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New Orleans Saints offense has the superior resume, if not the hype, entering regular-season opener

'We know we have to stay ahead of the curve'

2020 New Orleans Saints Training Camp at Ochsner Sports Performance Center in Metairie, Louisiana.

(Copyright New Orleans Saints, Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr.)
2020 New Orleans Saints Training Camp at Ochsner Sports Performance Center in Metairie, Louisiana. (Copyright New Orleans Saints, Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr.)

Understandably, Tampa Bay's offense has been a focal point leading up to its regular-season opener.

In succession, the Buccaneers added the NFL's most successful quarterback (Tom Brady, tops in league history with six Super Bowl wins and 219 regular-season victories); one of the best tight ends in league history (Rob Gronkowski, a four-time, first-team All-Pro with 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns in nine seasons); and a two-time, 1,000-yard rusher (New Orleans native Leonard Fournette).

Add that to returning receivers Chris Godwin (1,333 receiving yards and nine touchdowns last season) and Mike Evans (1,157 yards, eight touchdowns last year) and reasonably, the Buccaneers are expected to field one of the league's best offenses in 2020.

The New Orleans Saints only seem like they've been fielding one of the league's best offenses for 20 years.

In fact, it has been a little less (14 years, entering 15) that the Saints, who'll host Tampa Bay on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, have been on a run of offensive production that matches any in NFL history. That includes 14 straight seasons of ranking in the top 10 in offense, six times leading the league in offense and twice leading the league in scoring.

And New Orleans has every reason to be just as excited about the holdovers who have helped extend one of the best offensive runs in league history, as the Bucs are about their newcomers who've yet to play a down together in an NFL regular-season game.

Drew Brees, entering his 20th season, is the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards and touchdown passes, and he's fourth on the all-time wins list with 163. Michael Thomas set a league single-season record with 149 catches last year.

Alvin Kamara is the first player in league history to total 2,000 yards rushing, 2,000 yards receiving and go to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons. Tight end Jared Cook caught 28 passes for 537 yards and seven touchdowns in the last eight games of 2019.

And the Saints added a couple of new faces of their own this offseason: Receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who has 7,893 career receiving yards, three Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl victory; and running back Ty Montgomery, who has 10 touchdowns on 344 offensive touches in 58 career games.

"You see them play with a lot of speed," Tampa Bay Coach Bruce Arians said. "They know where they're going, they know what they're doing. They don't make any mistakes. The offensive line is as solid as there is in the league. There's no weakness at any position. They have a lot of explosive players."

As well as the players, it's how they're deployed. Brees said the Saints do what's necessary to stay fresh with concepts.

"Well, we know we have to stay ahead of the curve," he said. "I think each offseason, you're studying a lot of things about a lot of teams. There's always a couple offenses that maybe had a lot of success with a certain scheme the year before. So, you're going to go watch those teams and say, hey, what made that so good? And are there ways that we can incorporate that into what we're doing? And sometimes there is, sometimes there isn't.

"But I think what we also know is that typically, we're one of those offenses that people are studying, both offenses and defenses and so, we have to continue to evolve. So that we can just broaden the scope of what we're capable of doing, and give defenses more things to worry about.

"There's always your bread and butter, but then again, there's always nuances that you want to build in there so that people can't always anticipate your bread and butter."

What can be anticipated, since 2006, is that the Saints will put on the field one of the NFL's best offenses, an expectation enhanced this season by the fact that New Orleans has continuity on its coaching staff and in its locker room.

"I think when there's no turnover in coaching, that's a positive because if you're one of the new staffs, you're hired, you have this Covid-19 and you have no offseason technically," Saints Coach Sean Payton said. "No OTAs, no minicamps, no rookie camps – you haven't met your team until training camp. I think that puts a new staff at a disadvantage.

"That's something you can't control; we and Tampa are fortunate to be returning our coaching staffs and quite a few of the players from last year's rosters, and yet, there'll be some things that both teams will do differently."

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