Saints seek 5th straight playoff season, but with a new QB

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NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (13-5)

New faces: TE Nick Vannett, DE Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE Payton Turner, LB Pete Warner, CB Paulson Adebo, P Blake Gillickin.

Key losses: QB Drew Brees, DE Trey Hendrickson, CB Janoris Jenkins, DT Sheldon Rankins, DT Malcom Brown, WR Emmanuel Sanders, LB Alex Anzalone, TE Jared Cook, TE Josh Hill, CB Patrick Robinson.

Strengths: Versatile RB Alvin Kamara and an accomplished offensive line make the Saints effective in both the running and short passing game. QB Jameis Winston gives the Saints the ability to throw deep. WR Michael Thomas hopes to regain record-setting form when he returns from ankle surgery later in the first half of the season. Defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport are physical edge rushers. LB Demario Davis provides strong run defense and blitzing.

Weaknesses: The Saints are thin at both defensive tackle and cornerback following offseason departures of Jenkins, Rankins and Brown. It remains to be seen how TEs Adam Trautman, Juwan Johnson and Vannett will fill the void created by the departure of Jared Cook and Josh Hill.

Camp Development: Winston beat out Taysom Hill to succeed Brees. Thomas’ surgery in June prevented him from participating in preseason and he'll miss at least the first six regular-season games. Kicker Wil Lutz had a core muscle injury that could sideline him early in the regular season. DT Jalen Dalton was placed on injured reserve after a preseason that saw him making plays and on track to be in the regular rotation on the interior defensive line. Hurricane Ida has forced the Saints to temporarily relocate to the Dallas area and will play the Sept. 12 home opener vs. Green Bay in Jacksonville.

Fantasy Player To Watch: Kamara was the featured player in the offense last season and should be again this season, particularly with Winston in his first season as Saints QB and Thomas recovering from surgery.

FanDuel Says: Win Super Bowl: 30-1. Over/under wins: 9.

Expectations: Winston has looked in form and the Saints have retained a number of core players from playoff teams spanning the past four seasons. Between versatile running back Kamara and a strong offensive line, the Saints have optimism on offense. While the defense has question marks on the interior of the line and at cornerback, the Saints have the potential to be competitive this season, but don’t project to be quite the contender they've been in recent years.

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

The Associated Press

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