By Mike Triplett | ESPN Staff Writer
For the New Orleans Saints to contend for the playoffs this season, here are the five most important players who can help make that happen:
Drew Brees, quarterback: This one's pretty obvious. Quarterback is the most important position on the field for any team, and Brees is one of the best to ever play (the 39-year-old is on pace to overtake Peyton Manning as the NFL's all-time passing yardage leader in October). But the beauty of the Saints right now is that they have become as balanced as they've ever been during the Brees-Sean Payton era by reloading their offensive line, run game and defense in recent years. So Brees doesn't have to be Superman every week. His yards, touchdowns and interceptions in 2017 were all his lowest totals in 12 years with the Saints. But he was as efficient as ever, setting the NFL record for single-season completion percentage (72.0) for the third time in his career.
Cameron Jordan, defensive end: The Saints landed seven players in the Pro Bowl last season, but only one was a first-team All-Pro. Jordan has been one of the NFL's most underrated disrupters throughout his seven-year career. But he finally earned his due last season by completing what he called a "triple-double" (13 sacks, 17 tackles for loss and 11 passes defensed). The only other NFL player to do that over the past decade-plus is J.J. Watt. You could make an argument that the other defensive-end position is just as important to the Saints' success this season -- they either need rookie Marcus Davenport to make an instant impact or veteran Alex Okafor to come back strong from a torn Achilles. But Jordan is the one who really makes this defense tick as both a pass-rusher and run defender. ...
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