Kristian: 5 questions for the Saints heading into Training Camp
Just about every season, teams face questions heading into training camp. How will a particular draft pick of free agent impact the team, how will a new coach work out, etc.
The same holds true for the Saints, just about four weeks away from training camp. With the return of their head coach and new man heading up a defense that made history in the worst way, you bet there’s a ton of questions for the Black and Gold. The good news is, there isn't much in the way of distractions facing the team.
Question #1: Was the 7 and 9 finish a year ago a mirage or a true indication of the talent on the team? The Saints were without their head coach, assistant head coach and so on for most or all of the 2012 campaign. Though the players didn't use the inconsistency at the top as an excuse for their sub-par season, the Who Dat Nation will forever wonder: Would Payton have made a huge difference last season?
It's hard to tell. Was Payton the missing piece or was (is) there a talent deprivation on the roster? The Saints will be anxious to prove to the league they'll be back in the mix in 2013 now that Payton is back on the sideline. As I’ve said before, Payton alone is worth two wins per season.
Question #2: How much, if at all, has Payton changed as a coach after a year off? Upon reinstatement by the league in January, Coach Payton said he had a lot of time to reflect and analyze the game from afar. Payton probably has a new perspective on a lot of things/trends in the NFL. It will be interesting to see how Payton's time away helped him as a coach. Did he see something differently with his team? Did he solve the "Zone Read Option Offense?" What did Payton learn in his time away that will become of some value to the Saints?
Question #3: What will Rob Ryan's impact be on the defense? After finishing as perhaps the worst defense in NFL history, the Saints had to make a change in defensive coordinators. Sean Payton didn't just change coaches, he changed the scheme when he hired Rob Ryan to run his defense. Aside from a few players Ryan Inherits largely the same group of players that were woeful last season.
With that said, Ryan designs schemes that fit the players he has on the roster, not to mention the personnel on the Saints defense were drafted with a pressure scheme in mind. Rob Ryan doesn't have to put a top 5 defense on the field week and week out. If Ryan can just turn the defense into a middle-of-the-road, opportunistic performer, that will be plenty good enough for the Saints to make a run at another Lombardi Trophy.
Question #4: Who will be the left tackle? When Jermon Bushrod cashed in with the Chicago Bears in free agency, it left a huge void on the left side of the offensive line. The Saints appear willing to let three players battle it out for the right to protect Drew Brees' blind side: An unproven (but often injured) Charles Brown, rookie Terron Armstead, and journeymen Jason Smith. Brown looks like the early favorite, but don't be surprised if Armstead is the long term answer at the position. You could argue this might be the chief concern for the Saints considering the amount of cash the team handed Drew Brees last summer.
Question #5: Can the Saints generate a pass rush? Too often last season, opposing quarterbacks were able to eat a sandwich in the pocket while surveying the secondary on passing plays. In large part that was due to the scheme and the inability to get after the passer and speed up the delivery. Switching to the 3-4 scheme should allow the Saints to generate a better rush.
OLB Martez Wilson might just be the wild card in this entire defense. When he was drafted out of Illinois in the third round in 2011, experts projected him as an outside backer in a scheme similar to the one Ryan will run this season. With the pressure style of defense and better personnel in some spots, I think you will see the pressure and sack numbers go up for New Orleans.
Well, Who Dats…Those are my five questions. What are yours? Sound off below!