The New Orleans offensive skill positions are developing into one of the NFL’s best. Before September, head coach Dennis Allen will evaluate three positions on offense that have question marks ahead of fielding a 53-man roster.
Andrus Peat’s injury history and Cesar Ruiz’s sporadic play are concerns at the guard position.
Peat restructured his 5-year, $57.5M contract to create $8M in cap space for the Saints in 2022. Also, New Orleans converted $9.73M of Peat’s salary into a fully guaranteed roster bonus. Peat, 28, is the Saints’ 2015 first-round draft pick and performed well with former left tackle Terron Armstead on the left side of the offensive line.
2022 will be different for Peat. Sean Payton stepped down, Armstead is in Miami, new left tackle Trevor Penning is a rookie, and Dennis Allen is the new sheriff in town. Whereas changes occurred, Peat’s veteran presence in New Orleans makes him the elder statesman of the unit. Albeit, he must stay healthy and available. Last season’s pectoral injury after six contests was problematic in maintaining continuity along the offensive line. NFL injuries are volatile and difficult to gauge per player.
Peat must stay on the field for New Orleans to make a run in 2022-23.
On the right side, guard Cesar Ruiz has to bring it in 2022. His sophomore campaign was uneven at best. Blown assignments and missed blocks were a few noticeable issues with the former first-round pick.
Can he improve? Yes. Now could be a good time for New Orleans to consider signing or trading for a veteran swing offensive linemen to backup Peat and Ruiz.
The current backups are versatile with “Calvin Throckmorton, Forest Lamp, Ethan Greenidge, and James Hurst (should he not win the starting job at left tackle),” SNN’s Bob Rose said.
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Tight End Position
In 2021, the tight end position was inconsistent.
Taysom Hill transitions from Sean Payton’s all-purpose Swiss Army knife to a full-time tight end under Dennis Allen. Hill is a match-up nightmare for linebackers and most nickel defensive backs. Sitting behind Taysom are veterans Adam Trautman, Nick Vannett, JP Holz, and Juwan Johnson. Ethan Wolf and Dylan Soehner were released on Friday, May 3. Lucas Krull (Pitt) and Kyland Richey (Jackson State) battle for a training camp spot at rookie minicamp.
Both Johnson and Trautman were new NFL tight ends and contributed with first down grabs and touchdowns but mainly were erratic. Their growth during training camp as an extra playmaker for Jameis Winston will be significant for the position.
Vannett and Holz are better blockers than receivers. Krull and Richey are heavy guys at 250+ pounds, but both have soft hands and run good routes. It will be interesting to see if one or both tight ends advance past rookie minicamp.
Running Back Position
The uncertainty of having Alvin Kamara for the full complement of games in 2022-23 is an issue. His legal troubles in Vegas have no clarity, and the NFL may intercede with a suspension before or during the upcoming season. The 12-year veteran body of Mark Ingram can only dish out and take so much punishment in an 18-week season that finding a reliable running back is a priority.
Second-year Notre Dame running back Tony Jones Jr. is a candidate at backup. New Orleans has seven-year rusher Dwayne Washington, but his actual value is on special teams.
Taysom Hill could be an interesting wild card for Pete Carmichael; still, the Saints are looking at newbie Abram Smith (Baylor) during rookie minicamp. Smith is a 221-pound bruiser who rushed for 1,601 yards in 14 games last season. He wasn’t asked to catch from the backfield at Baylor, but we know it’s a critical asset for a Saints running back.
Expect Mickey Loomis and Dennis Allen to address these positions before training camp begins in August. The Saints’ OTAs will be on May 24-26, May 31-June 2, June 7-10, and the mandatory minicamp starts June 14-16.