Saints players whose hype trains are rolling after Week 1
By Kristen Wong
Now that the drama from Week 1 is over, which New Orleans Saints players deserve the most hype after their performance against the Falcons?
Michael Thomas comes to mind -- in his highly anticipated return, Thomas got his season off to a strong start with two touchdowns, helping NOLA successfully complete the late-game comeback.
Yet given Thomas' injury history, we aren't ready to jump on Thomas' hype train just yet. Give him more time.
These four Saints players similarly made a groundbreaking impact in the victory over the Falcons and their stock reports are through the roof after the start of the season.
Some are recent signings still getting situated in New Orleans; others are young bucks originally drafted by the Saints and ready to take 2022 by the horns.
Here are the Saints players whose hype trains have already left the station.
Saints player No. 4: Jarvis Landry
Landry finished Week 1 with the highest Pro Football Focus grade on the team (84.7) and deserves all the love -- fantasy or otherwise -- heading into 2022.
The former Browns wideout proved he was more than just a slot guy as he recorded seven catches for 114 yards, including one 40-yard catch in the fourth quarter that set up the Saints' game-winning field goal.
Landry also forced three missed tackles as a receiver and tied Michael Thomas for a team-high four first-down conversions.
It's easy to forget just how much of a bargain Landry was when the team signed him in the offseason. Saints fans should love him even more since it means they won't have to watch Tre'Quan Smith drop balls all season.
This is not the same frustrated and ineffectual Jarvis Landry who struggled under the arm of Baker Mayfield. In 2022, he's much. much better.
Saints player No. 3: Pete Werner
When a player misses most of training camp, one would naturally get worried about his Week 1 performance. Such was not the case for linebacker Pete Werner.
A nagging groin injury saw Werner sit out for much of the preseason, and he only logged a handful of full practices with the team. When the Saints let Kwon Alexander walk in free agency, it was presumed that Werner would take the starting weakside linebacker job, yet Werner missed valuable reps during training camp.
How would Werner fare in his first start of 2022? Just fine.
Werner led the team in tackles in Week 1 (13) and made big plays all over the field.
In the second quarter, Werner punched the ball out of Falcons receiver Olamide Zaccheaus' hands, forcing a fumble and giving the Saints possession in Atlanta territory.
Late in the fourth quarter, when New Orleans was down 26-24, Werner tackled Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota for a 2-yard loss and set up a much more difficult third down for Atlanta.
The second-year linebacker appears to be learning the ropes quickly alongside Demario Davis and is primed for a breakthrough season in 2022. Buy his stock now.
Saints player No. 2: Jameis Winston
The Saints' quarterback naturally had to have a spot on this list after completing a historic comeback.
Jameis Winston may not have looked good for three quarters, but he carried the team on his back at the end of the game to help NOLA get the unlikely dub.
Winston went 23-of-34 for 269 yards and two touchdowns, and he posted a perfect passer rating (158.3) in the fourth quarter when the Saints put 17 over the Falcons.
The running narrative that Winston is a turnover-prone passer hasn't yet been put to bed, and his "Mr. 30-30" moniker may haunt him for the rest of his career. In Week 1, though, the former No. 1 pick rose above the criticism and became the hero the Saints needed and deserved.
Behind a shaky offensive line, Winston struggled at the beginning of the game, taking four sacks and throwing the ball away once.
He was under pressure on 12 of his 40 dropbacks, and of those pressures he completed 4 of 6 pass attempts for 39 yards and converted a pair of first downs.
The technical side of his game could use some finetuning, but Winston arguably shone the most in his ability to overcome adversity and claw his way back into the game. A lesser quarterback (Hill or Siemian) may have sunk to despair after failing to convert the game-tying two-point conversion attempt.
Winston, however, showed grit and perseverance and ultimately found a way to win the game for New Orleans. Plus, he didn't throw a single pick -- it's a small caveat, but it's still progress.
Saints player No. 1: Tyrann Mathieu
No Ceedy Duce, no problem. Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye helped lock down the backfield on Sunday, and Mathieu in particular has already ingratiated himself well in Saints camp.
The former Chiefs safety was one of the team's most exciting signings of the offseason, and Mathieu did not disappoint in Week 1. He recorded seven tackles and stood out as the unspoken leader of the secondary, making big plays in the open field and helping to throw off Atlanta's offense with last-minute coverage assignments.
Mathieu earned the top Pro Football Focus grade on the Saints' defense, and his experience and general football smarts make him a very valuable secondary piece in 2022.
Despite New Orleans' surprising struggles on defense in Week 1, Mathieu and Maye formed a dynamic duo to contain Atlanta for most of the game, and the two should only get better with more time playing together.
The homegrown hero was loved in New Orleans at first sight, and after a strong showing to start the season, all Saints fans should be clamoring to get his jersey.
We, for one, are excited to see Mathieu notch his first Saints interception (they don't call him the Honey Badger for nothing) against Bucs' Tom Brady in Week 2. Ceedy Duce may have parted ways with NOLA, but the baby goat legend still lives on.