Continuing our series of offseason opponent breakdowns following the 2022 schedule release, theRams.com examines Los Angeles' Week 11 road opponent, the New Orleans Saints (Nov. 20, 10 a.m. PT, FOX).
For the Saints, the 2021 season marked the first in life after quarterback Drew Brees, who retired following the 2020 season. Brees led New Orleans' offense for 15 seasons; now, they would be relying on a combination of Taysom Hill and 2015 No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston.
That approach, not to mention All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas missing the entire 2021 season due to nagging ankle injuries – led to mixed results.
While the Saints offense scored 21 or more points in 10 of their 18 games, it produced the fifth-fewest total yards of offense per game (304.5) by the end of the regular season and ranked 14th in scoring average (21.4 points per game). That uneven performance made it difficult to complement its defense – which ended the regular season allowing the seventh-fewest total yards (318.2) and fourth-fewest points per game (19.7) – and also led to challenges toward the end of the regular season.
Owning an 8-8 record heading into Week 18, New Orleans needed a win over the Falcons and a 49ers loss to the Rams to get into the playoffs. While they accomplished the former, they got no help from the Rams on the latter, as the 49ers won to remain in the postseason picture. The Saints finished 9-8, out of the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
Most significantly, Sean Payton stepped down as head coach on Jan. 25 after 16 seasons. Two weeks later, the team replaced Payton by promoting defensive coordinator Dennis Allen.
Meanwhile, New Orleans will have Hill – who was used as a do-it-all utility player last year – "focus" on playing tight end. With the Saints not acquiring a new quarterback in free agency or the draft, that move effectively installed Winston – who was re-signed to a two-year deal this offseason – as the Saints' starter.
Those would not be the only adjustments to the offense.
Terron Armstead, their starting left tackle for the last eight seasons, departed in free agency and signed a five-year deal with the Dolphins. The Saints also signed former Browns and Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
In the draft, New Orleans further reinforced its passing attack by trading up with the Washington Commanders to acquire the No. 11 pick, which they used on Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave. They used their other first-round pick (No. 19 overall) on Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning, who primarily started at left tackle in college.
On defense, veteran defensive back Malcolm Jenkins retired, but New Orleans also went out and signed veteran defensive back Tyrann Mathieu to a 3-year deal.
Allen enters his first season as head coach of the Saints and fourth overall as an NFL head coach; he also spent three years as head coach of the then-Oakland Raiders from 2012-14, compiling an 8-28 overall record.
What to watch for
Rams defense vs. revamped Saints offense
Similar to the Panthers in Week 6, the Rams defense will get a crack at another NFC South team with an offense expected to be an improvement over its 2021 iteration.
Thomas, Landry and Olave will make for a formidable late-season challenge for the Rams' secondary. And Pro Bowl running back Alvin Kamara can't be ignored, either.
Provided all of those components stay healthy, it should be an exciting matchup at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.