New Orleans Saints.. what can you say about them that haven’t been said? One of 4 teams to never make the super bowl, and usually it’s one core problem, whether they have a VERY good offense and no defense, or a pretty good defense and absolutely HORRID offense. Well, the case of last year was incredible offense, but again, a pretty bad defense caused the Saints to miss the playoffs and sit at the bottom of the division at 8-8 last year. Many people were expecting the Saints to hit the defensive end of the NFL draft and they delivered, picking up Cornerback Malcolm Jenkins in the first round, who played college football at THE Ohio State. And with some nice pickups in the free agency, the Saints defense finally looks like it is coming to. Pair that up with the #1 offense from last year, and it looks like a recipe for a team that could FINALLY make the super bowl.

Quarterbacks: Of course, every one knows that the starting quarterback for the Saints is Drew Brees. His 3rd season last year was probably one of the best seasons by a quarterback in NFL history… yes, I said HISTORY. Brees was only the 2nd quarterback ever to throw for over 5,000 yards and was only 16 yards short of breaking Dan Marino’s record of most passing yards in a season. His ratio of 2:1 in the TD/Int department (34 TDs and 17 INT) is worth of note as well. I can see Brees almost replicating the season from last year, albeit not quite as many yards. I don’t see him having another 5000 yard season, although 4500 is not out of the equation.

Brees’ Backup is NFL Veteran Mark Brunell, which is a lot better than the backups that were there in Tyler Martin. Brunell showed in the preseason that he can still play and if by some chance Brees goes down, Brunell has shown that he can pick up the reigns and take over for Brees.

Running Backs: With the retirement and the release of Deuce McAllister, the Saints looked in the offseason for a new running back. Which, personally, I didn’t really see WHY they needed it, since they have the ever-so-unpredictable Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, who really picked up his game last year, when Deuce was injured. Thomas finished last year with 625 yards and 9 TD, also getting 31 receptions for 284 yards for 3 TDs and even did some kickoff return duty. The best thing is.. he only fumbled once the entire season and he recovered it. Reggie Bush is used for EVERYTHING. Rushing, receiving, kickoff and punt returns.. you name it, he does it. Although his season ended early last year with a MCL sprain, in 10 games, he finished with 404 yards rushing and 440 yards receiving with 9 total TDs.

Nevertheless, the Saints did get another running back in the off season and picked up Denver Broncos running back Mike Bell. And lemme say, he looked pretty good in the pre-season. He definately looks ready for the upcoming season.

The other two backs we have, one of them a fullback, I must be honest I’m not terribly familiar with them, although I saw them play in the pre-season and Lynell Hamilton did look pretty good. I really didn’t see too much of the fullback Heath Evans so I can’t really say too much about him, but it looks like the Saints Running Back core is pretty stacked, if it can stay healthy long enough.

Wide Receivers: The Saints were already pretty stacked in the Wide Receiver department, notably of two men: Marques Colston and Devery Henderson. Colston has become the #1 target of Brees, and it shows. He missed the first 5 games of last season, due to injury, but still in his 11 games he did play finished with 760 yards and 5 TDs. Devery Henderson and the other Wide Receiver, Lance Moore, took Colstons’s reigns while he was out and they both delivered wonderfully. Lance Moore, the other favorite target of Brees, finished with 928 yards and 10 TDs last season.

Add on to the fact that the #1 pick of the 2008 draft, Robert Meacham, who is finally starting to come to form, and the untested, unproven Rod Harper, who also looked good in the pre-season, but has never played a regular season NFL game, the Saints could by far have the #1 or at least #2 Wide Receiver core in the NFL.

Tight Ends: Now, this is the only position, besides defense, from last year, that was a little dicey. The Saints picked up Jeremy Shockey to be their #1 Tight End, but the problem is… he didn’t deliver. He had a very sub-par season last year, having maybe 2, at tops, 3 TDs last year, and had several costly fumbles. He needs to show that he was not a wasted acquisition and step up this year, or else the Saints could be looking Tight End in the draft in the near future.

Not to say that they DON’T have other tight ends in their aresnal, but just to be honest, I’m not familiar with them. Darnell Dinkins, who has only caught like 2 TDs in his 7 year career, Buck Ortega, who has no notable stats whatsoever, and David Thomas, who the Saints got from the Patriots for a 7th round pick, although a little better than the other two, has still have no extensive playing time. So you see, the Tight End core shoulders rest squarely on Jeremy Shockey.

Offensive Line: I have absolutely no complaints about the Offensive Line. I mean, they protect Brees well (how else could Brees throw for 5000+ yards last season?) And the thing is, their really is noone on that line who I can just say and their name jumps out to anyone. Jammal Brown, Jahri Evans, Jon Stinchcomb and Zack Strief are the 4 biggest names on that Offensive Line, and I’m sure that if I just came up to ask you, not many would could tell me who they actually were, eh? That’s the beauty. You don’t have to be a big name to do your job right, and that is where the Saints shine at. Other names include: Jermon Bushrod, Jonathan Goodwin, Nick Leckley, Jamar Nesbit and Carl Nicks.

Defensive Line: This is where the Saints start to struggle in just a little bit. The Defensive Line of the Saints were not BAD, per se… but they were not good either. They didn’t get many sacks, they had too many big holes open for running backs to run through, and they gave the opposing QB too much time to pass around. They need to step up a bit this upcoming season or else the same thing is going to happen… again.

The big names on the line include Charles Grant, Will Smith and Sedrick Ellis. Ellis has proved to be a pretty good pick from 2 years ago and Charles Grant and Will Smith are both pro bowl players. Now one person I want to mention that actually DID step up their game last year and I remember a game distinctively (against the Kansas City Chiefs) and that was Jeff Charleston. I remember he had like 3 sacks, 3 Deflected Passes and rushed Thigpin quite a bit. If the whole LINE can do that, instead of in spurts every now and then… then the Defensive Line can be quite deadly and the Saints defense could be in the top 5 of the NFL. Are they bad? Well, no they aren’t HORRIBLE, but as it stands right now, they aren’t in the Top 10.

Linebackers: Hoo-boy, where to start with the Linebackers. Again, like the Defensive Line, they didn’t step up to their game last year. Didn’t protect the short passes well, didn’t make the big tackles or big plays and it showed. They didn’t get many sacks either, which is definately not a good thing. Again, they turned to the draft in 2009 and picked up a linebacker in the draft. They picked up Jonathan Casillas in the 3rd round, linebacker from Wisconsin. And from what I saw in the pre-season, he wasn’t too bad, just nothing spectacular. Maybe it’s just the NFL Rookie season jitters.

Some of the other names in the Linebacker Core include Scott Fujita, Marvin Mitchell and Jonathan Vilma. Now Vilma may be the ONLY one people may recognize, with the exception of Fujita. They got him from the Jets last year, and he was one of the few shining points of the Linebackers last year. He led the team in tackles last year with 132 and had 1 sack. They also need to step up their game this year, or it may be another long year for the Saints.

Cornerbacks and Free Safetys: THIS….. THIS is where the Saints were at the worst last year. And especially ONE person pops into my head: Jason David. David, who the Saints got from the Colts after they won the Super Bowl, was supposed to be one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL at that time, but when he came here? He got burned and blew coverage more times than I can actually count. The guy was HORRIBLE. I sat there for 3 years wondering why the Saints actually picked him up and was still on the team.

Luckily, he got cut by the team and in the free agency picked up a true, god given, talent in Darren Sharper. Sharper has shown that HE is one of the top corner backs in the NFL with the Packers and the Vikings, and in the pre-season, he was shutting down EVERYONE. THAT is what I wanted to see. Set him up with Randall Gay, who the Saints got from the Patriots, Usama Young, Roman Harper, and the rookie Malcolm Jenkins, and the Saints could have a formidable corner back/free Safety core for the first time in YEARS.

Special Teams: Well, the Saints has a rookie kicker from last year in Garrett Hartley, and he was pretty good. If I recall correctly, he was perfect for the season last year when he DID play when he took Martin Gramaticas place, but off-field antics caused him to get suspended from the NFL for a minimum of 5 games, so the Saints had to find themselves another kicker. And who did they find? John Carney, who has played with the Saints for years, before going to the chiefs, Jags and the Giants. Carney is one of the great kickers of our time, and I was pretty happy to see him back in a Saints Uniform

The punter we had from last year was Steve Weatherford, and he was an INCREDIBLE punter. He had an average of like 45-46 yards and had several SEVERAL punts that were inside the 20, so you would think that the Saints would do the right thing and resign the guy, right? WRONG. The Saints go to the draft once again and draft… a punter? That’s right, they pick up Thomas Morstead in the 5th round, who played a Southern Methodist. I’m not sure why they went that route, seeing that they had a perfectly capable punter, but hey, that’s not why I am paid the big bucks, now is it?

Schedule:

Games they SHOULD win:

Week 1- Detroit Lions
Week 3- Buffalo Bills
Week 4- New York Jets
Week 9- Carolina Panthers
Week 10- St. Louis Rams
Week 11- Tampa Bay Bucs
Week 16- Tampa Bay
Week 17- Carolina

All these games they should win and if they don’t, it’s not the END of the world, but Detroit? Come on. Bills and Jets aren’t the same teams they were, and neither are the Panthers and the Bucs. And the Rams? They haven’t had a decent team in like 4 years.

Games That could go Either Way

Week 2- Philadelphia Eagles
Week 6- New York Giants
Week 7- Miami Dolphins
Week 8- Atlanta Falcons
Week 13- Washington Redskins
Week 14- Atlanta
Week 15- Dallas Cowboys

All those games should be pretty good games, and could definately go either way. If the Saints play well, they could win the games. If they made a few mistakes, they could lose. It’s as easy as that.

Games that the Saints have almost no Chance of Winning

Week 12- New England Patriots

I’m sorry, but I don’t see the Saints beating the Patriots, especially with Tom Brady healthy again. It will be a shoot-out, yes, between Brees and Brady.. but in my heart, I just don’t think they have a chance to win this game whatsoever.

Overall: The Saints made some good moves in the off season and the draft, with the exception of the punter one? The Saints have the tools to be a VERY good team and finally make it to the super bowl for the first time in history? Do I see them making it this year? Hard to say. It just depends on how the defensive side of things does.

I can see the Saints finishing 10-6 or 11-5 and winning the NFC South. Now how deep they get in the playoffs is still hard to say. But if they play their cards right, the Saints could finally be marching…. all the way to Super Bowl 43.