The New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees and Sean Payton are back! Sean Payton is of course no longer suspended, the cloud of bounty gate is over, at least it should be and everyone, from top to bottom, inside the Saints organization has the mentality of us against the world. It has been well documented that Brees and company have disagreed with the decisions the NFL front office made and how Goodell handled the ‘bounty-gate’ situation. But that’s water under the bridge, right? I didn’t think so.
There are some big games for the Saints next season and the team is hoping to have a winning record in 2013. Last season the Saints finished at 7-9 and missed the playoffs, but in 2013 the team is looking to return with a vengeance and make a deep playoff run. The Saints will unveil their new defense as the team looks to improve upon their historically awful defense of last season. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will bring intensity and toughness, but none of that will matter unless the Saints’ defense comes with the same attitude. After last season the defense can only improve. However, one thing that the Saints can always rely on is their offense.
With the return of head coach Payton the Saints’ offense should continue to click on all cylinders. Furthermore, if the Saints recommit to a ground game their offense will only get better, taking pressure off Brees, who threw the ball a career high, 670 times. Payton and Brees make an outstanding duo and having the Saints’ head coach back should give Brees stability, comfort and catapult them back into the playoffs. The Saints have a tough schedule, but they should win enough games to get back in the playoffs and contend for the NFC South title. But with the emerging Falcons and their equally high power offense, it won’t be easy.
The Saints’ offense has rarely been in question, but one big hole for the team is a starting left tackle. There are some players that will compete for the spot, but all have a history of injuries. The Saints’ left tackle will be a position to monitor as the season progresses and it will be vital for the team’s success.
One thing is for sure, the Saints’ offense will still be one of best in the NFL, and the biggest question mark will be their defense. I believe Rob Ryan will make the Saints’ defense a top 15 defense in his first year. In 2009, the year New Orleans won the Super Bowl, their defense was ranked 20th, so this would be huge if Ryan could make that kind of turnaround and with the addition of Keenan Lewis and Kenny Vaccaro, who has a chase to be in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year; this dude can play! He has an exceptional football IQ, is picking up the speed of the game, and he is a self-motivator. With Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper, the incumbent starters at safety, new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has already unveiled schemes that’ll put all three safeties on the field at the same time. Vaccaro, who starred at Texas before being selected by the Saints with the 15th overall pick in April’s draft, displayed obvious signs of his unique pass-coverage skills. The Saints will also need to upgrade their pass rush. Jonathan Vilma is due $4.8 million in 2013, with a $1.1 million roster bonus, and he wasn’t as effective as he had been in the past during a tumultuous 2012 season. With the move to a 3-4 defense, they can do this by adding at weak-side linebacker.
With Sean Payton’s return, this means there will be a whole lot more discipline and accountability. In 2013, Payton will and should commit to the run, as he did during their Super Bowl winning year. The team’s running game was ranked 6th during that run and was a great compliment to an elite passing offense. This season will be very similar because the passing offense will still be elite as ever but with a better running game than the past couple of years. Ingram is coming off a decent season and will resemble Mike Bell of 2009. Sproles will be like the Reggie Bush of 2009 minus a lot of the carries that Bush had. As far as who is catching the ball, it doesn’t really matter to Brees. The Saints make do without many big names at receiver, but he can never have too many options.
With the Bucs coming up quickly, but not quick enough, and the Panthers not having enough offensive weapons to compete, it’s safe to say the only team New Orleans needs to worry about is the Falcons. Even with a horrible season last year, the Saints have shown they own the Falcons over the years.
If Sean Payton can right this ship into a playoff or even a Super Bowl contender in 2013, I honestly believe he will be nominated Coach of the Year, unless the NFL has something to say about that (too harsh?). Drew Brees is one of the best in the business, and the backfield is deep, but the Saints need to improve the group up front protecting Brees. The 2013 Saints will return to their winning form with the combination of Brees, Payton and the mentality of us against the world. Other NFL teams should worry because every touchdown, sack and win, I’m sure every Saints players will be thinking, this one’s for you Goodell.