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2014 NFL Season Preview- New Orleans Saints
After a miserable 7-9 season in 2012 where the team was without head coach Sean Payton, the New Orleans Saints bounced back to finish 11-5.
However many fan were disappointed the team couldn't regain the NFC South and get a first round playoff bye, but there are many positives including the revival of the defense.
Quarterback Drew Brees had another amazing season throwing for over 5,000 yards with 39 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions. In his limited role, running back Mark Ingram finally started living up to potential averaging just under five yards per carry. Tight end Jimmy Graham continued to dominate the league with over 1,200 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.
Defensive end Cameron Jordan finally lived up to hype recording 12.5 sacks and made the Pro Bowl. The linebacker corps were active and aggressive under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Injuries to Will Smith, Victor Butler, and Jonathan Vilma couldn't derail a defense that ended up finishing 4th overall in total defense.
Despite only five draft picks in 2013, the rookies played a key role for the team. Safety Kenny Vaccaro was a day one starter who made an impact in the improved defense, nose tackle John Jenkins was a fill-in player who could be the starter in 2014, and wide receiver Kenny Stills averaged 20 yards per catch on the year.
Saints 2014 Rankings
Opponent Passing yds
Opponent Rushing yds
NFL Rank- 2nd
NFL Rank- 25th
NFL Rank- 2nd
NFL Rank- 19th
NFL Rank- 4th
NFL Rank- 4th
After losing to the eventual Super Bowl champions in the divisional round, the team now has ab egger window to recapture their Super Bowl caliber of 2009. As long as Sean Payton o's the head coach the team should always be considered a threat in the NFC.
The offseason saw a big contract dispute between the organization and Jimmy Graham. Graham wanted to be paid like a wide receiver due to producing more yards and touchdowns than any receiver on the team. The team any Graham eventually came up with a new deal that would pay him an average of $10 million a year over four years.
Notable additions- CB Champ Bailey, FS Jarius Byrd
Notable departures- CB Jabari Greer, RB Darren Sproles, WR Lance Moore, LB/DE Will Smith, FS Malcolm Jenkins, LB Jonathan Vilma.
Saints 2013 Highlights
2014 NFL Draft
Going into the draft, the team held the 27th draft pick. They needed to address concerns at cornerback, tackle, and outside linebacker.
The cornerback position was plagued by injuries and aging defenders. The team needs a young defensive back who can play opposite Patrick Robinson.
Drew Brees was sacked 37 times which was the most since 2006. Brees needs a new blindside tackle as most of the sacks came of the edges.
Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma are no longer with the team and Victor Butler is coming off a torn ACL. The team needs a pass rushing linebacker to play opposite of Junior Galette who had 12 sacks in 2013. In all of these positions, the team needs youth to take the place of stable, aging veterans in the future.
On draft day, the team traded up with Arizona to the 20th spot to draft Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Cooks had the best release of any receiver coming out and had great start-stop moves. He was mainly criticized for avoiding hits due to his tendency to fumble when hit. He needs to show more toughness and consistency to make an impact in the league.
The team also drafted Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste in the second round. At 6'3", Jean-Baptiste possesses the height needed to deal with larger receivers and knows how to allow receivers to look open before breaking on the ball. The big issue with him is he takes the Deion Sanders approach to tackling and needs to show more physicality for his size.
Brandin Cooks Highlights
What to Expect
Drew Brees will continue to rack up 5,000 seasons as long as he has a plethora of wide receivers and tight end to throw to. Expect Mark Ingram to have an increased role in the Saints offense especially on short yardage situations. Brandin Cooks will likely take the place of Lance Moore as a receiver used in the slot on screen passes or short yardage throws where he can make defenders miss. Jimmy Graham's basketball background will continue to help him out run linebackers and out jump defensive backs. Tackles Terron Armstead and Zach Strief will have to step up and not allow another colossal sack total as last season.
With the defense getting younger and buying into Rob Ryan's scheme, the team will only get better. By adding depth t the secondary the team will be able to be balanced on both sides of the ball.
With the additions the team made through the draft and free agency make the Saints a favorite to win the NFC South. With the schedule they have, expect the team to get the first round bye they wanted so badly last season.
Best record they can hope for- 12-4