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JOESAM2002 08-22-2003 09:48 AM

Season outlook from The Sporting News....


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Aaron Brooks, QB - Brooks has looked solid but unspectacular during the preseason. He was 9-of-16 against the Jets last weekend and continues to look more comfortable in the pocket. His shoulder is clearly better following the surgery and he has much more velocity on his throws than he had at the end of the '02 season. But we've spoken to people close to the organization who are very concerned about the long-term durability of that shoulder. (The War Room) » fantasy spin

Curtis Keaton, RB - Keaton has been adequate, but if something were to happen to Deuce McAllister, the Saints would be in enormous trouble because there is just too big of a drop-off between starter and backup. Keaton catches the ball well and runs hard, but he lacks a second gear as a runner; he is too small and lacks the power to make a difference as a short-yardage runner; and he's not a threat as a receiver after the catch. (The War Room) » fantasy spin

Darren Howard, DE - Howard was originally diagnosed with a sprained knee, but the team now says the injury is simply a bone bruise, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. » fantasy spin

By Jeff Duncan/New Orleans Times-Picayune

Saints team report
Aug. 21, 2003


The roster is bursting with young talent. Thanks to three consecutive solid drafts and a strong crop of free-agent acquisitions, the Saints believe they finally have the pieces in place to make a deep playoff run. The defense is more athletic and better suited to execute coach Jim Haslett's aggressive scheme. The addition of rookie DT Johnathan Sullivan, MLB Orlando Ruff and FS Tebucky Jones upgrades the gut of the unit. Opponents will find it tougher to run between the tackles.

The offense has weapons at every position. RB Deuce McAllister is one of the game's best all-around backs and an emerging star. The Saints are three-deep with quality at wide receiver and tight end. QB Aaron Brooks has so many targets that his biggest job might be spreading the wealth around to keep all parties happy.

The offseason additions also have upgraded the chemistry and cohesiveness of the team. Jones and TE Ernie Conwell have Super Bowl rings. LT Wayne Gandy, OLB Derrick Rodgers and CB Ashley Ambrose are playoff veterans. Their experience will assist the development of the club's young playmakers and perhaps help the Saints avoid the type of late-season collapse that removed them from the playoff picture the last two years.


The Saints run complicated schemes on offense and defense that take time to learn. That means the defense, with six new starters, will suffer growing pains early. Because C Jerry Fontenot missed most of the offseason program while negotiating a new contract and RG LeCharles Bentley suffered a chest injury in camp, the starting offensive linemen hardly have played together this offseason. They need to develop continuity.

Curtis Keaton's struggles at backup running back in the preseason forced the club to sign journeyman Ki-Jana Carter, a former No. 1 overall draft pick. The club will consider adding another veteran runner to the mix if one pops loose during final cuts.

Cornerback is far from a sure thing. Veteran Dale Carter is 33 and has not played a full 16-game season since 1994, Fred Thomas is undersized and has been hounded by injuries, and Ambrose turns 33 this month. There's little experience behind that trio.


With the spotlight on the Bucs, Rams, Packers and Eagles in the NFC, the Saints are flying under the radar. But they are the sleeper team in the conference. Lost amid the club's 0-3 finish last season was the fact it was good enough to beat the 49ers, Steelers and Packers once and the Bucs twice. This team has talent and is well-coached. What it lacks is consistency. But if the defense jells early and Brooks plays at a consistently high level, there's no reason the Saints can't make their first playoff appearance since 2000.

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