The Saints were probably the league’s best story from last season. Would you believe that a 10-6 record earned them a first round bye and took them all the way to the NFC Championship Game? It helps when Reggie Bush falls in your lap due to incompetent franchises who refuse to draft difference makers and gamebreakers because of signability issues.
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What is the book on Sean Payton?
Good coach. The Saints made a franchise changing move when they got Payton to become the new leader of the franchise. Many people doubted his abilities to become a successful head coach for a long time after stints in New York and Dallas, but this guy proved he belongs. He took them to the NFC Championship in just his first season at the helm, becoming the only guy to take a 3-13 team from the previous year to one game from the Superbowl.
He’s an offensive guru, but has equally great knowledge of defensive schemes as well from his roots coaching under Bill Parcells. On that turf in the Superdome, the Saints defense has two speeds: fast and faster. They align a talented group of defenders. This is not a group that should be taken lightly, although they’re a step behind the Bears and perhaps the Eagles for the NFC’s top defense. CB Mike McKenzie cannot continue to get toasted by big time receivers.
Will Reggie Bush have an extended role?
They’ll never admit it, but I think the plan last year was to run Duece Mccalister until the wheels fall off while grooming Reggie Bush to be the every down back for 2007. Mccalister not only held up all season long, but had one of his finest seasons as a pro. He showed he can still play and be a feature back, causing Bush to develop into the role of a gadget guy and spot runs here and there. Bush had 88 receptions out of the backfield and lined up as a slot receiver. He is the type of player that is Eric Metcalf but only all-world instead of just very good. He makes a mismatch any time he is lined up in the slot because linebackers aren’t built to cover guys that run like Reggie.
This season, unless Mccalister gets hurt, expect a carbon copy of the way Bush was used with of course some new innovative and exciting wrinkles to get him touches. He might get a few more carries as a running back, but he’s still not going to be the every down grinder that some fans want to see him as, not yet.
What kind of season will Drew Brees follow up with?
Brees is going to have to go a ways to top his performance from last season, which saw him throw for almost 4,500 yards passing. I’m confident that he can do it. Look at the last three offensive seasons Brees has had, very good statistics, and he’s been a part of a team that had a winning record. He also has played very well in playoff games, in which he is 1-2 as a starter but has a 92.7 rating in those games. I think this is the year we’ll see him eclipse 30 touchdowns, and again he’ll get his 4,000 yards. The Saints are the late 90’s early 2000 Rams Offense-lite. Brees throws for a boatload of yards to multiple sources every week.
Brees is right behind Peyton, Palmer, and a healthy Mcnabb in terms of overall production from the QB spot. The former Purdue Boilermaker is just good. Look at the year Marques Colston (7th round rookie from Hofstra) had last season. You think it was because Colston was really that insanely good? Maybe some of it was, but more of it was because Brees is as accurate of a passer as there is in football today, he throws a tight ball and is willing to stand in the pocket and take a hit to get the ball to the spot he wants.
Where do the Saints end up?
Everyone I’ve seen so far has predicted this team to be one of the top 2 teams in the NFC. I’ve seen some have them losing again to Chicago in the NFC Championship (which is a rivalry that could be good for several years), and I’ve seen them also be picked to go to the Superbowl (Street & Smith). It’s tough right now for me to say the Saints are one of the best two teams in the NFC. They’re a playoff team and they’re going to win the NFC South; where they should enjoy the view from uptop for a few years; but it’s tough for me to say they’ll reach the heights of 2006 again. Let me put it this way, both the Bears and Saints can’t make it back to the NFC’s final playoff game; it just won’t happen. One or the other will, and I think that team will be the Bears. I say the Saints go 11-5 and host a home playoff game in which they win. They then go on the road to take on the #2 seed who won’t be the Bears, but could be, and lose. Ultimately, this team’s futures right now are looking to be on the rise.