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Eagles 2020 Opponent Preview: New Orleans Saints

Previewing Philadelphia’s schedule.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Bleeding Green Nation’s 2020 Philadelphia Eagles opponent preview series continues today with their Week 14 enemy: the New Orleans Saints. (Previously: Week 13 preview.)

Not unlike the Seattle Seahawks, the Saints are a team that’s had the Eagles’ number for some time now. The Birds are just 2-7 in nine games against New Orleans dating back to 2006. And, yes, that record includes three playoff losses.

I typically don’t like to acknowledge one-sided affairs as “rivalries.” It’s hard for the Eagles to call the New York Giants true rivals anymore, for example, given how they just always beat the G-Men. You even have Giants fans admitting as much.

So, there’s a part of me that hesitates to dub the Saints as the Eagles’ biggest non-division rival.

But then I think about how Sean Payton had the Saints’ team bus driver do laps around Lincoln Financial Field after they beat the Eagles. I think about how Alvin Kamara said the Saints would have “beat the shit out of” the Eagles in the 2018 NFC Championship Game if they didn’t embarrassingly choke against the Minnesota Vikings. I think about how Kamara and Mark Ingram (now with the Baltimore Ravens) mocked the Eagles’ ski masks and referred to the Eagles as “fraudulents.” I think about how Sean Payton was so willing to boast to Peter King about how the Saints viewed Carson Wentz and Sidney Jones as the Eagles’ weak points in 2019. I think about how the Saints played the anthem of the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl season — Meek Mill’s Dreams And Nightmares — in the locker room after beating Philly in the 2019 divisional round.

The Saints have made it personal.

Beyond all this, they’re just an (big) easy group to loathe in general. As I previously wrote for SB Nation:

The team and fans have been so whiny after annually choking in the playoffs. Sean Payton pining for reviewable pass interference and Saints fans throwing a parade to protest Super Bowl LIII because of that one missed call in the 2019 NFC Championship Game was so pathetic. You guys still got the ball first at home in overtime with a Hall of Fame quarterback! No one should feel bad for you.

It’s hard to take them lightly on the field in the regular season given how they’ve gone 26-6 over the past two seasons. Whiny as he might be, Payton is still one of the league’s top coaches. Future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees isn’t too shabby either, though he’s 41 now.

Their offense still figures to be pretty formidable. The Saints have never finished worse than 12th in points under the Payton/Brees combo and they’ve been top four each of the past four seasons. New Orleans is strong in the trenches up front. They have star weapons in Kamara and Michael Thomas, arguably the league’s best receiver. Jim Schwartz will have his hands full trying to contain this group.

The Saints’ defense has Malcolm Jenkins back with them now. That’s pretty annoying. He’s joining a strong secondary that also features Marshon Lattimore, Janoris Jenkins, and Marcus Williams. New Orleans has ample defensive line talent with five-time Pro Bowl selection Cameron Jordan headlining the group. The overall unit finished 11th in DVOA last season and they should be above average again this year.

Naturally, the Eagles won’t get to take advantage of the true home field advantage that the Saints have enjoyed over them in the past. That could have helped towards equalizing this matchup. Regardless, this still figures to be a very critical game. It’d be pretty great to see the Eagles finally make the Saints eat their words. Just not gonna be easy.

Poll

Will the Eagles beat the Saints?

This poll is closed

  • 49%
    Yes
    (238 votes)
  • 50%
    No
    (246 votes)
484 votes total Vote Now

Read on for more Saints insight from our SB Nation colleagues over at Canal Street Chronicles.

Notable free agency additions: S Malcolm Jenkins, WR Emmanuel Sanders, QB Jameis Winston, FB Michael Burton, CB Deatrick Nichols (from the XFL)

Over/under 10 wins? An honest answer at this point would be “under,” but not because I don’t think the Saints will win many games, but because I’m not sure how many games the 2020 NFL season will have. Assuming a 16-game season, I’ll take the over.

Rookie I’m most excited about: TE Adam Trautman. The Saints didn’t have many 2020 draft picks, so I’ll go with third round pick, tight end Adam Trautman out of Dayton. Trautman dominated in the Pioneer Football League and looks to be an above-average pass-catching tight end option, but considering his lack of a collegiate pedigree, it will be interesting to see how he can perform against NFL competition.

Best position battle heading into training camp: Who is the Saints third wide receiver? Is it QB/WR/RB/TE/ST Taysom Hill? But Taysom has repeatedly expressed his desire to be a long-term quarterback. Is it Deonte Harris who was an All-Pro last year in his rookie season as a return specialist? But he’s only 5’6. Maybe Tre’Quan Smith, the 2018 3rd rounder? He’s failed to show he can consistently get open against opposing cornerbacks. Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are clearly the #1 and #2 option at wide receiver, but after that, it’s really not clear at all.

Biggest storyline heading into training camp: How will the team chemistry be affected after Drew Brees’s controversial statements regarding the peaceful protests during the national anthem? He’s publicly recanted his take and has spoken out against President Trump for making similarly insensitive comments, but he clearly upset and disappointed some of his teammates so it will be interesting to see if they’re all still willing to go to war for him in 2020.

Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp: How will a young and shuffled offensive line play in 2020? The Saints drafted center Cesar Ruiz with their first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The only problem is they drafted center Erik McCoy with their first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and McCoy played well as a rookie last year. The extra body in the interior of the Saints offensive line forced the Saints to release Pro Bowl guard Larry Warford with the expectation that either McCoy or Ruiz will shift to right guard. This is a lot of faith to put into one or both of two young offensive linemen, and it could very well backfire on the offense.

Notable injuries heading into training camp: There are a few injured players (Kiko Alonso, Achilles; Cam Jordan, core; Sheldon Rankin, Achilles), but all are expected back by training camp.