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While I acknowledge that there is a time period that exists where it is too early to talk football, I believe we have passed it. As long as you stand on the precipice of the NFL Draft and refrain from talking too much about Week 10 match ups and other things that just need to wait, than your fine.
So without further ado: Let’s talk football. More importantly, let’s talk about the Saints.
After an impressive season that culminated in a trip to the NFC championship in 2006, the Saints failed to even make the playoffs in 2007. Suffice it to say, Saints fans were none too pleased. Although the offense was one of the league’s best, finishing the season ranked 4th overall in the NFL, an injury to Deuce McAllister and a weak (and that’s being kind) sophomore season for Reggie Bush ensured the Saints offense could never quite keep up with it’s horrid defense.
Drew Brees however, had a fantastic season -- more or less carrying the offense on his back (or should I say... shoulder) in route to a 4400 yard, 28 TD effort. He finished the season with an 89.4 in what might just have been his finest season to date considering the lack of a running game he had behind him.
While the defense sure had it’s moments, and isn’t anywhere close to being the weakest unit in the league, it was clearly their Achilles heel for the year. The offense would often put up a respectable amount of points while the defense would one up them and let up even more (See: Week 10, 13 and 16).
The Saints front office has hoped to remedy this problem with the signing of Randall Gay, Dan Morgan and Bobby McCray. It’s also pretty much a certainty that the Saints will break the three year trend of taking an offensive player in the first round and that they are looking to add some young talent to their struggling defensive unit. With the 10th pick in each of the seven rounds, they should have ample opportunity to do so.
The next question that is posed when looking at the Saints is which part of the defense is in desperate need of tuning up first. This question is easily answered by taking a look at the defensive stats from last year: The Saints finished 13th in the league in rush defense, whereas they almost came in last place in regards to pass defense -- finishing a pathetic third to last place.
Thankfully for the Saints, there is an impressive array of cornerbacks that will most likely be available to them with the 10th pick. Assuming that the Patriots are the only team in the top 10 that are a threat to pick one of the CB’s, the Saints should get their pick out of two of the top three. They are (in no particular order) Leodis Mckelvin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Aqib Talib.
Some are saying the Saints could take Keith Rivers if he falls to them here (and he most likely will) and it will probably come down to the scouting department. Whoever they feel will make the biggest impact for them on defense, they will take -- and they can’t really go wrong since all of the previous four players could be an enormous asset to the unit assuming they don’t turn out to be a bust.
For the sake of being on the record, I think the Saints take Cromartie at number ten -- but I can most definitely (and probably will be) wrong.
If the off season sculpting can give the defense even a minor boost from last year, the offense still has the same potential as last year. If Deuce McAllister can stay healthy and Reggie Bush can improve upon his field vision, it won’t matter that the receiving corps isn’t particularly strong -- Drew Brees could throw to imaginary receivers and he’d still probably get at least 200 yards.
As long as the Saints can stay away from some injuries to key players and have a solid draft, I don’t see any reason the Saints won’t be marching right back into the playoffs in 2008.
(Next up: The Cleveland Browns)