Sunday will mark the first meeting between the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints in 1,470 days — a 36-20 Patriots victory in Week 2 of 2017 that featured NFL legends Tom Brady and Drew Brees at quarterback. Four years later, both teams have hit the organizational reset button and are starting what they hope to be the next future of their franchise at quarterback.
It’s safe to say that much has changed. So let’s see how different these franchises really are from their last meeting.
The following 15 players from the last meeting on Sept. 17, 2017 are still on the Patriots’ active roster:
C David Andrews, G Shaq Mason, RB James White, LB Kyle Van Noy, S Devin McCourty, DT Lawrence Guy, DL Deatrich Wise Jr., CB Jonathan Jones, LB Harvey Langi, ST Brandon King, RB Brandon Bolden, LS Joe Cardona, OL Ted Karras, ST Matthew Slater, LB Dont’a Hightower
Offense: The entire offense has undergone a major overhaul since 2017. As we all know, Brady and Rob Gronkowski are now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which is something we’ll discuss more next week. Other starters from that game like Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, Marcus Cannon, Rex Burkhead and Jacob Hollister are dispersed around the league. The Patriots’ only starting wide receiver from that game, Chris Hogan, will be suiting up for the opposition.
Defense: The Patriots’ defense is pretty much brand new from this last matchup. Lawrence Guy and Devin McCourty are during up the front and back ends, but other starters from that matchup like Trey Flowers, Malcom Butler, Elandon Roberts, Eric Rowe, and Patrick Chung have all since left. Kyle Van Noy did start that 2017 matchup but has yet to practice this week, while Dont’a Hightower will play but missed the game in New Orleans with a sprained MCL.
Special teams: Long snapper Joe Cardona is the lone holdover specialist from the Patriots’ last meeting with New Orleans. Nick Folk and Jake Bailey have replaced Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen at kicker and punter since 2017, while special teamer Matthew Slater missed that game while recovering from a hamstring injury. Brandon King did play in the last meeting but also contributed on defense.
Coaching staff: Despite Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, and Matt Patricia — the head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator from the 2017 season — still being around, the Patriots’ staff looks vastly different than it did in 2017.
Carmen Bricillo has taken over for legendary offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. Demarcus Covington has replaced Brendan Daly as defensive line coach. Mick Lombardi took over for Chad O’Shea as wide receivers coach. Mike Pellegrino replaced Josh Boyer as cornerbacks coach. Jerod Mayo is now the inside linebackers coach, replacing current Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, while current New York Giants head coach Joe Judge was replaced by Cameron Achord as special teams coach.
The following 10 players from the last meeting are still on the Saints’ active roster:
QB Taysom Hill, RB Alvin Kamara, CB Marshon Lattimore, OT Ryan Ramczyk, S Marcus Williams, LS Zach Wood, OL Andrus Peat, CB P.J. Williams, OT Terron Armstead, DL Cameron Jordan
Offense: The Saints’ offense looks very different from the group that New England faced in September of 2017. Brees retired this past offseason, making way for new starter Jameis Winston. Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson have long since moved on, while Alvin Kamara —who played a sparing role in that 2017 game — has become one of the league’s top running backs. Top receiver Michael Thomas will miss this game with an injury. Ryan Ramczyk and Andrus Peat remain on the offensive line while Cesar Ruiz, Erik McCoy, and Terron Armstead have filled in the rest of the unit.
Defense: Marshon Lattimore, Cameron Jordan, P.J. Williams and Marcus Williams remain on New Orleans defense from the last Patriots-Saints matchup. All of those players continue to play an important role, but Lattimore — one of the league’s top corners — is questionable for Sunday. Demario Davis, Zach Baun and Paulson Adebo are notable names that have been added to the New Orleans defense.
Special teams: Much like the Patriots, the Saints’ only remaining battery piece from the 2017 matchup is their long snapper. Zach Wood returns for his fifth year with New Orleans, while kicker Aldrick Rosas and punter Blake Gilliken are in their first.
Coaching staff: Sean Payton is returning for his 16th season as head coach of the Saints. Other than that it’s tough to say much about his coaching staff considering we don’t know who will be available on Sunday. The team had eight assistant coaches missing from their last matchup with the Carolina Panthers. Dennis Allen (defensive) and Pete Carmichael (offensive) will return as New Orleans’ coordinators.