After a season in which the Saints did not have their head coach, in which the club limped through to a very disappointing 7-9 record, New Orleans will hit the field this week as off season practices get underway. The media will get to attend an OTA (Organized Team Activity) session this week for the first time this off season.
Coach Sean Payton today said he’s as eager as the rest of the team to get back on the field.
“In each off-season, you're trying to gain an advantage and improve and get ready for the upcoming year...I'm sure the players just as well as the coaches, myself, everyone is disappointed with the past season. That's kind of behind us, and guys are anxious and yet understanding it's going to be pretty competitive heading into this training camp.”
We all know what Payton means to the Saints franchise, but did any of us expected the team to drop off as bad as they did in 2012? After all the Saints were favored to win 12 games going into last season but fell way short of those predictions winning just seven times.
But after a dismal 0-4 start the Saints never really recovered and finished with a losing record. The Saints not only had a losing record. But the Black and Gold failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season.
Now, with everyone back in the fold the team gets to work this week on the field of play. Two of obvious issues, storylines, whatever you may wish to call them, deal with the new look defense and the starting left tackle spot on defense.
When it comes to ranking last, the Saints defense held that title in just about all major stats last season. The defense was so bad it prompted Coach Sean Payton to fire defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo after just one season.
Now, new Coach Rob Ryan brings a swagger to the Saints defense that is much needed. Ryan's defensive style will be an aggressive one that features a lot of blitz packages as well as the development of players already on the roster that have yet to produce solid results.
By the moves made this off season, the Saints and Coach Ryan must feel that players like Junior Gallette and Martez Wilson can be difference-makers under Ryan's scheme. The Saints landed veteran free agent players CB Kennan Lewis and pass rusher Victor Butler this off season. And just today, Coach Payton said that DE Will Smith will see some time at outside linebacker during OTA’s.
And of course, another big question mark is the left tackle position. After starter Jermon Bushrod bolted for big money and the Chicago Bears, the Saints now must find a replacement for Bushrod.
Going into practice the likely possible replacements include former second round draft pick Charles Brown, veteran free agent pick up and former first rounder from St. Louis Jason Smith, along with third round pick from this year’s draft, Terron Armstead.
The problems on the defensive and offensive lines line being solved could help the team in more ways than one. For example, a better offensive line would help improve the leagues’ 25th-ranked running game. And a better rush attack can help a poor defense stay off the field more often, which can only be a good thing.
So, here we go. The trek to getting back to elite status is underway. And if the Saints are to get back to their expected winning ways, fixing some problems on the offensive line and revamping the Saints defense can certainly lead to another winning season…And perhaps even more. Hopefully much more!
Deke is it me or didn't Brown keep Freeney, Mathis, Abraham and plenty of other Pro Bowl DE's when he's played? yes Chris Long Whooped him in 2011 however had it not been for his own man rolling into him against the Raiders this wouldnteven be a topic.