This year's New Orleans Saints training camp, more so than few others, is shot through with hopefulness.
Perhaps it's because the Saints, usually swooning like the town drunk in December, won their final four games last season.
Or that new offensive coordinator has promised to focus more on using Deuce McAllister, the team's best player.
Quarterback Aaron Brooks is perhaps hopeful that a remade offensive line can better protect him, after suffering 41 sacks last year.
Receiver Chase Lyman ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â the oft-injured Saints fourth-rounder who got hurt on his first cut in non-contact practice ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â is hopeful that he can get from the fridge to the couch without blowing out another knee.
Fellow receiver Joe Horn is hopeful, too. But then he just got a career-send off deal.
"I'm very happy about what happened the last four games," said Horn, a 10-season vet who signed a six-year, $42 million contract extension in May.
"Although we didn't make it to the playoffs, the last four games showed me something about our team camaraderie," Horn said. "Nobody could beat us after that four-game spurt, but it just ended. The train ride ended and it started up right now. Every day we're talking about that."
A sign of the Saints' sunny disposition? Despite finishing 8-8 (again), and with the NFL's worst defense, the Saints had a mostly quiet off-season in the free-agent market.
Safety Dwight Smith, from rival Tampa Bay, was the notable signing on defense. On offense, New Orleans picked up the solid, but suddenly injury-prone lineman Jermane Mayberry from Philadelphia, a potential No. 3 receiver in Az-Zahir Hakim and a backup in rusher Antowain Smith.
Not exactly a splashy playoff-talk inducing splurge, but the team is apparently focused on signing McAllister to a long-term deal, as well.
Besides, there are other reasons for hopefulness, team officials say.
First, there was last spring's NFL Draft.
"I feel good about our first-round pick," Saints coach Jim Haslett said of Oklahoma offensive tackle Jammal Brown, a mauler who will take over for the departed Victor Riley on the right side. "I think our second-round pick (Nebraska safety Jason Bullocks) will come in and compete, help us where we need some help."
Haslett is also hopeful about Mike Sheppard, the quarterbacks coach who was promoted over this off-season to offensive coordinator.
Sheppard, who was previously a coordinator at Buffalo and San Diego, intends to simplify the playbook ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â meaning less movement in the backfield and easier reads that should give Brooks more time to survey downfield. Sheppard's modified West Coast attack will use the run to set up the pass, favoring play-action at key times.
"He's had teams that have been ranked as high as third in offense in Buffalo," Haslett said of Sheppard. "I think we have some pretty good players and I think he has a good feel of how to utilize them. He knows everybody's strengths and weaknesses."
Haslett is hopeful about a remade offensive front, too.
Philadelphia's Marberry is expected to displace Montrae Holland at right guard. Brown should start, too.
"I think our line is finally where we want it to be after a couple of years," Haslett said, "and we're going to have to take full advantage of them."
Saints general manager Mickey Loomis traded up to get Brown, exchanging first-round spots with Houston and giving the Texans a third-rounder in 2006.
"I think we were really successful with the first pick," said Loomis. "Jammal was a guy we targeted early. I would have preferred not to have to give up something to move up, but we thought there was a chance someone might come in from behind us and take him right before we picked, and we didn't want to risk that in the end."
So, it worked out as he'd hoped.
Questions, however, remain.
What about the linebacker unit, which lost Derrick Rodgers to salary considerations this week? What about tight end, a spot that's been a stone in the Saints' shoe for years? What about Devery Henderson? Lingering contract talks for cornerbacks Mike McKenzie and Fakhir Brown ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â and Haslett?
What about those backwards passes?
Nobody, it seems, is more hopeful than Joe Horn that all of it will work out ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â and that's not just the contract talking, he says.
"We're going to solidify our playoff spot instead of waiting for somebody else to lose a football game or win a football game," said Horn. "That's the attitude around here right now. I think if we keep that attitude during training camp and during the season, we're going to be fine."
RE: Pre-Camp Hopefulness
Isn't this the same thing that goes around every year for the past 3 or 4 seasons? All the talk about how improved we are every year and how we are the most talented team in the league... blah blah. You've got to walk the walk before you talk the talk. One encouraging thing this offseason so far is that GM's, scouts, ESPN, etc. aren't hyping up our team... at least yet. Maybe things are going to change this year... we'll just have to wait and see. I rather us become over achievers than under achievers again and again.
Re: RE: Pre-Camp Hopefulness
RE: Re: RE: Pre-Camp Hopefulness
RE: Re: RE: Pre-Camp Hopefulness
well we didn't pick up many guys this year so it can't be about this guy doing this and that guy doing that. ( at least as far as who we picked up). i agree very much though with papz and saintswhodi. this is the same thing every year. are you guys telling me that you honestly don't get caught up in it though. i wish i didn't but i do. feels like this is the year. oh wait i said the same thing last year. well i just hope it finally is. i don't feel like watching the same shiit as the last couple of years. at least we have the opportunity to be good this year. it just better work out that way.
if we put it more in deuce's hands and our line opens up holes that is a beginning. if that can help arron from doing stupid stuff that could be real positive too. if joe has his normal year and donte can play the whole year again and play better that would be nice.
more then anything though if our d can play the way they did the last 4 games of last season we could be ok. if not and they play the same way we are use to it could be bad.
Well if you are a Patriots fan , it reads like an annual report ....
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