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Here are 5 areas of need the Saints should keep an eye on during offseason

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Old 02-04-2019, 03:23 PM   #1
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Old 02-04-2019, 03:24 PM   #2
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Re: Here are 5 areas of need the Saints should keep an eye on during offseason

BY NICK UNDERHILL | nunderhill@theadvocate.com Feb 4, 2019 - 2:57 pm

The Saints tried to add more weapons to the offense.

It was one of the biggest priorities last offseason, but Cameron Meredith battled a knee injury that eventually cut his season short, and Tre’Quan Smith flashed talent but was inconsistent. It is possible the Saints already have the players in the fold for a vastly improved group of wide receivers next season if everything goes right, but it should not be taken for granted, which is why adding more targets is the Saints' biggest responsibility this offseason.

Having Michael Thomas account for nearly 33 percent of the completed passes would be fine if the next wide receiver on the list caught more than seven percent of the completed passes. Thomas should continue to be targeted somewhere close to 150 times per season. The offense needs to find someone who is worth more than 45.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of the season was hiding this flaw for so long. Everyone knew the offense was devoid of weapons, and then the team added Dez Bryant and then Brandon Marshall. It made sense. The target distribution showed a huge flaw within the offense, but it was hard to get too worked up about anything when the team made scoring 40 points look easy.

Then the bottom fell out against Dallas, and the offense was never the same down the stretch.

“We played some pretty good defenses, and yet I think it’s a fair question,” coach Sean Payton said. “We had a stretch, maybe it was unrealistic to (keep up with) what we were scoring and how we were scoring and that feeling coming off of games like Cincinnati and the Rams early in the year.”

Some of those good defenses figured out ways to slow down both Thomas and Kamara enough while limiting the other weapons enough to stall the offense. One of the other things that became obvious is that the deep passing game evaporated as the season wore on. Brees posted a 142 quarterback rating on passes traveling 20 or more yards through the air during the first 12 weeks of the season. Over the final five weeks of the season, his rating fell to 62.8 on the same passes.

The argument here isn’t for another deep threat, though that remains an integral part of the offense. What the Saints seem to need more than anything is a wide receiver who can get open quickly and win in the shorter and intermediate areas of the field. If that player can also get deep, all the better. A solid receiving tight end would also mitigate some of the need here.

But as New Orleans becomes more of a ball control offense, these types of players can help mitigate the aging process a little bit and keep the offense moving as the bumps and bruises pile up as the season wears on. Meredith looked like someone who could fit the bill, and the Saints think a lot of Keith Kirkwood. The answers might already be on the roster, but the team has to be sure if it decides to move forward with what it has in the cupboards.

It might seem like a stretch to create panic about a roster that did everything it had to do to make the Super Bowl, but it will be hard to get back to that point unless the offense figures some things out this offseason.

Figure out running back situation

Mark Ingram is going to turn 30 during his next contract, which is supposed to be the age when running backs stall out and stop being productive players.

But Ingram isn’t like other running backs. He’s only averaged 165 carries per season during his eight years in the league, which has kept some the wear and tear off of his legs. For the sake of comparison, Ingram only has 92 more career carries than Le’Veon Bell, who has only played five seasons.

The Saint should be aware of Ingram’s age, and if they’re interested in retaining him, should structure an offer with his age in mind. But New Orleans or any other team shouldn’t be fearful of it blowing up in their faces as long as those teams are smart about structuring the offer.

Should New Orleans be one of those teams? It depends. The team failed to replace Ingram early in the season despite bringing in several running backs to fill the void while he was serving a suspension. The early stretch showed how important he is to the offense.

On the other hand, the Saints did not make a full-blown effort to replace Ingram. They were only looking for a stopgap and almost certainly would have made a more significant effort if looking to solve a long-term problem.

The question is if there are better solutions for next season.

Keep the rush strong

It will take some work to ensure the pass rush remains one of the strengths of the defense next season.

The group came together and helped alleviate some of the issues that arose in the secondary. But ensuring similar success next season will take some work this offseason with Alex Okafor expected to opt out of his contract and reach free agency, and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins working his way back from a torn Achilles.

New Orleans thinks highly of first-round pick Marcus Davenport, who flashed at times throughout his rookie season, and finished with 4 ˝ sacks while playing in 13 games. The rookie battled confidence issues but will enter this offseason knowing that he belongs and with a clear picture of what he needs to do to improve during his second season.

The Saints should look to add another edge rusher if Okafor decides to sign with another team.

If Rankins misses time to start the season, New Orleans will have a significant task in replacing his production on the interior defensive line. David Onyemata will help carry some of the burden, but that would leave the depth shallow at that position. More help is needed.

Rebuild depth on the offensive line

The Saints have disguised losses on the offensive line the last few years, but the depth got tested as injuries mounted. By the end of the year, New Orleans had a good idea of what its death is capable of doing.

Will Clapp and Cameron Tom provide two intriguing players on the inside, while it is currently unclear if the Saints and Jermon Bushrod will decide to come back together next season. Either way, some competition, if not upgrades, could be used in various spots across the line.

With Andrus Peat nearing the end of his contract and Max Unger set to turn 33 before the start of the season, the Saints need to be developing more players who can potentially elevate into starting roles. It is unclear if the team sees any of the young offensive linemen in that light, though it did work to keep Tom from signing elsewhere last season.

The sixth offensive lineman, whether it be a tackle or guard, has essentially been a starter for the Saints the last few years with the way injuries have impacted the line. Losing Senio Kelemete through free agency last year was a big hit. New Orleans patched the hole, but it was temporary. A better option is still needed.

Address backup quarterback and safety

Brees is 40 years old. The Saints need to take the backup position seriously.

That doesn’t necessarily mean trading for someone like Teddy Bridgewater if Bridgewater decides to leave, but the team needs to have someone who can win a few games if things go wrong. You have to have an insurance policy if things go sideways with an older quarterback.

The Saints think a lot of Taysom Hill and believe he can develop as a quarterback, but it wouldn’t hurt to have another player at the position.

New Orleans could also use another safety. Vonn Bell and Marcus Williams both played well, but it wouldn’t hurt to bring in more depth behind those two to compete with Kurt Coleman.
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Old 02-04-2019, 03:51 PM   #3
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Re: Here are 5 areas of need the Saints should keep an eye on during offseason

The argument here isn’t for another deep threat, though that remains an integral part of the offense. What the Saints seem to need more than anything is a wide receiver who can get open quickly and win in the shorter and intermediate areas of the field. If that player can also get deep, all the better. A solid receiving tight end would also mitigate some of the need here.

Without a doubt. Addressing these areas are a must in the off season.
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Old 02-05-2019, 11:35 AM   #4
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Re: Here are 5 areas of need the Saints should keep an eye on during offseason

Originally Posted by K Major View Post
The argument here isn’t for another deep threat, though that remains an integral part of the offense. What the Saints seem to need more than anything is a wide receiver who can get open quickly and win in the shorter and intermediate areas of the field. If that player can also get deep, all the better. A solid receiving tight end would also mitigate some of the need here.

Without a doubt. Addressing these areas are a must in the off season.
Traditionally, a TE has filled that role for us. Think Shockey, Graham, Watson. I suppose a portion went to guys like Lance Moore or Snead, but probably a small percentage, especially when there is a consistent body (Colston, Thomas) near the sidelines, and a fast guy going down field.
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Old 02-05-2019, 12:02 PM   #5
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Re: Here are 5 areas of need the Saints should keep an eye on during offseason

Hoping Ingram is reasonable in his demands, he really disappeared late for us, and his age is also a concern...

While I've posted ad nauseam about how much I hated the trade with the Patriots to move back into the first to get him...

I do believe the time, energy in developing him, plus his apparent chemistry with the team is important to keep around...

Ingram's 2018 Cap Number was ~$6.25 mil with base, pro-rated bonus, workout bonus et al...

Now, the NFL Salary Cap per team for 2018 was $177.2 million...

Per CBS Sports, "According to NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy...the 2019 salary cap is projected to range somewhere between $187 million and $191.1 million." -that translates to a five/seven percent increase...

That said, Mark Ingram is now 29yo, he'll turn the dreaded 30 for an NFL RB next season. And there's definitely a shift in the offense from last season...

So I suspect once the cap is officially set, we'll see the team agree on something possibly like a seven to even eight percent increase for Ingram but less guaranteed money as what the team will drive...

Or his new agent may push for him to test the market and that's where it could get interesting - might a team overpay to break-up Saints chemistry? do Saints gamble, bet on a lower number...

Either way, the Saints will resolve quickly the Ingram question to solidify the backfield...

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Old 02-05-2019, 12:11 PM   #6
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Re: Here are 5 areas of need the Saints should keep an eye on during offseason

Originally Posted by turbo_dog View Post
Traditionally, a TE has filled that role for us. Think Shockey, Graham, Watson. I suppose a portion went to guys like Lance Moore or Snead, but probably a small percentage, especially when there is a consistent body (Colston, Thomas) near the sidelines, and a fast guy going down field.
Unfortunately, we don't have any of those of guys (ability to run precise routes/ability to create separation on 3rd down) on the roster at the moment.

On to Free Agency !
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