Saints defense should be elite in 2024, thanks to two of the best units in NFC South

The New Orleans Saints have established talent on both sides of the ball, but defensively, they’ll be led by two of the best units in the division.
New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons
New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages

Defense wins championships. The New Orleans Saints are hoping that statement is still true, because they should have an elite defense during the 2024 season. Led by several star veterans, at each level, the defense should be able to keep New Orleans in games, and win some, regardless of how the offense performs.

In 2023, the Saints defense was solid, allowing just 19.2 points per game and 327.2 yards per game, ranking eighth and 13th in the NFL, respectively. However, they recorded just 34 sacks, 28th in the league, and allowed 119.9 rushing yards a game, 22nd in the NFL. Despite being solid, there was clear room for improvement.

This offseason, New Orleans made very specific additions to improve its weaknesses. The team signed defensive end Chase Young and linebacker Willie Gay in free agency, and selected corner Kool-Aid McKinstry in the second round of the draft. Now, on paper, the Saints have a defense that could lead them to the playoffs.

This was evident in a recent PFF exercise, where they built the best NFC South team by putting together the division’s best units. The linebacker unit and secondary were chosen for New Orleans, demonstrating the team’s defensive prowess.

Saints’ linebacker unit and secondary named best in division

The linebacker group in New Orleans was ranked ninth in the entire NFL by PFF, and Demario Davis was ranked as the third-best linebacker in the league. The unit also has Pete Werner and Willie Gay. With those three flying around, making plays, the Saints should be good against the run.

The secondary, on the other hand, has a chance to be really special. The unit was ranked 10th in PFF’s secondary rankings, and the group is overflowing with talent. Led by veteran stars Marshon Lattimore and Tyrann Mathieu, the Saints’ defensive backfield also has emerging young players like Paulson Adebo, Jordan Howden, Alontae Taylor, and rookie Kool-Aid McKinstry, who is expected to be a productive newcomer.

If Chase Young and the returning defensive lineman can do a better job at getting after opposing quarterbacks and clogging up running lanes, the Saints have the talent on the other two levels to have a lockdown defense.