Why Chauncey Gardner Johnson is the Saints X Factor

Chauncey Gardner Johnson is the Saints x factor in 2022

By: Jeremy Trottier

The New Orleans Saints have had quite the odd year overall.  From mounting COVID-19 cases across the team to set the record for most starters ever used in a season to injuries piling up weekly and almost all their playmakers going down at one point or another.  Yet with all of this, the Saints are still in contention for the playoffs with a win this Sunday and a Rams win against the 49ers.  This has been the product of many players, however the most notable at this moment is Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.  The nickel CB/safety has been an absolute monster on the field this season and arguably has looked the best he ever has in his short NFL career.

In this article, I will be going over three reasons as to why Chauncey is one of the most impactful players on this Saints team.  Also, I will be covering why this impact led to the Saints still being an average team this year, despite the piling up of player losses all year.

Competitive Fire/Talk

The thing everyone knows Chauncey for is his trash talk and competitive spirit on the field.  If he makes a big play, he will always let you know.  If he thinks he is having a good day, he will tell the player he is covering.  This is something that really gets into the head of players, and we have seen on numerous occasions where his trash talk led to a fight or verbal altercation.  We saw it against the Bears with Javon Wims having an issue with him twice in two separate games, it is also just noticeable on a game-to-game basis where players get fed up with his talking and are not as effective.

Why is this a positive for the Saints?  It gets into the head of the opponent and makes them think more about his talking rather than focusing on the game and task at hand.  He also draws penalties/ejections in some cases such as with Wims, as they get so annoyed with him that they will start a fight.  There is not too much downside to this either as trash talk is not a taunting penalty (at least as of yet) so he can do it without getting penalized.

Big Play Capability

The second major factor that makes Chauncey so valuable to the Saints is his ability to make “the big play” during each game.  He has been filling the stat sheets to the fullest extend this season and has one of nearly every single statistic accounted for at his position.  So far, prior to week 18, he has accumulated the following (in 11 games played and 10 started):

  • 3 interceptions for 45 yards and 6 passes deflected
  • 2 sacks, 4 QB hits, 5 pressures
  • 42 total tackles (29 solo 13 assisted) and 4 tackles for loss
  • 66.3 passer rating when targeted, 171 air yards allowed, and only 1 touchdown allowed

All of his interceptions have come in divisional games this season, picking off Tom Brady twice and Sam Darnold once.  The two divisional games the Saints have lost this season were games where Chauncey did not play or missed most of the game while being 3-0 so far in the division with him having a high snap count.  Overall, this shows how impactful he can be to the team and its success.

Team & Roster Fit

Finally, one of the best parts about Chauncey on the Saints is how well he fits with the other players on the roster.  With Marshon Lattimore, Bradley Roby, and Paulson Adebo locking up the outside corner spots, having a premier slot corner is almost a necessity to complete the secondary, and Chauncey fills that role exceptionally.  The other portion is his flexibility to safety, as the Saints safety room could be coming to an end in the near future. 

With Marcus Williams on a contract season and potentially becoming a free agent this offseason, the Saints could lose him in favor of paying Jameis Winston instead due to their cap concerns.  Even with GM Mickey Loomis, they have a lot of players to pay, and only so much money to utilize.  On the other side as well, Malcolm Jenkins has been phenomenal for the Saints, playing relatively well against his opponents, however, he is up there in age, and the Saints will need a future safety eventually.  With this, Chauncey’s experience at safety in college will be a boon to the Saints roster as they can shift him there when needed.

Saints defense is really an elite unit

Marshon Lattimore leads a scary Saints defense

By: Jake Rajala

Every individual that has heard of the sport called American Football predicted the Green Bay Packers to win their Week 1 matchup against the “rebuilding” New Orleans Saints. Many analysts even suggested that Packers would win and it wouldn’t even be a close matchup.  Well, what exactly happened? 

The Saints, who were without Michael Thomas, Bradley Roby, and Will Lutz, went into the matchup and absolutely mopped the floor against the loaded NFC favorite in the Green Bay Packers. The Saints wounded up unveiling 38 points and allowing a mere three points against the 2020 MVP Aaron Rodgers

So, does that mean that the Saints team was very underlooked heading into the matchup and it’s time to give them a boatload of credit? The answer to that is apparently not. Instead of handing the Saints its true due, countless national sports outlets just state the Saints “played well” or the “Saints were the more prepared team”. They will go on to state the narrative that Rodgers was sluggish and just happened to have the “worst game of his career” because he didn’t show up until training camp. At the same time, many of these analysts believe/admit A-Rod will quickly turn things around in Week 2. 

I don’t see the national crystal ball reasoning behind Rodgers’s absence as a major factor in his horrid performance. It’s fun and easy to poke at Rodgers’s new mantra and the fact that he was reluctant to be a Packer for much of the offseason. However, it wasn’t like Rodgers took a plane from Hawaii to Jacksonville in early September. The former MVP has been in sync with the Packers for many weeks already. Also, this new idea of “not showing up until training camp” correlated with a disastrous Week 1 performance didn’t become a thought until Aaron Rodgers came along. I believe many people are taking the combination of taking the opportunity to jab at the polarizing QB and not admitting they were wrong about the Saints. It also could be said that the Saints couldn’t have played any better against Aaron Rodgers to garner the large praise they deserve, simply because they couldn’t have played any better.

I actually believe that Rodgers isn’t a large portion of the blame and that the Saints defense will go down as the top unit that Rodgers will have faced this season (barring a second matchup). Here is why the Saints defense deserves a significant approval rating and why the unpopular Rodgers truly faced a wall in Week 1. 

  • Marcus Williams and Marshon Lattimore

Remember the Saints historically great draft class in 2017? Well, profiles like Marshon Lattimore, Alvin Kamara, Marcus Williams, and Trey Hendrickson were all taken by the great organization. Well, I believe some of these players that actually found great success early on in their careers, are just evolving into their prime selves in year five. Most notably, the Saints CB Marshon Lattimore and Saints FS Marcus Williams seemed to have transformed into more talented studs. 

Marcus Williams had one of the best plays of his career in Week 1 against Aaron Rodgers. The Packers future Hall of Fame QB actually got Williams to play towards Adams’s side of the field on a deep passing route, which led to Rodgers quickly turning and unleashing a bomb to Marquez Valdes – Scantling. Williams managed to allow Rodgers to believe he had him falling for a pass intended to Adams, but managed to see Scantling go deep down the field and trace back to make a great play on the field. In live-action, it seems like Rodgers just threw a prayer, but it was a route combination that GB practiced and Williams truly made an outstanding play on the football field. This is the same Willams that Payton has called a very smart football player and safety that showed his athletic ability at the NFL combine (top vertical jump, third in broad jump). 

We know Williams had a great Week 1 showcase, but Marshon Lattimore was also very stout in a day that would also turn to be a huge payday. On a 4th downplay, Lattimore beautifully broke up a pass against one of the top WRs in Davante Adams. Lattimore routinely shut down Adams and when he missed a drive, his value to the defense showed, as GB marched up and down the field. Thankfully, Lattimore returned and his value resurfaced in the game. Saints will also have the prominent CB Bradley Roby in the fold moving forward.

  • Saints LB tandem 

The Saints found one of the all-time FA (free agent) gems in Demario Davis a few years back and he continues to make the case as one of the game’s best LBs. Davis has been ranked as the top LB by PFF in the past and he’s arguably the best LB against the run in the league. He’s a huge reason why the Saints can play two safeties on the back end against elite passing offenses and hold up against the run. He now also introduces the pre-game speeches with Brees out of the locker room. 

We know Davis is a Top 100 football player in the NFL, but re-signing Kwon Alexander to pair with him was a very underrated move. If the Saints didn’t acquire one of the fastest LBs in the league, there may have been a few more first downs picked up last week by the Packers offense. Then who knows what the Packers could have done with a stronger rhythm. Alexander was able to chase down not only Jones from a few yards away and hold him from picking up a first, but he was making great plays on WRs in the open space. When Alexander is healthy, the Saints have one of the best 1-2 punches at the LB position. 

  • DL Depth

The Saints didn’t have David Onymeta and no longer have Sheldon Rankins (despite Rankins usually being MIA), but the DL had a strong performance against Rodgers. Sure, the Packers were missing interior OL and didn’t really attack the Saints DTs. Yet, when the Saints DL was tested at various spots and on occasion, the Saints held up in defensive trenches. As mentioned, the Saints are reaping the benefits of already solid young players taking that next step. It was easy to witness 2018 first-round draft pick Saints DE Marcus Davenport growing into full form, as he had a sack and TFL against GB. Davenport will miss a few weeks with an injury, but he will be back for the majority of the season, and for the crucial game matchups against Tom Brady. 

Outside of Davenport taking the next step, the Saints have numerous playmakers on the DL. The veteran Cam Jordan showed he still has a lot of gas left in the tank as he essentially quickly pressured and forced Aaron Rodgers into throwing his first INT of the game. The Saints also reaped benefits from first-year Saint Tanoh Kpassagnon, who managed to get home on a pass rush when the Saints just sent three down linemen at the QB. Then there is even one other pass rusher that is left to attack QBs: Saints 2021 first-round draft pick Payton Turner. The Saints will undoubtedly have the best edge-rushing rotation when Turner sees the field moving forward and when Davenport returns from his minor injury for the large chunk of the season. The Saints ferocious pass rush will truly continue to prove to complement the back end quite well in all of 2021.

Why the Saints are still Super Bowl contenders

Saints roster is still very talented

By: Reese Nasser

The New Orleans Saints could be one of the most intriguing teams heading into this upcoming season. The team returning will be very similar to the team that won the NFC South for the past four seasons and finished 2020 with a 12-4 record. 

There is just one glaring difference for this team heading into 2021; longtime quarterback Drew Brees is now retired. After leading the Saints since 2006, the QB1 decided to call it a career. The 13-time pro bowl quarterback had a career that will cement him among some of the greatest ever. But the Saints may be ready for life post-Brees. 

In the past two seasons, Brees missed nine games. In those nine games, New Orleans had a record of 8-1. They have proved that they are capable of still winning games without Brees and this upcoming season will be where they fully get to showcase that. 

The Saints will be a competitive team in 2021. The culture that they have created within the team will allow for nothing less. New Orleans could be a super bowl contender this season. Here’s why. 

Talented Defense

The Saints have a defense with veterans at every level. With Cameron Jordan leading the defensive line, Demario Davis leading the linebackers, and Malcolm Jenkins leading the secondary, this defense has capable playmakers at every point. 

The group that they have assembled is proven and will be nearly identical in 2021. They finished last season allowing 310 yards per game and 21.06 points per game, ranking fourth and fifth in both categories. They held opponents to less than 20 points on six occasions last season. 

If the defense is able to play at the same level as they did last season, this team will have a fighting chance in any game that they play in. An above average defense can also be enough to get a team to a SuperBowl appearance. That has been seen throughout NFL history. 

Top Offensive-Line

The New Orleans offensive line is one of the best in the NFL. Led by Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramcyzk, the Saints have put out a group that has been consistent for years. 

When running on all gears, this is arguably the NFL’s best group in the trenches. An elite offensive line can take a team far. And it can help diminish the other problems that the offense may have. 

Star wide receiver Michael Thomas may miss significant time due to off-season surgery. If Thomas is out for sometime, this offense could struggle in the beginning. Losing a player of Thomas’s caliber and having younger wideouts in a position where they have to make a play could be an issue for this offense. The o-line being able to hold blocks and let plays develop could keep this offensive unit alive at points. 

Alvin Kamara

Running back Alvin Kamara could be the x-factor for this team. His offensive presence alongside the elite offensive line could take this team far. 

Kamara has proven to be one of the most versatile players in the NFL. He reached the end zone 16 times on the ground and another five times through the air. His 21 touchdowns led the NFL. 

It would come at no shock if Kamara has a similar workload in 2021. This Saints team could go as far as their veteran running back takes them. If he is able to play at a high level, as he has for most of his career, he could be the leagues best running back this season. 

While a Super Bowl appearance could be slim to none, this team could still be competitive and at least have a fighting chance. Having a reliable defense, a top offensive line, and a star running back, paired with a veteran quarterback in Jameis Winston, this team will always have a fighting chance. Don’t count the Saints out in 2021. 

Why the Saints could have the best edge rushing rotation in the NFL

New Orleans Saints training camp preview

By: Jeremy Trottier

The New Orleans Saints have had a relatively interesting offseason, between clearing cap space by cutting players, to extending Ryan Ramczyk, to their draft prospects.  With that said, one of the positions on the defense that is most solidified right now is defensive end, between Cam Jordan, Marcus Davenport, and Payton Turner as the top rotation.  In this article, I will be going over each of these three players, as we could see a duo of any mix of them, as well as what they contribute to this unit as a whole.

Cam Jordan

The veteran of the group, Cam Jordan, is going into his 11th season of his career, and has not had a season of under 7.5 sacks since his rookie year.  Despite having a relatively quiet year last season on the stat sheet, his productivity as a player cannot be understated, as he caused a lot of QB pressures, hurries, and hits.  He had 16 QB hits, 26 pressures, and 8 QB knockdowns.  He also took some of the pressure off Trey Hendrickson, as he would often take on two offensive linemen at once which freed up the rest of the line to provide pressure.

Cam Jordan will be vital in teaching the other two edge rushers we are looking at in the article today, as he has a huge deal of experience in the league.  He also says he is feeling, “more rejuvenated than ever” ahead of the 2021-2022 season, which is a huge deal as his mentality is another thing he brings to the roster.  He is the “hype man” of the front four for New Orleans and having him believing in himself that he is the best he has ever been is great news. 

Payton Turner

The Saints 2021 first round pick from Houston, Payton Turner, is one of the more interesting prospects from this draft class.  He fits exactly what the Saints are looking for with players, fantastic physical profile who can produce at multiple positions, hence why they drafted him so early.  At 6’6” 268 pounds, with an 83 inch wingspan and 10.5 inch hands, he has a very good frame for the Saints to build off of, and teach him the nuances of NFL level defensive line.  

One of the most impressive things to note is Payton Turner outperformed himself statistically in 2020 in a lot of categories…but Houston only played less than half the games they normally do due to Covid (five games).  He had 10.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, a forced fumble, and 25 total tackles.  This is an absolutely phenomenal statline for so few games played, and shows Turner has the capability to produce due to his athletic traits.

Marcus Davenport

Another Saints first round pick, but in 2018, we wrap the list up with Marcus Davenport.  Another DE with a fantastic frame at 6’6” 265 pounds, and is still only 24 years of age, 25 by the start of the 2021-2022 season.  The main issue Davenport has to date is injuries, it seems like every time he really starts to produce he goes down and we do not see him again for awhile.  Just to list off his injuries since his draft year, here they are:

  • 2018 – Thumb fracture, had surgery prior to season, no games missed
  • 2018 – Toe sprain on right foot, 3 games missed
  • 2019 – Foot fracture (Lisfranc fracture), season ending surgery after week 14
  • 2020 – Elbow bruising, missed three games and practices prior to season
  • 2020 – Pedal toe sprain – missed week 4 

However, when he is not injured he has been an absolute monster in the games he started.  In 2019 when he started 13 games, he had 6 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 16 QB hits, 17 pressures, 6 QB knockdowns, and 9 hurries.  If he starts this season or even splits with Payton Turner, and if he stays healthy, he will most definitely contribute to this front-seven without a doubt.  

The Saints defense is still top 5 in the league

Saints defense will be elite in 2021

By: Jeremy Trottier

With the NFL offseason finally starting to finish up, and training camps opening shortly, many teams are close to finishing their rosters.  With that said, the New Orleans Saints are one team that had a huge amount of losses due to cap, primarily on the defensive side of the ball.  However, there are still quite a few reasons their defense could remain top five in the league, despite these hits to the 53 man roster.

In this article, I will be going over the three main reasons this New Orleans defense should remain top five in the league.  

The Core is Still Intact

The main thing that needs to be realized by fans of the NFL, and the Saints, is that the main pieces of this defense are still here.  Even after losing starting-caliber players during the offseason, the Saints have such an extreme depth at most positions that they already had roles being filled before the draft.  Here is a list of the primary players that the Saints have moved on from this offseason, and their likely replacements:

  • Kwon Alexander (LB) – Pete Werner
  • Janoris Jenkins (CB) – Paulson Adebo
  • Trey Hendrickson (DE) – Marcus Davenport or Payton Turner
  • Sheldon Rankins (IDL) – Malcolm Roach or Shy Tuttle
  • Alex Anzalone (LB) – Zack Baun

Overall right now, the Saints defensive roster is very young at a lot of the positions that needed to be filled.  This will be great for New Orleans, as they have needed a 2017 esc draft class where they got a huge deal of starting players all in one class.  An infusion of youth is always nice as well as they will be less injury prone and have the potential to get better as the season goes on.

Coaching is Primarily the Same

The Saints defense is very, very reliant upon its coaching capabilities, and it has been ever since it got effective in 2016 or so.  With DC Dennis Allen still running the show, he will likely be able to use a lot of these young players to their strengths and play them in the best scenario possible.  An interesting note to watch this offseason was the replacement of DBs coach, who is now Kris Richard.  

The reason this is interesting is Kris worked in Seattle during the legion of boom as a DBs coach and coached another relatively tall, 190 pounds, non-first-round Stanford CB by the name of Richard Sherman.  Paulson Adebo fits all of those categories, despite being slightly shorter than Sherman is.  If anyone is going to draw the potential out of Paulson and get him to turn into a lockdown CB on the field, its Kris.  

One more coach who is a primary in the Saints defense is defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen.  The Saints have had six different defensive linemen have had multi-sack games during his tenure, and was the primary reason the Saints had one of the longest streaks not allowing an 100-yard rusher going into the 2020 season.  With young d-linemen such as Payton Turner, Carl Granderson, Shy Tuttle, and even Marcus Davenport in the building, his experience cannot go under the radar.

The Blend of Veteran Leadership and Rookie Mentality

As I mentioned previously, the Saints have quite a few young players on the defensive side of the ball.  With that in mind, they also have veteran players to balance that youth out and to help them develop their mindsets to fit in the NFL.  To name a player at each level, you have Cam Jordan at d-line (10 seasons in the league), Demario Davis at linebacker (9 seasons in the league), and in the secondary Malcolm Jenkins (12 seasons in the league).

These players who have experience within the league, as well as within the Saints system, should really help develop the young players on the roster quickly.  The faster the rookies and young players develop, the better the defense becomes as the talent moves along.  This is a huge deal, as teams who are all younger players or all older players tend to not have high level play normally.  

Explaining why Payton Turner was the right pick

Saints Payton Turner was the perfect pick

The New Orleans Saints selected Payton Turner with the 28th overall pick in the 2021 draft. Most of Who Dat Nation found this pick to be puzzling, as they were rumored to be seeking a starting cornerback opposite Marshon Lattimore. I don’t find this pick surprising, nor do I believe it’s concerning. 

The Saints came into the offseason with an attitude of maintaining a championship-level roster. They may have lost a few players in free agency, but they opted to heavily invest in the QB position after Brees retired while retaining a prime player in the secondary (Marcus Williams) — despite being dead last in the NFL in cap space. Headed into the draft, the Saints were rumored to be looking for a trade-up in the draft, despite holding the 28th pick. The Saints opted to select a highly talented edge player that they could “move around/play with” with vs reaching for a CB/WR. I believe that Turner was the right choice for the Saints and he will prove to be a long-lasting pass rusher for the Saints franchise. 

Here are the main reasons why the Saints struck gold with Turner:

The Saints bread and butter was a 3-headed monster from the DE position

The Saints had arguably the best trio of defensive ends in the NFL last season: Cam Jordan, Marcus Davenport, and Trey Hendrickson. In particular, Hendrickson was the ignition to the machine – leading the team in sacks (12.5). Not only was Hendrickson dominant, but he allowed Jordan and Davenport to get rest — this ultimately helped the pass rush as a unit. 

Now that the production of Hendrickson is gone, which was A LOT, they need to TRY and replace some of it. The Saints can’t rely on Davenport to be healthy, let alone take a massive step in production. So, they need another quality face in the QB chasing unit. Insert Payton Turner.

One of the things that’s fantastic about Turner is his versatility. The 6’6 260 DE has experience playing defensive tackle and that will allow Dennis Allen to get creative with Turner inside, while Davenport and Jordan are attacking off the edges. 

Cameron Jordan is 31 and Marcus Davenport has underperformed: Long term DEs? 

As stated above, the Saints boasted three prolific pass rushers in 2020. The alpha isn’t in a Saints uniform, but the other two remain on the roster. There are long term question marks with the talented starting DEs on the roster. Starting with Jordan, the former All-Pro posted his lowest sack total in 2020 (7.5) since 2016. His TFL count (11) was also his lowest tally since 2014. Jordan is a relentless player, but cracks are showing as father time catches up. 

Marcus Davenport holds the biggest question mark at the DE position and the team. The 6’6 270 edge player that clocks a 4.5 40 time hasn’t lived up to his draft stature, to say the least. Davenport has clocked 12 sacks in three seasons to show for his name. He’s also had trouble staying on the field — Davenport has missed a whopping 11 games in three seasons for the Saints. 

Turner provides lots of long-term potential to this unit that could easily be missing two more big-name DEs in the next two-three seasons.  If Davenport does show his talent on a consistent basis and Turner unveils to be a great asset, then the Saints found themselves a monster pass-rushing duo for many years to come.

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