The New Orleans Saints Defense was supposed to share the weight of expectations in the 2020 NFL season. The offense has built a reputation of success through the Drew Brees years. The defense has had up and down years but after finishing the 2019 season strong, the defense should have been poised to help carry the burden placed on this organization. A Super-Bowl-or-bust mindset is a heavy burden to bear and so far, the defense has failed to do their part in 2020. In order to be championship contenders, the New Orleans Saints must reimagine their red zone defense or suffer the same fate as previous year playoff failures.
New Orleans Saints Must Reimagine Red Zone Defense Moving Forward
2019 vs 2020 Defensive Statistics
At first glance, it is tough to see the defensive issues. Through the Saints’ first six games, the team is allowing 3.5 yards per carry to opposing running backs, placing them in the top three in the entire NFL. The Saints 10.8 yards per completion is ranked 22nd in the league. Not a great statistic but not terrible. Both of these numbers are actually improvements from 2019. In the first six games of 2019, the Saints were allowing 4.5 yards per carry and 11.7 yards per completion. These would indicate that the Saints are better in 2020 than in 2019.
Red Zone Issues
Top-level statistics do not tell the entire story though. In 2019, the Saints allowed 14 touchdowns to the opposition through six games. This equated to a 60.8 percent red zone percentage for opponents. Much like the passing statistics, this wasn’t great but serviceable, ranking the Saints at 22nd overall in the NFL. The organization was 5-1 after six weeks. Spirits were high and everyone was excited at what the Saints were building on defense.
These red zone statistics have gotten significantly worse in 2020. The Saints’ defense was expected to improve with the free-agent addition of Malcolm Jenkins and drafting Zack Baun. The only significant loss to the defense was Vonn Bell, but Jenkins was supposed to be better in this role. So far, that has not been the case.
The Saints have already given up 22 touchdowns to opponents in 2020. Of these 22, 17 of them occurred through the air, second-worst in the league behind only the Atlanta Falcons. This explains why the Saints have a league-worst 86.4 opponent red zone percentage. This statistic is not only the worst in the league, but it is nearly six points higher than the nearest team.
Reimagining the Red Zone Defense
It is not difficult to see that the New Orleans Saints red zone defense has to be reimagined for the Saints to have success in the 2020 NFL season. This is, even more, the case for the quickly approaching playoffs. The Dennis Allen-led squad has got to be better. If NFL offenses have learned how to attack this defense in the red zone, then a complete reimagining needs to take place. The defensive statistics seem to indicate that the defense is not irreparable but changes must take place for this organization to reach its goals of another championship.