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Record-breaking offense hopes to carry Saints

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; http://www.thenewsstar.com/saints/ht...4E584F28.shtml Fire power: Record-breaking offense hopes to carry Saints Part of The News-Star's 2003 season preview Nick Deriso nderiso@thenewsstar.com September 1, 2003 After another disappointing ending for the New Orleans Saints, the one thing that wasn't questioned after the 2002 ...

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Old 09-01-2003, 11:18 AM   #1
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Record-breaking offense hopes to carry Saints

http://www.thenewsstar.com/saints/ht...4E584F28.shtml





Fire power: Record-breaking offense hopes to carry Saints
Part of The News-Star's 2003 season preview
Nick Deriso
nderiso@thenewsstar.com

September 1, 2003

After another disappointing ending for the New Orleans Saints, the one thing that wasn't questioned after the 2002 season was the offense.

Not after the Saints set a team record for touchdowns scored.

Not after quarterback Aaron Brook threw for a franchise-record 27 touchdown strikes, which ranked first in the NFC and tied for second overall in the NFL.

Not after running back Deuce McAllister led the NFC, with 1,388 rushing yards. He would become the first Saints runner to open the season with consecutive 100-yard games.

The Saints receiving unit also posted a club-record eight 100-yard receiving games in 2002. Joe Horn became the only receiver in history to record three straight 3,000-yard seasons.

Both Brooks and Horn would be named to the Pro Bowl.

Meanwhile, Donte Stallworth was the first rookie in 20 years to catch touchdown passes in his first four NFL games. He would eventually set the club record for scoring grabs by a rookie.

"We've got so many great players on this offense, it's ridiculous," says Stallworth, chosen in the first round out of Tennessee. "Everybody is unselfish. Everybody wants to make plays. Everybody wants to win. There's not a better combination than guys like Joe, who's been in the league for 10-plus years, and a mixture of youth."

The Saints scored 30 or more points eight times in 2002. They scored an NFL best 432 points.

Then, injuries to Brooks and McAllister slowed the offense's furious pace. Coupled with a sagging defense, the Saints fell to three teams with losing records (Minnesota, Cincinnati and Carolina) consecutively to end the season - when a win over any one of them would have clinched a playoff berth.

"Last year was disappoint for all of us," Saints coach Jim Haslett says. "We analyzed everything and looked at why it happened. It really boils down to not making enough plays."

On defense, obviously.

So, the offensive returns every starter except left tackle Kyle Turley. Both Brooks and McAllister have gotten healthy. The Saints also positioned themselves for a significant upgrade with the signing of former St. Louis tight end Ernie Conwell.

That means this off-season has been about polishing on that side of the ball, more than learning the fundamentals.

"Running after the catch, doing little things like that," Horn says, when asked what the offense has been working on. "The running back catching the ball out of the backfield. Things like that."

Brooks, who would eventually have offseason surgery on his throwing shoulder, has clearly found his footing as the leader of the group. "Most of us," Brooks says, "have been together for four years, and that makes a big difference."

Horn agrees: "We know the plays. I think most of the guys know their assignments," he says. "Now, it's little things that we didn't have time to work on when guys were younger.

Like getting off the bump and run, showing them which techniques to use when they already know what route to run."

Horn takes as an example the work he did last season with Stallworth.

"When you've got a rookie that's thinking about what he's got to do at the line of scrimmage, and a veteran cornerback playing him, it's hard to get off the ball," Horn says. "We can work on little things like that, and I'm here to do it."

But their coach says there is more to the Saints' offensive success than experience. Haslett thinks Brooks has turned a corner personally.

"He has done a good job in this offseason of maturing," says Haslett, who enters his fourth season at New Orleans already ranked second all-time in team winning percentage. "Everybody matures. We were just trying to speed it up a bit. Guys grow up and become leaders. I thought Aaron did a good job - and hopefully that continues."

The Saints offense didn't show much during the preseason, perhaps sensing that fireworks are best viewed once night has fallen. (Too, Stallworth's 2002 hamstring issues have lingered into this year.)

That's meant talk inevitably centers on a still-coalescing defense - and that sadly familiar December slide.

"From my stand point, I can't understand that," Brooks says. "I don't hear about the last three games from the other players in the locker room. We know what we had. We know how close we've been to where we want to get."

Associated Press prognosticators have the Saints - despite their offensive pyrotechnics in 2002 - finishing at 7-9, dead last in the NFC South.

"Our time will come, like every other team," Brooks says, almost reveling in the team's lack of respect. "That's what it's been before with this team. We don't have the spotlight. But our time will come. We've just got to make sure that we're where we want to be."


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Old 09-02-2003, 12:19 AM   #2
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Record-breaking offense hopes to carry Saints

\"The Saints receiving unit also posted a club-record eight 100-yard receiving games in 2002. Joe Horn became the only receiver in history to record three straight 3,000-yard seasons.

Both Brooks and Horn would be named to the Pro Bowl. \"

3 STRAIGHT 3000 YARD SEASONS.. JOE IS THE MAN...

BROOKS IN THE PROBOWL EH... I GUESS HE WAS WEARING DUECE\'S NFC JERSEY DURING THE GAME


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