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New Orleans Saints 2007 Season Preview

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; By Tony Moss, NFL Editor (Sports Network) - Those predicting big things for the New Orleans Saints this season should first consult the "The Saints have never..." file. The Saints, who outlasted Carolina and Atlanta to take the NFC South ...

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Old 08-22-2007, 05:41 PM   #1
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Cool New Orleans Saints 2007 Season Preview

By Tony Moss, NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - Those predicting big things for the New Orleans Saints this season should first consult the "The Saints have never..." file.

The Saints, who outlasted Carolina and Atlanta to take the NFC South in 2006, have never won back-to-back division titles in their 40-year history. The last time New Orleans was coming off a division crown, in 2001, the organization promptly went 7-9 and missed the postseason the following year.

The Saints have never won playoff games in two straight seasons. New Orleans' Divisional Round win over Philadelphia last season was only the second postseason win in the organization's annals, and the playoff record now stands at a lowly 2-6 all-time.

The Saints have never played in or won a Super Bowl. To do the former, Sean Payton's team would need to at least double its all-time postseason win total during January of 2008, and would need to surpass that total in order to hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the first time ever.

For their part, New Orleans fans have to believe that history will teach us nothing, at least in this case.

The Saints have a terrific team coming back in 2007, one that is better on paper than the unit that shocked the world by winning seven more games with rookie head coach Payton than it had the year before, and reached the NFC Championship for the first time ever.

All the doom and gloom about the Saints reverting to their traditional losing form is difficult to reconcile with the rising stock of a club that has more stars - Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, and Marques Colston primary among them - than at any time in its mostly sad history.

Thus, the message from New Orleans and its passionate fans is for we the pundits to toss that disconcerting "Saints have never" file on the scrap heap.

After all, the Saints have never looked so good.

Below we take a capsule look at the 2007 edition of the New Orleans Saints, with a personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:

2006 RECORD: 10-6 (1st, NFC South)

LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2006, lost to Chicago, 39-14, in NFC Championship

COACH (RECORD): Sean Payton (10-6 in one year with Saints, 10-6 overall)



OFFENSIVE STAR: Drew Brees, QB (4418 passing yards, 26 TD, 11 INT)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Will Smith, DE (49 tackles, 10.5 sacks)

OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 19th rushing, 1st passing, 5th scoring

DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 23rd rushing, 3rd passing, 13th scoring

FIVE KEY GAMES: Indianapolis (9/6), Carolina (10/7), at Atlanta (12/10), Philadelphia (12/23), at Chicago (12/30)

KEY ADDITIONS: RB Antonio Pittman (RB, Ohio State), WR Robert Meachem (1st Round, Tennessee), WR David Patten (from Redskins), TE Eric Johnson (from 49ers), G Andy Alleman (3rd Round, Akron), DT Kendrick Clancy (from Cardinals), LB Dhani Jones (from Eagles), LB Brian Simmons (from Bengals), CB Usama Young (3rd Round, Kent State), CB Jason David (from Colts), S Kevin Kaesviharn (from Bengals), K Olindo Mare (from Dolphins)

KEY DEPARTURES: WR/KR Michael Lewis (released), WR Joe Horn (to Falcons), TE Ernie Conwell (released), G Montrae Holland (to Broncos), DT Willie Whitehead (released), LB Terrence Melton (to Panthers), CB Curtis Deloatch (to Panthers), S Bryan Scott (to Titans), S Omar Stoutmire (to Redskins), K Billy Cundiff (to Falcons), K John Carney (released)

QB: If Brees had any skeptics left, he quieted them during a 2006 season in which he recovered from a serious shoulder injury, learned a new offense, and promptly led the NFL in passing yards en route to leading the Saints within a game of the Super Bowl. Brees was simply magnificent, and if he can stay healthy, the 28-year-old should be at the helm of the New Orleans attack for the better part of the next decade. Backing Brees should again be veteran Jamie Martin (208 passing yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), who would be fine in a pinch but might be in trouble if he has to play for a long stretch. There was a three-way battle for No. 3 quarterback duties during camp, though it wasn't even guaranteed that Payton would choose to keep three signal-callers. Holdover Jason Fife looked to have a slight edge over rookie Tyler Palko and free agent pickup Matt Baker for the would-be third job.

RB: Though he didn't prove himself as an every-down rusher during his first year in New Orleans, there is no disputing the impact that Bush (565 rushing yards, 88 receptions, 8 TD) had on the Saints offense. Bush had over 1,300 combined rushing and receiving yards, more than half of which came on his team-leading 88 receptions. Bush logged only 3.6 yards per carry in the running game, though he came on late with 5.1 yards per tote and five touchdowns during the month of December. New Orleans will continue to ask seven-year vet Deuce McAllister (1057 rushing yards, 10 TD, 30 receptions) to get many of the tough yards, after McAllister rebounded from a serious knee injury to go over the 1,000-yard mark for the fourth time in his career last season. If the Saints choose to keep only three running backs, they will have a serious decision to make between holdover Aaron Stecker (19 receptions), who has been a presence in the lineup for the past three seasons, and fourth-round draft pick and Ohio State product Antonio Pittman. The fullback will again be Mike Karney (33 rushing yards, 15 receptions, 3 TD), who was valuable to the team as a blocker and occasional pass-catcher and ball carrier a year ago.

WR/TE: Few would have predicted the 2006 success of Colston (70 receptions, 8 TD), who was four picks from not being selected in last year's draft and ended up as the most productive receiver on one of the top passing attacks in the league. The Saints thought enough of Colston that they allowed veteran Joe Horn to walk away in the offseason, meaning extra pressure will be on the Hofstra product this year. He will have some help from the likes of Devery Henderson (32 receptions, 5 TD) and Terrance Copper (23 receptions, 3 TD), two players who revived their careers in their first year in Payton's attack, as well as first-round draft choice Robert Meachem. Meachem may not begin the year as a starter, but is expected to gradually become a larger part of the offense as the season progresses. Holdovers Lance Moore and Jamal Jones (6 receptions, 1 TD) were among the others fighting for roster spots during camp, but one or both could be facing a stiff challenge from veteran David Patten. The 33-year-old Patten comes to New Orleans after two disappointing seasons with the Redskins. Eric Johnson (34 receptions, 2 TD), who once caught 82 balls in a season with the 49ers but was plagued by injury problems during six years in San Francisco, is being counted on to replace the departed Ernie Conwell. Holdovers Mark Campbell (18 receptions) and Billy Miller (14 receptions) should back Johnson.

OL: The Saints' offensive line was a major question mark entering 2006, but the group played well enough to keep the attack above the fray. There was a major bit of luck involved in this group coming together. Right tackle Jon Stinchcomb and center Jeff Faine, both of whom had been plagued by injuries during their NFL careers, held up as 16-game starters. Left guard Jamar Nesbit, a longtime backup, also fared well in his first full-time action in years. The rest of the unit was filled out by left tackle Jammal Brown, who delivered on his first-round promise during his second season in the league, and right guard Jahri Evans, a supposed "project" out of Division II Bloomsburg who started from day one of his rookie season. That entire unit is back, though Brown (knee) and Faine (calf) were nursing injuries during the early stages of the preseason. Holdovers Jonathan Goodwin, Rob Petitti, and Zach Strief could be pressed into starting service if injuries persist up front, and 2007 Draft picks Andy Alleman (Akron) and Jermon Bushrod (Towson) will be looked to for a contribution as well.

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