Monday, August 10, 2009
2009 NFL PREVIEW- New Orleans Saints
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
2008 RECORD: 8-8
(4th in NFC South)
HEAD COACH: Sean Payton
Key Additions: CB Jabari Greer (FA/Bills) FB Heath Evans (FA/Patriots) S Darren Sharper (FA/Vikings) DL Paul Spicer (FA/Jaguars)
Key Losses: RB Deuce McAllister (FA) TE Mark Campbell (FA) RB Aaron Stecker (FA) WR David Patten (FA/Browns) FB Mike Karney (FA/Rams) PK Martin Gramatica (FA) CB Mike McKenzie (FA) CB Josh Bullocks (FA/Bears)
Offense: Not much improvement needs to take place here as quarterback Drew Brees returns after a record-setting year for him personally in 2008. Brees threw for 5,069 yards with 34 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
Brees became just the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 5,000 yards in a single season.
The team offense ranked number-one in total offense (411 yards per game, including 311 yards passing per game) in the NFL last season. The Saints also led the league in scoring and passing. It's the rushing attack that needs to improve as it ranked 28th overall with just under 100 yards a game.
The top running back for the Saints is Pierre Thomas, who rushed for 625 yards (4.8 ypc average) and nine touchdowns in '08. Heath Evans comes over from the Patriots and will be the fullback. Reggie Bush will spell Thomas and is a good receiver out of the backfield as well.
Bush put up respectable numbers in 2008 with 404 yards rushing (two TDs) and made 52 catches for 440 yards and four touchdowns. He also returned three kicks for touchdowns, including two punt returns in one game on Monday Night Football last October.
The wide receivers are good and the Saints have some depth here as well.
Lance Moore was the team leader in receptions in 2008 with 79 catches for 928 yards and 10 touchdowns. Marques Colston (47 catches, 760 yards and five TDs) is back and ready to start along with either Moore or Devery Henderson, who made 32 grabs for 793 yards (24.8 yards per catch average) and three TDs. Tight End Jeremy Shockey had 50 catches as well. Back up TE Billy Miller adds to the depth after making 45 catches and scoring a touchdown.
The offensive line does an excellent job protecting Brees, evidenced by allowing just 13 sacks all season in 2008.
Jonathon Goodwin is the center and the tackles will be Jammal Brown and Jon Stinchcomb. The guards are Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans.
Defense: The defense was average at best against the run last year and not so good against the pass.
The Saints were 17th in the NFL against the run, allowing 118 yards a game and were 23rd against the pass. Overall, New Orleans ranked 23rd by allowing 350 yards per game in 2008.
Will Smith and Charles Grant are the ends and the tackles will be Sedrick Ellis and Kendrick Clancy in the 4-3 defense.
The linebacking unit consists of Jonathon Vilma (Middle LB) and outside linebackers Scott Shanle and Scott Fujita.
The secondary will see two newcomers as Darren Sharper (free safety) and cornerback Jabari Greer come to the team via free agency to join strong safety Roman Harper and cornerback Randall Gay.
The Saints will look to pressure the quarterback more consistently in 2009 as they logged only 28 sacks last year. The pass defense was not real good as New Orleans allowed 232 yards passing per game and had 15 interceptions for the season.
Rookies Malcolm Jenkins (CB), Chip Vaughn (safety) and linebacker Stan Arnoux may also contribute.
OUTLOOK: The Saints can score points (463 points in '08) and they can score them in a hurry. Unfortunately the opposition does the same, as the team allowed 393 points for the season.
New Orleans Head Coach Sean Payton would like to see much more balance between the two and also will look to get more from the running game in 2009.
Let's face it, to win in the NFL consistently, a team has to be able to run the football and play good defense.
New Orleans must make that a priority if they want to compete in the NFC South, especially against Atlanta and Carolina, who both made the playoffs last year.
The main thing for the Saints to remember is they did finish .500 in '08 and that wasn't too bad considering teams put up 20 or more points against them in 13 of 16 games.
If the defense can find itself early this season and the ground game picks it up a notch or two, the Saints can surprise some people. If not....
Look for another season at or below .500 for the Saints however, as their schedule is pretty tough on paper. Anything can happen once the season starts, but the call here is 7-9 for the Saints in 2009.
Week 1- vs. Detroit (Sept. 13)
Week 2- at Philadelphia (Sept. 20)
Week 3- at Buffalo (Sept. 27)
Week 4- vs. NY Jets (Oct. 4)
Week 5- BYE WEEK
Week 6- vs. NY Giants (Oct. 18)
Week 7- at Miami (Oct. 25)
Week 8- vs. Atlanta (Nov. 2)
Week 9- vs. Carolina (Nov. 8)
Week 10- at St. Louis (Nov. 15)
Week 11- at Tampa Bay (Nov. 22)
Week 12- vs. New England (Nov. 30)
Week 13- at Washington (Dec. 6)
Week 14- at Atlanta (Dec. 13)
Week 15- vs. Dallas (Dec. 19)
Week 16- vs. Tampa Bay (Dec. 27)
Week 17- at Carolina (Jan. 3)