The Saints defense has won plenty of games on its own. Now can it hold off Father Time?

The Saints defense has won plenty of games on its own. Now can it hold off Father Time?
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Call them Old Faithful, because they’re reliable.

And, well, also because they’re starting to get kind of old.

With the possible exception of the continuity the New Orleans Saints have enjoyed in their front office, one could argue that their defense has been the most dependable aspect of the organization.

The Saints have finished with a top 10 scoring defense and a top 10 total defense in three consecutive seasons, and they are the only NFL team to have done so. In the modern NFL, it is near impossible to replicate the kind of defensive consistency on a year-over-year basis.

We started our series of five burning questions leading into Saints training camp Wednesday with one about new quarterback Derek Carr. This time, we’re asking: Can the defense stay at the top of the league even as so many of its players age into their 30s?

New Orleans believes the defense can still be its backbone. While the Saints made their biggest splash on the offensive side of the ball by signing Derek Carr, it’s the fact that they get to pair their new quarterback with an already excellent defense that has them believing they are positioned for a playoff run.

But it is fair to wonder at what point this Saints defense will begin to fall off — not only because it’s so hard to maintain the level New Orleans has maintained lately, but also because some of the cornerstone players are entering (or, worse, have unknowingly already entered) the twilight of their careers.

It’s not hard to envision a starting defense that includes defensive end Cameron Jordan, linebacker Demario Davis, nickel defender Bradley Roby and safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye. Those players are 34, 34, 31, 31 and 30 years old.

The Saints weren’t exactly young by NFL standards last year — according to an ESPN analysis, which was adjusted for snap counts to reflect the players who’d spent the most time on the field, they had the NFL’s oldest defense (and overall roster) in 2022. The grim reality of the NFL is that it is a young man’s game, and when players start to decline because of age, the decline tends to be quick.

The aforementioned players are still playing at a high level. Davis earned a long overdue Pro Bowl nod after turning in his finest statistical season in his outstanding pro career. Jordan made his sixth consecutive Pro Bowl (this time as an alternate) after recording his 11th consecutive season with at least 7½ sacks. Mathieu led the team in interceptions and turned his play up a notch during the stretch run.

It is possible those players continue holding off Father Time. Generally speaking, modern professional athletes are smarter than ever when it comes to tailoring their training and nutrition to extend their careers. But, if they do begin to decline, are the Saints prepared?

New Orleans invested in younger players along its defensive front this offseason, using its top two draft picks on defensive linemen Bryan Bresee (21 years old) and Isaiah Foskey (22), while also signing free agent Khalen Saunders (26).

Players like linebacker Pete Werner (24), Alontae Taylor (24) and Paulson Adebo (24) have flashed big potential. Star cornerback Marshon Lattimore only turned 27 in May.

The Saints obviously will be a better team as long as players like Jordan, Davis and Mathieu hold off a sudden and precipitous decline. Even if those players are marginally less effective in 2023, New Orleans should still be in decent shape defensively as long as its younger players continue their upward career arc.

But even if they are able to maintain a high level of play, this is not a question that appears to be going away any time soon.

Because of the way they’ve structured contracts for Jordan, Davis and Mathieu, the Saints have tens of millions of cap dollars tied into void years after those players’ contracts expire, and none of them are under contract beyond 2025.

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About Mary Weyand 11640 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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