
Jenkins will team up with Marcus Williams at the free safety position to sure up the back end of the defense.
Cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins round out the starting secondary for the Saints. Lattimore started all 14 games he played in and posted 57 stops, one interception and ranked first on the team with 14 passes defensed. Meanwhile, Jenkins, a late season pick up for New Orleans in 2019, has cemented himself in opposite Lattimore.
Offensively, the Saints appear to have a ton more talent than they may know what to do with. Despite being ranked fourth in offense last season, New Orleans picked up some valuable weapons for future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees.
In the offseason, the Saints acquired eleventh year pro Emmanuel Sanders. The former Steeler and Bronco, Sanders has been to three Super Bowls and brings a wealth of talent to the New Orleans receiving corps.
Sanders pairs up with one of the most prolific wide outs in the past four seasons, Michael Thomas. The former Ohio State Buckeye has caught 470 passes for 5,515 yards and 32 touchdowns, the most yards and receptions by a player in NFL history for his first four years.
The running game will remain solid once again this season as three time Pro-Bowl running back Alvin Kamara returns, this time as healthy as he ever was. Splitting time in the backfield with Kamara will be Latavius Murray, who joins the Saints for the second year in a row.
New Orleans picked up a big asset when they signed former Green Bay Packer Ty Montgomery. A dual threat in the running and passing game, Montgomery brings another wrinkle to Payton’s offensive genius.
New Orleans’ treasure chest of tight ends overflows with Jared Cook, Josh Hill and the newest addition, Adam Trautman. The former Dayton Flyer, Trautman has the body (6’5”, 253 lbs) to compete on the NFL level.
The offensive line for the Saints is considered one of the best in the business. With the addition of Michigan draft pick Ceasar Ruiz, New Orleans only gets better up front. Ruiz will join Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy and Ryan Ramczyk on the line in making sure the prolific offense does not sputter.
As far as quarterback goes, everyone knows that Brees is still the go to man for the Saints. But, in case something happens to Brees as it did last season, New Orleans has two guys that can step in and hopefully get the job done.
Those two guys are Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston. Hill, the so-called Swiss Army knife has worked his way into the No. 2 position at quarterback, while Winston, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer will provide veteran back-up leadership.
In terms of the kicking game, New Orleans is fortunate to have two of the best kicker in the game with punter Thomas Morestead and place kicker Will Lutz. The two have been steady parts of the Saints success and continue to do so.