Wednesday, August 11, 2010

2010 Preview: New Orleans Saints

2009 Record: 13-3

2009 Rankings:
Total Offense - 1
Run Offense - 6
Pass Offense - 4
Scoring Offense - 1
Total Defense - 25
Run Defense - 21
Pass Defense - 26
Scoring Defense - 20

What is there to really say about New Orleans that you didn't find out in the aftermath of the Super Bowl? Well, the reigning champions will now have to step into a role they are utterly unfamiliar with. The targets are now on their backs. The Saints have put together one of the best offenses in the league. Unlike the Patriots offense of 2007, the Saints beat you with a balanced attack. They have one of the best passing games in the league, but their running game is nothing to snooze at either. Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell, and Reggie Bush shouldered the load last season. With Bell gone in free agency, Thomas and Bush should see more carries each.

Just because the Saints are defending champs and are capable of putting up points lightning fast doesn't mean that they will completely abandon the running game like the Colts, Patriots, and Cardinals have done in the past. The offense is the key to this team, and it really does revolve around Drew Brees. That being said, Brees is attempting to do something unprecedented this year: break the Madden curse. The Saints are loaded with receiving options. They had 7 players with 35+ catches and 300+ receiving yards. Only Marques Colston surpassed 1000 receiving yards, but Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, and Jeremy Shockey all had over 500. Colston and Meachem both racked up 9 TDs with no one else on the team pulling in more than 3.

The Saints went straight after addressing their defense in the draft, selecting Florida State corner Patrick Robinson in the first round. Robinson will have time to learn the defense behind Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter. The Saints have two excellent safeties in ball hawk Darren Sharper (who arguably should have been the Defensive Player of the Year last year) and SS Roman Harper who finished second on the team with 81 tackles last season. The Saints boast one of the best 4-3 linebacking units in the league, anchored by MLB Jonathan Vilma. If the Saints D is lacking in one place, it is in the front 4. Will Smith led the team in sacks with 13 last season, but their run defense still struggled, especially in the middle of the line.

In 2009, 20 was the magic number for New Orleans. Including the playoffs, the Saints scored more than 20 points in 16 games. They won all 16 of those games. All 3 games where they were held under 20 points? They lost. Barring Drew Brees getting injured, and we would never wish that on anyone, there is no reason this team shouldn't compete for the division title and make a run at the playoffs again this year. The Saints will find that playing as the defending champs is a little harder than playing as perpetual underdogs, but you still have to believe in the firepower of their offense to keep them in any game.

Ian's Prediction: 11-5

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