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2015 NFL Season Preview- New Orleans Saints
The 2013 wild card team took a slight step back in 2014.
New Orleans was a mess in a lot of ways as the team, known for their dominance in the Super Dome, lost their final five home games.
The offense led the league in total offense and third down efficiency and was among the league leaders in red zone one success. However that stat was sabotaged by the offense's 30 turnovers, including 20 by quarterback Drew Brees. Running back Mark Ingram had a breakout year rushing for 964 yards and helped the offense improve from 25th to 13th in rushing yards. Despite dealing with a shoulder injury for much of the season, tight end Jimmy Graham led the team in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. Wide receivers Marques Colston and Kenny Stills dealt with adversity but were still reliable targets.
The defense dropped from fourth to 31st in total defense and only managed 17 takeaways. The defensive line dealt with injuries for much of the year and defensive end Cameron Jordan couldn't match his sack total from the previous year. The linebacker corps was the strength of the team as Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne were solid run stoppers and Junior Galette led the team with 10 sacks. The secondary drastically underperformed the whole year. Safety Jarius Byrd missed training camp after having back surgery then only played in four games before a knee injury sent him to IR. Safety Kenny Vaccaro finished third on the defense in tackles, but was benched in game because of his poor play.
Other than wide receiver Brandin Cooks, the rookie class was a disappointment. Cooks showed great skills and field stretching speed before a broken thumb ended his season.
Saints 2014 Rankings
Opponent Passing Yards
Opponent Rushing Yards
NFL Rank- 3rd
NFL Rank- 13th
NFL Rank- 25th
NFL Rank- 29th
NFL Rank- 1st
NFL Rank- 31st
After finishing the year 7-9, head coach Sean Payton stated he intended to overhaul the roster in order to get the team back in the playoff picture. With the team $20 million over the salary cap, many players had to be casualties in order for the team to move forward.
Notable Additions- RB C.J. Spiller, WR Josh Morgan, C Max Unger, DE Kevin Williams, OLB Anthony Spencer, CB Brandon Browner, CB Kyle Wilson, FS Kenny Phillips
Notable Departures- RB Pierre Thomas, WR Kenny Stills, TE Jimmy Graham, G Ben Grubbs, MLB Curtis Lofton, OLB Junior Galette, CB Patrick Robinson
Drew Brees Highlights
2015 NFL Draft
Going into the draft, the Saints held the 13th overall pick. New Orleans also held the 31st overall pick after the team traded Jimmy Graham to Seattle. The team had many positions that need depth including guard, outside linebacker, and cornerback.
Jahri Evans is the cornerstone of the Saints offensive line but he is aging and expensive. Adding some talented youth to the line makes sense.
Junior Galette is a solid pass rusher but the defense needs an outside linebacker who can stop the run as well.
Keenan Lewis is a good cover man but the defense has to have another corner who can blanket opposing receivers just as well.
New Orleans ended up selecting Stanford offensive tackle Andrus Peat with the 13th pick and Clemson inside linebacker Stephone Anthony with the 31st pick. Peat was seen as the best pass protecting offensive tackle in the draft but isn't exactly as dominant as a run blocker. Anthony is built like the perfect middle linebacker but his high aggressive tendencies leaves lanes wide open.
The Saints also notably selected Washington outside linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha in the second round, Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson in the third, and Florida State cornerback P.J. Williams in the third. Kikaha was one of the best pass rushing outside linebackers in college football last season but he requires a lot of space to be affective. Grayson had some of the best fundamentals of any of the quarterbacks in the draft but he lacks the ideal size and has an unusual throwing motion. Williams was the best run support cornerbacks in the draft but he also brings a lot of off the field issues including arrests on a hit and run and a DUI.
Stephone Anthony Highlights
What to Expect
If last season was a slight step back, this season will be a giant leap backwards.
You know Drew Brees is going to pit up big numbers but he has to keep his turnovers in check of he expected New Orleans to succeed. With the addition of C.J. Spiller, the offense now has two different running backs to build the team around. Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks will have to step up big in the passing game after the team traded Kenny Stills and Jimmy Graham. Adding Andrus Peat and Max Unger to the offensive line gives Brees a blindside blocker who can keep him off the turf and a reliable anchor in the run game.
Expect a drastic improvement from the defense. Adding Brandon Browner and Kyle Wilson to the secondary adds depth and strengthens one of their weaker position groups. If the defensive line can stay healthy, the run defense should return back to its 2013 form.
Losing a weapon like Jimmy Graham, I don't see how the Saints can return to playoff glory. They have to many questions on their offense and their durability for them to return to their old winning ways.
Best record they can hope for: 7-9