The Tennessee Titans will see a very different New Orleans Saints team than the one they saw back in 2021. Derek Carr is now their quarterback and Alvin Kamara is suspended for the first three games. Michael Thomas is (reportedly) healthy. Chris Olave looks poised to be a breakout star this season.
Luke Hubbard of Canal Street Chronicles was nice enough to answer 5 questions about his Saints heading into the week 1 matchup. I did the same for him, so head over there to see his questions with my answers.
1. How will the offense look different this year with Derek Carr under center?
To say Derek Carr is a massive upgrade at QB from last season would be an understatement. Carr provides a stability at the QB position the Saints haven’t had since Brees retired two seasons ago. With Brees under center, the Saints loved to air the ball out every game, and I think they can return to that style of offense with Carr. The Saints offense is very similar to the one Carr ran with the Raiders for multiple seasons. In an interview this offseason he said it’s a lot of different words, but there’s a lot of similarities between the two offenses.
Carr also has more weapons this year in New Orleans than he ever did with the Raiders. With Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed, Juwan Johnson and Alvin Kamara, the passing game should be much more efficient than it was the previous two years. If Carr and Carmichael can get on the same page and the offense can stay healthy, I think they have a real shot of being a top-10 offense this season.
2. Chris Olave was great in his rookie season. What do you expect from him in year two?
A lot of people talk about how great Garrett Wilson was with Zach Wilson as his QB, but I think Olave has kind of slid under the radar in terms of what he did last year with Andy Dalton last year. Olave is a downfield threat, and for the most part, he was unable to unlock that part of his game due to the limitations Dalton put on the offense. Michael Thomas was supposed to be the Saints threat on short to medium routes, but once he got injured, Olave had to move into that role.
Now, if Thomas can stay healthy, Olave should be able to use his speed to get behind the defense more often. The play calling won’t be limited to short and intermediate routes as much as it was in 2022 and the Saints now have more playmakers to take the focus off Olave. I as well as most Saints fans have lofty expectations for Olave, and I think he’s ready to live up to those expectations with Carr under center.
If I had to make a stat line prediction for Olave this season, I would say anything under 1,200-yards and 6 TDs would be a disappointment if he can stay healthy.
3. Michael Thomas went from one of the best receivers in the world to a non-factor the last couple of years. What do you expect from him this season?
Thomas is such a hard player to evaluate this season. The past couple years it’s been the same story. ‘Thomas should be ready to go for the season’, then he suffers a setback or a new injury which keeps him out all season. I feel like Thomas still has a lot left in the tank, but his body has been failing him the past few years. Thomas spoke about the surgery’s he’s had the past couple years and said that his body just rejected the hardware they had to put in him to fix his ankle and toe problems.
If Thomas is truly 100% healthy this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s one of the better receivers in the NFL. I’m not saying he’s going to post 140+ catches and 1,700+ yards again, but if he can be even half as productive as he was in 2019, a 70-catch, 900-yard season is very good for a WR2.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to his health. There’s no doubt the Saints are a better team when he’s on the field, but if he misses time, the passing game could struggle for the third straight season.
4. What rookies do you expect to have an impact on this game?
With Kendre Miller’s health in question, the only rookie I feel could make a true impact in this matchup is Bryan Bresee. He didn’t record a sack in the preseason, but he did a lot of things right. His big frame helped stuff any rushing attempt up the middle, and when you’re facing Derek Henry, the big boys inside are going to have to make an impact in the run game. He also was able to put some pressure on the QB from the interior of the defensive line, and if he can consistently get Tannehill uncomfortable in the pocket, I’d consider that a win.
A.T. Perry, Isaiah Foskey, Jordan Howden and Nick Saldiveri should all see some playing time in this game, but I don’t think they’ll have too great of an impact in Week one. Foskey improved every game in the preseason, but I don’t see him getting too many snaps with Granderson, Turner and Jordan in front of him. Howden will likely get some work at safety and maybe even in the slot, but again, he has a lot of people in front of him on the depth chart. Perry is the only other rookie I see who could work his way onto the field if they give Michael Thomas or any of the other receivers some rest. He proved in the preseason he can make plays out wide, and with his 6’4 frame and 4.47 40-yard dash, maybe they will give him a chance on a deep ball at some point.
Overall, I would just like to see no mistakes from the rookies while they’re on the field. If they can play error-free football every snap, it should be considered a win for Saints fans.
This is a tough question. If you sit down and look at the Saints roster and their schedule, they could easily be an 11-12 win team, but Dennis Allen has never won more than seven games as a head coach. This year’s Saints team is easily the best roster he’s ever had as a head coach and the Saints lost a lot of games they should’ve won last year. I think this team has improved enough and plays in a weak enough division that they should be able to hit the ten win mark, but Dennis Allen is going to have to prove that he’s capable of leading a team to a winning record.
I’m going to cautiously say that the Saints will hit the over, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if they fell short of that mark.
A big thanks to Luke for giving us some really good insight.