2015 New Orleans Saints Preview
By John Sigler
The NFC South has seen a tremendous turnover in players, coaches, and front office staffs this offseason. Every team is filled with new faces, but none has undergone a more thorough makeover than the New Orleans Saints. Unsatisfied with the downward spiral that sent them to a 7-9 finish, the team reevaluated itself from top to bottom. Old pieces were changed out as the team sought to reestablish itself as a force to reckon with in the NFC. Was it enough? Read on and find out what I think with my New Orleans Saints preview for the 2015 season:
Offensive Additions: The biggest addition made to the New Orleans Saints’ offense was Max Unger #60. Unger is one of two players who will put hands on the ball for all 1,000+ plays that Sean Payton expects to run in 2015 (the other is Drew Brees #9). He’s an All-Pro talent when healthy and has been stellar for the Saints so far. He should do a lot of good to stabilize an interior plagued with injury (right guard Jahri Evans) and inexperience (left guard Tim Lelito #68).
Elsewhere on the offensive line, rookie first round selection Andrus Peat #75 was chosen (too highly, as some think) to be Zach Strief #64’s understudy at right tackle. Peat has the measurements and college film the team likes, but his play has been inconsistent so far. Conditioning has been his biggest issue, which should be managed better after a year spent with NFL physicians and weightlifting programs. For now he’s the team’s swing tackle, a role which should be more than adequate for him.
The Saints’ receiving corps is totally different from what they had last year. Only four wideouts are currently on the roster and of them only two played in the regular season last year. Second-year undrafted free agents Brandon Coleman #16 (from Rutgers) and Willie Snead IV #83 (Ball State) are poised to see a ton of targets with fellow sophomore Seantavius Jones #17 (Valdosta State) and rookie R.J. Harris #19 (New Hampshire) waiting in the wings on the practice squad.
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In the backfield, last year’s starter Mark Ingram #22 was joined by veteran C.J. Spiller #28, who has been working back from an arthroscopic knee procedure. Khiry Robinson #29 is still the reliable third halfback, while Marcus Murphy #48 joined the team as a return specialist and Tim Hightower #34 is seeking a comeback in Mike Bell’s old role as a game-finishing bulldozer. Fullback Austin Johnson #35 officially won his starting job from Erik Lorig and is looking to again be a factor on special teams.
Defensive Additions: This was another big year for change on the Saints’ defense. They are expecting free agent additions like Brandon Browner #39 and Kevin Williams #93 to bring some stability to a struggling secondary and defensive line, while young guns like Stephone Anthony #50, Hau’oli Kikaha #45, and Damian Swann #38 were added through the draft as foundational pieces moving forward. Some undrafted free agents like Bobby Richardson #78 and Tavaris Barnes #90 are rounding out the group of new faces on the side of the ball that may need the most help in 2015.
The Saints are entering the next year with a totally revamped linebacker corps. Only Keenan Lewis #21, Rafael Bush #25, and Kenny Vaccaro #32 are returning from the group of ten defensive backs who filled out last year’s roster. Canadian Football League import and New Orleans native Delvin “Chip” Breaux is looking to be the guy at cornerback, so it’s tough to keep expectations realistic for him. The defensive line is more stable but all of the returning players have lost weight so that they can be more versatile and line up from all over the formation. If Rob Ryan is going to last in New Orleans, he’s not going to have a better opportunity than this to solidify himself.
Important Losses: Obviously the Saints lost much of their traditional firepower in the passing game with the blockbuster trades of Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills, and Ben Grubbs. The most understated loss is Tyrunn Walker, who took a small deal with Detroit and is now starting in the void left when Ndamukong Suh took his talents to South Beach. The Saints were a bad team last year, and the turnover at some of their weakest positions (especially defensive back) may be a good thing.
Next: Move on to the next page for my season preview for the Saints