Your numbers are accurate, and the Saints lead the league in yards after catch.
One of the bigger reasons for that is the effective screen game and the production of running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. Kamara has 662 yards after the catch, and Ingram has 497. And not surprisingly, a good portion of those have on screens and passes to the flat (381 after the catch for Kamara, 401 for Ingram), according to Sports Info Solutions.
Interestingly, Kamara also has 89 yards after the catch on 14 out routes.
Michael Thomas also shouldn't be overlooked in this equation. He has 415 yards after the catch, which ranks third on the team. And Ted Ginn (284 YAC) has been effective despite having fewer opportunities than his counterparts.
We're going to find out. The Saints have lost several important players on the defensive side of the ball, with the list now including linebackers A.J. Klein and Alex Anzalone, safety Kenny Vaccaro and pass rushers Alex Okafor and Hau'oli Kikaha, among others.
New Orleans did a great job of scheming around its deficiencies last week against the Atlanta Falcons. But it's going to take more than one game to have any definitive answers.
The Patriots have been doing it for years. They've earned the benefit of the doubt. The Saints have had a good defense for a season. They'll need to prove it a few more times.
I would throw everything about that game out. It's not a good point of comparison.
The Saints were a different team then. Ken Crawley hadn't yet earned a starting spot, Kenny Vaccaro was playing deep safety, and the secondary couldn't even execute basic coverages. This team doesn't have those issues, though it would be better to have Vaccaro on the field than on injured reserve.
The secondary is now a strength for this team. It was a major weakness back then. I would expect New Orleans to be a lot more competitive in a rematch.
Kamara and Ingram have been incredible this season. Calling them the best backfield in the NFL shouldn't be a controversial statement anywhere in America, including in Atlanta. Their impact on this team and production can't be denied.
But it would be hard for me to go against Brees. Even if there are times when it looks like he's aging a little bit, I think a lot of the shock toward his performance this year is the result of seeing him play a different style. He's no longer leaned upon to the same degree, and at times it looks different.
It would be hard for me to go against him as the most important player on offense. Things like his chemistry and timing with the receivers and his knowledge of the system provide value that can't be measured by a stat but still impact games.
Having said that, the backfield runs a close second.
It's too soon for me to have a list of guys I think the Saints should target in the draft. During the season, it's hard to watch a lot of college football in detail. Half of my Saturdays are spent in airports.
I think the needs for this team are linebacker, pass rusher and tight end. Getting a tight end who can block and catch passes would be a major benefit for this offense and make it much harder to defend.
But depending on what happens with Brees after the season, quarterback could be the biggest one. Even if he stays, while it won't be a need, keeping an eye out for Brees' successor should remain a priority.
This is another one where it is way too early to know.
I think the market will dictate what happens with Vaccaro. His tape from the first half of the season was good, so the injuries might not impact his value, but you never know. We have to see how that plays out even though it's likely he gets paid well.
As for Breaux, he remains under team control as a restricted free agent, much like Malcolm Butler a year ago. It would make sense for New Orleans to protect him at some level, even if it is just to ensure that something comes back in return.
While Breaux hasn't played in a long time, I still think he possesses the talent to be successful on this team. It wouldn't cost much to keep him around and see how he does in camp.