For the New Orleans Saints to play to the level they hope to achieve this season, the players who are counted on to produce big – like quarterback Drew Brees, receiver Brandin Cooks, defensive end Cam Jordan – will have to produce on par with the expectations they’ve created. But there will have to be a few pleasant surprises, too. Here, possibly, are five of them:
1. On your Ps and Js. Cornerback P.J. Williams didn’t play a single regular-season down last year, sidelined by injury and surgery as a rookie. So having him now almost is like the Saints received a bonus draft pick this year and from what we’ve seen, we can determine why Williams was so highly regarded coming out of Florida State. His cover skills appear to be very sound, to the point where he should be a regular presence on the field. Williams possibly could start if Keenan Lewis isn’t quite back from his surgery and rehabilitation, and undoubtedly will be key in the Saints’ sub-packages. No team can have too many good cornerbacks, and Williams could give the Saints another one.
2. Saint Nick. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley hasn’t consistently played up to the billing of a former first-round draft pick (No. 13 overall, by Detroit in 2011). After producing 1.5 sacks and 77 tackles the last two seasons combined, the Saints signed him to a one-year contract hoping that he’s got a chip on his shoulder and is prepared to be as beastly as he was when he was a dominant force at Auburn. He can be disruptive in the middle of the defensive line (a combined 11.5 sacks in 2012-13) and if he can recapture that, life will become a whole lot easier for everyone else along the defensive front.