2015 NFL Preview: New Orleans Saints

2015 NFL Preview: New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints, known for owning one of the most prolific passing attacks for nearly a decade, are in the midst of a makeover. A makeover that appears to be centering around the running game. Trading an All-Pro tight end for a center? Re-signing a power running back? Exchanging a promising young wide receiver for a linebacker? Using a first-round pick on an offensive tackle? What the hell is going on here?! Has Sean Payton been replaced by Chuck Knox? Did Drew Brees’ arm fall off in the offseason? It’s either pure insanity or pure genius. Here’s a preview of the 2015 New Orleans Saints.

Outlook: Well, it all depends on whether or not this alleged “run first” approach is A) for real, and B) actually going to work. And a defense that ranked 28th in points and 31st in yards allowed in 2014 needs to get right. Can Brandin Cooks become the go-to option in the passing game? Will the new additions on defense be enough to reverse their fortunes? Is the rebuilt offensive line capable of paving the way for the supposedly improved ground game? Does Brees have another elite season left in his cannon right arm? New Orleans has the tools to win the NFC South, but they also have enough holes to finish dead last.

Later, dude: Jimmy Graham snagged 51 touchdowns during his five years in ‘Nawlins. However, lingering injury issues and concerns about his contract led the front office to conclude that he was expendable for the right price; a first-round draft pick and an All-Pro center proved to be the right price. Linebacker Curtis Lofton was highly productive for three years, but a trade with Miami will ease his departure. Pass rusher Junior Galette racked 22 sacks in 2013 and 2014, but off the field troubles and rumored conflicts with teammates led to his release; he’s now a member of that Washington team, which seems all too fitting. Cornerback Patrick Robinson never lived up to his draft pedigree, so he inked a deal with San Diego. Kenny Stills was sent to Miami for defensive help.

Welcome aboard: Max Unger was the aforementioned All-Pro center acquired in the Jimmy Graham swap. The other part of the Graham deal ended up being first-round linebacker Stephone Anthony, who could push for playing time early in the season. Fellow first-rounder Andrus Peat probably won’t need to start right away, but he brings mauler’s strength to the offensive line. Ex-Bill C.J. Spiller will fill the role once occupied by Darren Sproles and Reggie Bush; the question is will he stay healthy? Anthony Spencer might help offset the loss of Galette if he stays out of the trainer’s room. Dannell Ellerbe missed 2014 with a hip injury, but he’s been pegged to replace Lofton in the middle of the defense. Towering cornerback Brandon Browner was handed a three-year, $18 million contract to contend with the likes of Julio Jones, Mike Evans, and Kelvin Benjamin.

Over/Under wins – 9: Arizona, Dallas, Philly, Detroit, and Indy, plus an always tough division slate means the Saints can’t afford too many missteps. Lessening the burden on Brees should pay dividends.

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