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Sky's the limit for 'O' in 2007

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Sky's the limit for 'O' in 2007 Brady Aymond baymond@theadvertiser.com It's hard to imagine the New Orleans Saints' offense improving on last year's staggering numbers. But if experience counts for anything, the sky could be the limit in 2007. The ...

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Old 09-06-2007, 10:44 AM   #1
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Sky's the limit for 'O' in 2007

Sky's the limit for 'O' in 2007
Brady Aymond
baymond@theadvertiser.com

It's hard to imagine the New Orleans Saints' offense improving on last year's staggering numbers. But if experience counts for anything, the sky could be the limit in 2007. The Saints return 10 of 11 starters from last year's offense, and the one position where a starter doesn't return got a significant upgrade via the free-agent market.

Former San Francisco 49ers tight end Eric Johnson joins quarterback Drew Brees, tailbacks Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush, and wide receivers Marques Colston and Devery Henderson in an offense which led the NFL in both total offense and passing. Johnson is three years removed from a career season when he caught 82 passes for 852 yards, the highest totals for a 49ers tight end in history. The 6-foot-3, 252-pounder has battled injury the last two years, but appears healthy and expects to give the Saints and Brees a big target over the middle.

"Eric will be a good fit in our offense," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "He has played in a system in the past that has featured the tight end, he has good hands and he knows how to find the openings in the coverage for the kind of catches that move the chains. He is the type of player we were looking for to plug in at tight end."
Brees returns after a record-setting season in which he threw for an NFL-high 4,418 yards. Along the way, he set team records for 300-yard games in a season (eight), passer rating (96.2) and completions (356).
His 26 touchdown passes was tops in the NFC and third overall in the NFL.
"I still think we've only scratched the surface of what we can do as an offense, and obviously we're still getting some guys back that are healthy again," Brees said, looking back on the team's preseason camp. "We have a lot of weapons and a lot of balls to be spread around. I'm excited about the possibilities and the opportunity."
Brees did lose one of his top receivers when Joe Horn left for Atlanta, but second-year sensation Marques Colston returns after catching 70 passes for 1,038 yards and eight touchdowns.
The Saints addressed Horn's departure in both the free agent market and in the draft, picking up veteran wideout David Patten and drafting Tennessee's Robert Meachem in the first round.
Patten is currently battling Devery Henderson for the second wide receiver slot while Meachem is still learning the Saints' system.
Henderson emerged midway through the season as a viable target for Brees after Horn went down with an injury. The former Opelousas standout and LSU Tiger had 32 catches for 745 yards and five touchdowns. His 23.3-yard per catch average ranked first among NFL wide receivers.
"I'm just trying to do what I can to help the offense," Henderson said. "Having a guy like David Patten to lean on helps a lot. He's got three Super Bowl rings, so he knows what it takes to get to that level."
Brees may have the league's best backfield set behind him with fullback Mike Karney joining tailbacks McAllister and Bush.
Aaron Stecker and undrafted free agent Pierre Thomas - the sensation of preseason camp, who beat out fourth-round draft pick Antonio Pittman for a roster spot - add depth to the tailback position.
Many wondered how McAllister and Bush would co-exist in the backfield, and it seems Payton found the perfect formula last season.
McAllister led the Saints with 1,057 yards and 10 touchdowns on 244 carries.
Bush gave the Saints a change of pace, and direction. He ran for 565 yards and six scores and caught a team-high 88 passes for 742 yards and two TDs.
"I think Deuce (McAllister) and I work well together," Bush said. "There is no conflict there. We bring different things to the offense. We both do our own thing."
Paving the way is an offensive line that had an effective and relatively injury-free 2006. All five starters return, with Pro Bowl left tackle Jammal Brown (6-6, 313) leading the way.
Brown started as a rookie at right tackle before moving over to left tackle last season. Brown is joined on the left side by guard Jamar Nesbit (6-4, 328).
Nesbit joined the Saints in 2004 after career stints in Jacksonville and Carolina. Center Jeff Faine (6-3, 291) is back after a stellar 2006 season in which he started all 16 games in the regular season. Guard Jahri Evans (6-4, 318) and tackle Jon Stinchcomb (6-5, 315) make up the right side of the offensive line.
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