3. Cameron Jordan and Mark Ingram, two first round picks and two young players with lofty expectations in their first year with the Saints. No other team in the league has two first round rookies on their roster, double the drama from a TV producers stand point.
Jordan will likely be heavily utilizedhis rookie season and has a good chance to take over as the starter and surpass Alex Brown as the teams starting left defensive end. Can he adjust quickly to the pro game? Will he become the force the Saints are hoping for to star opposite Will Smith?
If the expectations for what Jordan can bring to the Saints defense are as high as they are, then the expectations of what Ingram can do for the Saints offense are off the charts.
New Orleans has lacked a true running game for many years now. In 2009 they were able to boast the leagues fifth ranked rush attack, but that’s the only true bright spot amidst years of inadequacy.
Ingram is expected to see his fair share of the carries in the Saints “backfield by committee”, splitting time with Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory and perhaps Reggie Bush if he is retained. Can he stay healthy? Will he produce the rushing totals everyone is hoping to see?
4. The Saints have a league high 27 potential free agents, it’s certainly a very big task for the teams front office to attempt to get even the most important players back under contract, let alone the entire lot.
There are some big names on that list — LT Jermon Bushrod, S Roman Harper, WR Lance Moore, LB Scott Shanle, TE David Thomas — all of which are starters and all of which contributed to the Saints Super Bowl XLV victory over the Colts.
The lockout has severely impeded the teams ability to negotiate new deals. They are restriced from making contact with any player until the lockout is lifted.
Also complicating the matter is that it’s unknow if some of these players will be “restricted” or “un-restricted” free agents until a new CBA is reached. Will they be able to retain key players? How badly will the lockout impede their ability to get them under contract before the season starts?
5. Super Bowl adjacent, meaning that the Saints are one season removed from winning it all, a monumental moment in the history of the franchise and an unbelievable time for fans of the team once considered to be the worst in the NFL.
The Saints followed up their Super Bowl winning season winning eleven games in 2010 and making the post season as the first wild card team from the NFC. (The Packers were the second wild care team and they went on to beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl).
Something went terribly wrong however as they went on to face the underdog 7-9 Seahawks at home. With too many play makers on the bench, and injured reserve list, Seattle out slugged the Saints and took the win 41-37 at Qwest Field.
C’est la vie — 2011 is a new year, and one can only hope that the NFL’s regular season starts on time. Have the Saints done enough in the draft to stay competitive? Can they win the division? Will they reach the post season and make a run at an elusive second world championship?