OK, the off-season is over! Who Dats, it’s time to get back to work. Each season I do a little “sumpin sumpin” to give a little take on the Saints Training Camp. But this year I’ve called on the real pros…Guys who have played the game and the man that has called the game for nearly thirty years to give his take on some curious Saints training camp questions.
Let’s jump right in and talk about a big one. How will not having Coach Payton affect the team as we start camp? “I’m going to have to watch a few days of practice first,” said WWL Saints color analyst Hokie Gajan.
“The Saints are going through something that no other team in the NFL has had to go through. No one really knows what it is going to be like without Sean Payton. We shall see,” said Hokie.
The Saints open practice Thursday afternoon, practicing for four straight days with each practice beginning at 4PM at the Saints facility on Airline Drive.
Offensive things to look for during camp
The Saints offense returns many familiar faces, but the biggest absence is Carl Nicks, who is now with Tampa. The Saints are deep at running back and wide receiver, and they could be even better this season in both of those areas. How Mark Ingram rebounds from injury could add a new element to the already dangerous Saints Offense.
“Ingram brings depth to an already deep position on the Saints Offense at the RB spot. This offense looks to be equally as good as it was a season ago,” Jim Henderson, the Voice of the Saints.
How will not having Carl Nicks, who many called the best lineman in the league, affect the Saints O-Line? Here’s Hokie’s take: “Ben Grubbs come from more of a run based offense, whereas the Saints are more of a pass based offense. There may be an adjustment there. I’ve always thought that replacing interior linemen is a little less difficult than trying to replace the linemen on the outside.”
“I certainly hate to see us lose a guy like Carl but I don’t expect a big drop-off with Ben coming in for Carl. I think the offensive line will be just fine,” former Saints offensive lineman Steve Korte told me.
The Saints are deep and experienced at wide receiver, but there are some things of note to point out. Robert Meachem is now with the Chargers…And is this the year that Adrain Arrington steps up? Hokie gave us his take.
“I would have to think so. I never have been that much of a fan of Arrington. We see flashes of what he can do from time to time. But we have yet to see some consistent play from him. I say it’s time to move on and let’s see what Nick Toon can do and we already know that Joe Morgan is a playmaker.”
Morgan made a huge splash for the Saints during the preseason before being injured before the start of the season.
NFL Analyst Mike Detiller is also eager to watch the battle at WR. “It’s going to be a real battle to see who makes the team,” Mike told us on SportsTalk. “Wide Receiver seems to be a spot with a lot of talent on this team and it may come down to which players can not only do well catching the football but also who can contribute on special teams.”
Also, the Saints are secure at Tight end with one of the brightest young stars in the game today in Jimmy Graham.
Defensive things to look for during camp
The Saints defense had to bend several times last season. and they came out with a win the majority of times. But the taste of that nasty loss to the gold diggers from ‘Rice a Roni’ land still stings. But we got to move on and point out a little past history that makes us all feel better.
The last two times the Saints had a new leader of their defense, the Black and Gold the team faired quite well. Gary Gibbs’ defense advanced to the NFC Title game, and Greg Williams led the Saints defense to help win it all in 2009.
Jim Henderson, the voice of the Saints, will be looking for several things during training camp. “One of the things we will be looking for during camp is to see which player steps up as a solid pass rusher from the edge,” Hondo told me. “ The Saints need a solid pass rush. And then there are the turnovers. The turnover ratio needs to be better this season and with the new scheme of Steve Spagnuolo that will be something to watch during camp.”
So where do the Saints need to improve most on the defensive side of the ball? Former Saints O-Lineman Steve Korte explains.
“There are a number of things that sort of stick out to me but it’s about one thing and that’s getting pressure on the opposing QB. We have not seen that consistently. You have to get four guys that can get heat on the other team’s QB.”
Korte went on to say that the Saints have made significant upgrades at the linebacker position. “I think you will see improved play at linebacker and obviously our secondary will be a lot better if we can get pressure on the QB,” said Korte.
With a scat cat like Darren Srpoles, a booming leg like Thomas Morestead displays, and what looks to be an interesting kicking battle between two kickers? Yes that will be interesting as well. You know never a dull moment around here.
So how good is Darren Sproles? “He can do things that I don’t know if any other player in the league can do. He can change direction, he has speed and you look at the way he is built and some think he may not have a lot of power. That’s not the case he’s a physical runner. He’s the total package. You look at some of the things Sproles does and you just say wow,” said Hokie.
Is there really a battle at kicker? Mike Detiller thinks so. “If Hartley is healthy he is the guy. The Saints have a lot of money invested in him,” said NFL Analyst Mike Detiller. And speaking of special teams how about the play of Saints Punter Thomas Morstead?
“He is a weapon. Morstead is an absolute weapon. He pins teams back deep week in and week out. Making teams drive 70 and 80 yards is something that Thomas helps the Saints do on a very consistent basis.”
Detiller also thinks that Saints WR Joe Morgan will once again make an impact on special teams.
So there it is, a little preview from guys who have been around the Saints franchise for many years. So let’s all sit back and watch and listen and the 2012 Saints Training Camp is now here!
Saints 2011 Record: 13-3
NFC South Record: 5-1
Offensive rank: Total Yards #1 467.1 yards per-game average / Passing Yards #1 334.2 yards per game / Rushing Yards 6th 132.9 yards per game and the Saints scored on average 34.2 points per game.
Defensive Rank: 368.4 yards per game allowed on average, 24th in the NFL / 259.8 passing yards allowed per game, 30th in the NFL / Rushing yards allowed: 108.6 yards per game, ranked 13th in the NFL in points allowed per game with an average surrendered of 21.2 points per game.