The Saints Need an Offensive Heartbeat

Jan 10, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) before playing against the Chicago Bears in the NFC Wild Card game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Drew Brees era is over in New Orleans, and the offense is guaranteed to look different without the future Hall of Famer leading the way. It seems either the versatile Taysom Hill or the six-year veteran, Jameis Winston will take over at the quarterback position.

But who will be the true “heartbeat” of the Saints offense in the upcoming season? Here are a few candidates that could lead the way.

RB – Alvin Kamara

Kamara is no stranger to being an integral part of the offense. He led the Saints in points per game last season averaging around 8.4, and scoring 21 total touchdowns, with six coming in a single game against the Minnesota Vikings on Christmas day. 

During the four games that Brees missed in 2020 due to injury, Kamara was given the ball 50 times on the ground for 237 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also caught 10 passes for 51 yards through the air, proving he can make plays even without a top-tier starting QB in the lineup.

With a team that fans could expect to see run the ball more in 2021 and a runner who averages 5.0 yards per carry, the four-time Pro Bowler could easily be the top playmaker.

WR – Michael Thomas

Last season was a struggle for Michael Thomas as he dealt with an ankle injury for the majority of the year. He played only 7 games in which he caught 438 yards, with his lone touchdown coming off of a one-yard rush in a playoff game against the Chicago Bears.

Don’t let last season’s stats fool you. In 2019 Thomas set the single-season receptions record with 149. The same year he had over 1700 receiving yards, averaging 107.8 yards per game, by far the most in that category. If Thomas can get back to around the 907 snap count mark– which was average during his 3 Pro Bowl seasons — expect to see production similar to that which we saw pre-injury.

With a full, healthy season, and some chemistry with either Hill or Winston, Thomas can once again be the “go-to” guy in New Orleans.

RT – Ryan Ramczyk

Ryan Ramczyk is possibly the most important piece to the Saints’ offense. Last season he played 97% of the team’s offensive snaps and has allowed only 3 sacks in the last two seasons. Protecting the quarterback should the number one priority in the NFL, especially if you’re the Saints, who still have a few question marks surrounding the position heading into the season. Ramczyk allows a pressure rate of 4.0%, which is third-best in the NFL.

One aspect of Ramcyk that is also worth note is that he is durable. In his four-year NFL career, Ryan has missed only one game and has started the other 63 he has been in. Considering his snap count has never reached below 95%, it’s impressive he can remain as healthy as he has been able to.

If his 5th year is nearly as good as his first 4, and the pressure rate allowed can remain low, Ramcyk may just be the piece that makes the offense flow.

QB – Jameis Winston

Winston should be the starting quarterback in 2021. However, as mentioned above, that is yet to be determined. 

Winston’s entire career has been full of highs and lows, including his last season as the starter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That year Jameis threw for a league-leading 5109 yards, 30 touchdowns, and… wait for it… 33 interceptions. Yep, giving the ball away has haunted Winston during his career thus far, with a career interception percentage of 3.4%.

Now that the negatives are out of the way, here is the case for Jameis to be not only the starter but also the key piece to this Saints team. 

Drew Brees is one of the most accurate passers in NFL history with a completion percentage of 67.7% during his 20-year career. Winston being behind Brees in 2020 only could have helped improve not only his accuracy but his decision-making overall. We already know he is capable of tossing for a ton of yards and making a lot of touchdown passes, and there is still the possibility for a lot of good football out of the 27-year-old. Add in another off-season with head coach Sean Payton — a former college quarterback himself — and expect to see a completely new Jameis Winston. Smarter, more accurate, and a lot more fun to watch.