This is the time of year when hope springs eternal. Every fan’s NFL team has a shot at a winning record, the playoffs and even the Super Bowl. Some are delusional — sorry, Raiders fan. Some teams are already printing playoff tickets. Good job, good effort Cowboys. Other teams are talked about incessantly during the weeks leading up to the regular season — see Patriots and Broncos. Others fly under the radar. That’s where the Saints seem to fall again this preseason.
I wouldn’t sleep on the Saints. Not this year.
The change in training camp location — at least for the first three weeks — could be something that’s looked back on as an early turning point. Players have raved about the weather. The need for IV’s after practices (or during) this year is nearly non-existent. IV’s were the norm at training camp in Metairie. What’s happening now could keep the team fresher down the stretch.
Here’s a quick look at the Saints at this point in the preseason. Before the regular season begins, I’ll write more with a season prediction included. If it’s prophetic, I’ll certainly link back to it at the end of the season. If it’s terribly off, we’ll just pretend I never wrote about the season in the first place.
Champ Bailey, if his mystery injury isn’t serious, will presumably start at one cornerback spot. Keenan Lewis will lock down the other side. Throw in Jairus Byrd, Kenny Vaccaro, Rafael Bush and others at safety and you’re looking at a stout secondary. Cornerback depth should be better this year, too. Corey White has another year under his belt and Patrick Robinson seems to be rebounding well from a knee injury. On the D-line, Cam Jordan and Junior Galette form a fearsome duo. Akiem Hicks seems poised for a breakout season. Linebackers figure to be solid, with Curtis Lofton locking down the middle. A healthy Victor Butler should finally pay dividends.
This unit was the 4th-ranked in the NFL last season. It could be scary-good in 2014.
Drew Brees may have the most talent at his disposal of his Saints career. That’s saying a lot. Jimmy Graham, Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Khiry Robinson, Travaris Cadet, Kenny Stills, Brandin Cooks, Marques Colston and Robert Meachem are the main cogs in a unit that figures to tear apart the record book again this season. Nick Toon is having a great camp and could finally crack the 53-man roster. Last year’s offense finished 4th in total offense in the NFL. It, too, has a chance to be scary-good in 2014.
To me, this is the biggest question mark on the team this year. Can journeyman kicker Shayne Graham still kick accurately and consistently? He was the hero in the playoff game against the Eagles last season, but missed three field goal attempts the next week in Seattle (granted, the weather was awful). Could Derek Dimke, who has never attempted a kick in the regular season, force the Saints to cut Graham, 36, in favor of the 24-year-old? Could the Saints bring in another veteran before it’s all said and done? A few games each year are won and lost in the kicking game. The Saints need to settle this position before the season opener.
Thomas Morstead is Thomas Morstead. No concerns at punter.
I like the way this team looks and feels. Many are comparing it to the 2009 Super Bowl team. That’s asking a lot; that team was dominant. The NFC is solid and will be tough to navigate. Health plays such a big part of the equation when a team makes a Super Bowl run. The Saints need that, luck, a strong D, a physical running attack and a steady Brees. It starts and ends with number 9.
Bring on the preseason. Bring on the Falcons.