Playoff time is here in the NFL. The Saints are anxiously awaiting their opponent for next Sunday in the Superdome. But one cannot help but notice the similarities between this year’s team and the 2009 championship squad. Both times the Saints finished as the #1 seed in the NFC. They lost to the same 3 teams in Tampa, Carolina and Dallas. Dallas was the team that broke both winning streaks. The losses to Tampa both came at home in the Dome. In both season finales, Carolina was the team we lost to. Our road record was 7-1 and the home record was 6-2 both years. We swept the AFC division opponents both times. The similarities are dead on scary when you realize it but the main difference of all is the rosters.
Fun fact: there are only 6 players from the 2009 team that are currently still playing in the NFL. Drew Brees, Thomas Morstead and Jermon Bushrod are the only ones still with the team even though Bushrod played for several other teams. Chase Daniel, Malcolm Jenkins and Jonathan Casillas are the other players still in the league. When you look back at that roster, there was a lot of talent and unsung heroes that made a difference during the season. Now you look at this year’s roster in comparison and you would probably think this squad has more talent and veteran presence. But does it really? Here is a position by position breakdown to see which team is better:
Drew Brees is still Drew Brees. The only comparison is between the backups. Mark Brunell and Chase Daniel were just there to fill the void. Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill have more potential with HIll being the Swiss Army knife on offense playing multiple positions. Advantage: 2018
We all loved the 3-Headed Monster of Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush and Mike Bell. They were a major part of the offense on the ground but most importantly in the screen game that was so effectively for many years. Now, we have Boom and Zoom in Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. The screen game may not be as useful but these guys run with power and speed with Kamara practically being two players in one. Advantage: Push
Heath Evans was playing solid until an injury ended his season. After that, it was fullback by committee with Dave Thomas filling the role towards the end of the season. Zach Line has been a solid blocker and made some plays on the ground in short yardage as well as goal line situations. Advantage: Push
Colston. Henderson. Meachem. Moore. These four guys were elite all season with Colston as the main target, Henderson as the deep threat, Meachem a combo threat/blocker, and Moore as the slot. Their playmaking ability made that offense very dangerous. Now, we have Michael Thomas in the Colston role, Ted Ginn Jr in the Henderson role but many question marks to who fills the Meachem and Moore role. Tre’Quan Smith has struggled to be consistent, even having games with no targets and no catches. Cam Meredith was signed to fill the slot but his knee injury did not allow him to get adequate snaps and is now on injured reserve. Since then, the likes of Keith Kirkwood, Austin Carr and Tommylee Lewis have had trouble as well to compensate the position. Advantage: 2009
Jeremy Shockey and Dave Thomas made a great duo with Shockey being the receiving threat and Thomas as the blocker with the ability to make catches. The third TE spot was a revolving door and no one really solidified the role. Old Reliable Ben Watson has been serviceable this year and Josh Hill has continued to be a main blocker, just as Thomas did in 2009. Dan Arnold has shown flashes to potentially be a receiving target in the future after converting from wide receiver. As of late, the production from this position has been lackluster since the trade of Jimmy Graham. Advantage: 2009
Brees has been as clean now as he was back then. Kind of hard to compare when you could mix and match both years and still have the same production. Advantage: Push
Will Smith and Charles Grant were a solid duo for years. Grant went on injured reserve halfway through the season and Bobby McCray, a.k.a. Legend Killer, stepped in and didn’t skip a beat. Anthony Hargrove was a diamond in the rough and Remi Ayodele shined that year. And we can’t forget about fan favorite Jeff Charleston who made the most of his opportunities. Now, we have Cam Jordan and Alex Okafor with Marcus Davenport constantly putting pressure on quarterbacks and shutting down the run. The rotation of Rankins, Onyemata, Davison and Stallworth has been doing a very good job plugging up the middle. Advantage: 2018 (slightly)
The trade for Jonathan Vilma was a big upgrade in the middle with Shanle and Fujita on the outside. They were a big factor all season especially in the playoffs. This year, we signed Demario Davis and it was by far the best acquisition this offseason with Klein and Anzalone in the fold already. Both squads had depth and stayed healthy. Tough choice…. Advantage: Take your pick
Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter were great together with Malcolm Jenkins having early success before becoming a safety. Randall Gay locked down the nickel spot. Marshon Lattimore has been a stud and the addition of Eli Apple has made a huge difference. Patrick Robinson was doing well until his ankle injury but PJ Williams has turned it up since then and put a lock on the nickel spot. Advantage: Push
Darren Sharper was a great pickup and changed the culture on that defense. Roman Harper had been a great tackler and box strong safety to pair him with. Marcus Williams and Vonn Bell have had good moments this year with Kurt Coleman providing veteran leadership. Advantage: 2009 (slightly because of turnovers)
Morstead, a.k.a. Legatron, keeps putting up the numbers and to think he was a rookie in 2009. Garrett Hartley came out of nowhere and sent the Saints to the Super Bowl while also breaking a record in the big game. Wil Lutz was a gift from the Ravens and just broke Morten Andersen’s record for consecutive kicks made. Advantage: 2018 (In Lutz We Trust)
In conclusion, the talent level is there for both squads. Same quarterback, same punter and you could pick and choose between them and still get the same production. But all in all, health was the main reason why these teams have been successful and getting Dome Field Advantage in the playoffs was a must. They say that history usually repeats itself and I am a firm believer in that in my daily life. Here is to hoping we can make history once again. WHO DAT!
Follow Dom Lewis on Twitter @BigFella122