The Saints were a huge disappointment last season, and it really wasn’t totally the fault of the players. Bounty-gate hung over their head like a rainy-season Amazonian storm cloud. However, the rainy season is over in New Orleans and Sean Peyton has made his return to the Saints. What will his presence mean for your NFL picks?
Without Peyton, the offense was still pretty good in 2012, but it was far from being what it had been in prior seasons. The Saints were still #1 in passing yards. Drew Brees once again put his name on the top five passing seasons of all time. He is now 1st, 3rd and 5th on the single season passing yards record. However, in relation to the NFL odds, the Saints passing numbers are somewhat misleading.
For starters, their running game was atrocious last season. Mark Ingram was given 156 carries and didn’t do much with them. Pierre Thomas was ok, but hardly saw the field, and Darren Sproles was good in both rushing and receiving, but I have a feeling he could have had a standout season if Peyton was there. Their defense also had a record setting season as well, but not the good kind, as they set the record for most yards given up in a season. They not only broke it, they smashed it by over 300 yards. So with no running game and always playing from behind, it’s a wonder Brees didn’t break his 2011 passing mark; the record that still stands.
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For me, the question of their defense is the biggest, but outside of that the next largest variable in New Orleans this season is their running game. I think the Saints and Peyton will do a better job of setting up their running game with the pass, but if Ingram can’t at least carry a majority of the load effectively, I think the Saints are dead before they even get started. He averaged less than 4 yards per carry last season, which is well below average for a team with such a big passing game. Teams will at the very least have to respect their running game, because if they don’t, all they have to do is load up the secondary on the Saints.
The Saints lost Jermod Bushrod in free agency, which will really hurt Brees’ blindside if former 2nd round pick Charles Brown can’t step in for him. Other than that, the Saints don’t have a ton of questions on offense because the questions are all over on the other side of the ball.
I do expect a bounce back year for the Saints, and Peyton is a big reason for that. However he is the only major addition this team has made on offense this season. It is for that reason they cannot automatically get an ‘A.’ However there is room for an improved grade in the preseason, if Peyton can bring back the magic in the Saints’ offense. However, only time will tell with this team, so a ‘B’ is the best I can do at this point of the offseason.
My Grade: B
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