The New Orleans Saints have been through so much over the last few seasons. Between bountygate with the Saints defense in 2012, resulting in head coach Sean Payton being suspended for an entire season, to having Payton come back in 2013, but the team losing to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Divisional Round in the playoffs. The team looks to come back strong, but missing some key pieces.
Running back (& one of Drew Brees’ favorite targets) Darren Sproles is now signed with the Philadelphia Eagles & Brees will now have to find a running back who can be a great receiver out of the backfield, especially with the Saints not having a strong presence in the running game over the last few years.
Veteran running back Pierre Thomas is going to be called upon to be a #1 running back as well as the Sproles replacement. Thomas will most likely split time with Mark Ingram, who the Saints will need to see some growth out of, or Ingram will be on the chopping block quickly. Ingram has not lived up to the hype coming out of Alabama in 2010 after his Heisman Trophy winning campaign. Ingram is looking as though he could be a bust pretty soon if things don’t improve quickly.
The rest of the offense looks strong & I don’t forsee Brees having problems getting the ball down the field. Colston, Stills, Nick Toon & Robert Meachem are all long, talented & can go up for the ball as well as any group of receivers in the NFL, but the big key is having Jimmy Graham at the tight end position, even though Graham believes that he is a wide receiver & should be paid like one.
Should be another 5,000 yard season for Brees, as long as injuries don’t play a factor.
On the defensive side of things, the Saints will be solid across the board, particularly of two additions that will make a major difference in pass defense ratings. The team signed cornerback Champ Bailey from the Denver Broncos. Bailey is close to retirement & the hall-of-fame, but still has enough in his tank to provide a strong presence to a defense that has always lacked in pass defense.
Along with Bailey, the team drafted Vinnie Sunceri from Alabama. Sunseri is a true leader on defense & will be the type of guy who will play in the NFL for years to come because of his ability to close on the football, call out signals to the secondary & blitz from time-to-time from the safety position.
With a solid defensive unit now in place, the New Orleans Saints will win the NFC South Division & have home field at least in the first round of the playoffs. 12-4 record.