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saintz08 07-12-2004 12:15 AM

Saints pre-camp preview
SCOUT'S HONOR: Saints pre-camp preview

Brian DeLucia / Special to

New Orleans Saints

CAMP SITE: New Orleans Saints Complex
LOCATION: Metairie, La.

Training Camp Sites/Dates by Team


After another underachieving season, there's a strong sense of urgency in New Orleans, as with many other teams around the league. The Saints know they have a lot of talent, but must mature and improve their focus. That puts a load of pressure squarely on the shoulders of head coach Jim Haslett and quarterback Aaron Brooks. The defense also needs to play with added maturity and more discipline.


Outside of Carolina, not many teams have as much talent at defensive end as the Saints. Darren Howard is the steady veteran of the group. He plays the run effectively. As a pass rusher, he lacks speed but is very instinctive. DE Charles Grant is one of the best athletes coming off the perimeter and has a lot of natural pass-rush ability, but must play up to that billing more consistently. There were indications this off-season that he could be starting to mature. Rookie Will Smith will play a big role on passing downs. He's a natural upfield speed rusher. Howard will slide inside on third downs, while Smith and Grant line up outside. The Saints should be able to generate a solid pass rush this season.


While the Saints aren't getting enough production across the board at linebacker, the strong side remains a major weakness. Sedrick Hodge is a good athlete with very good speed, but he is not very strong and gets pushed around too often. James Allen has a little more size against the run and can be very active, but he takes himself out of position to make a lot of plays. The Saints will struggle to find consistency from these guys.

Jim Haslett will try to avoid becoming the first head coach fired in 2004 amidst New Orleans' big pressure to win this season.


Can the Saints overcome the immaturity factor? Jim Haslett is setting a good tone among the players and there are some in the locker room who are making a conscious effort to play with more discipline. Whether that will carry into the season remains the big question. Old habits are often hard to break — especially with players who carry a track record in the NFL.


There's a lot of competition for the job at middle linebacker. Veteran Orlando Ruff provided good size in the middle and did an adequate job between the tackles, but lacks range and doesn't make any big plays. The Saints want more speed here. Enter Cie Grant and rookie Courtney Watson. Grant is a very instinctive athlete who covers a lot of ground. The concerns with him are his lack of size and past knee problems. Watson could be a sleeper this season. He's very smart and instinctive. Watson does a good job locating the ball and has the potential to emerge as a leader.


Former Ram Brian Young is the right medicine for the talented-yet-underachieving defensive line. Young is an overachiever who plays with a great motor. He makes a living off shooting gaps and being disruptive. That should provide a good mix inside.


The Saints were devastated when fullback Terrelle Smith signed with Cleveland. Smith is a powerful lead blocker who did an excellent job opening holes in the running game. He was one of the few blue-collar players the Saints could rely on the past few seasons.

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