The New Orleans Saints were 5-2 last season before Jameis Winston went down with a torn ACL and things began to go downhill from there. To the credit of Sean Payton and the defense, the Saints were able to avoid complete disaster and finish 9-8, but did not qualify for the playoffs.
Entering 2022, Sean Payton has retired, and defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has taken over. Allen gets a second go around at being a head coach after a disastrous tenure from 2012-2014 in Oakland during which his Raiders went 8-28. But nearly a decade later, surely Allen has learned a lot since then.
In addition to Allen’s likely growth as a coach, the personnel should be better in 2022 than it was in 2021. A healthy Jameis Winston returns, Michael Thomas should be back, and the Saints spent a first round pick on WR Chris Olave out of Ohio State to try to add some potency to this offense.
We know the defense will be elite, it was elite in 2021, and the Saints went 9-8 while starting a combination of Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian, and Ian Book at QB. The ceiling of this team will be determined entirely by just how good this offense can be. All of the sudden, with injuries along the offensive line in Tampa Bay, the division seems within reach.
So when trying to determine a ceiling and floor for the Saints in 2022, it is hard not to be optimistic. Of course, you can’t discount the loss of Sean Payton, who has been one of the very best coaches in the league for a long time. The argument can certainly be made that the Saints had no business winning 9 games in 2021 and that Payton was an instrumental part of getting them there.
But having studied under Payton since 2015, I have to think that a big part of the reason the Saints hired Dennis Allen was to ensure the smoothest transition possible out of the Sean Payton era. Don’t forget, during the Saints 9-0 defensive domination of the Buccaneers last December, Payton was out with COVID and it was Allen who led the Saints to the victory in Tampa Bay.
I think a good floor in an everything goes horrible and Dennis Allen was not ready to take this team over type situation is seven wins. But if everything goes right, the offense reaches its full potential, Winston has a good season, and Allen is ready, there is no reason to think that this team is not capable of winning 12 games and giving Tampa Bay a serious challenge to win the NFC South.