The next team up on our Gridiron Blitz is the New Orleans Saints
Music to listen to: Cemetery Gates by Pantera
The lead singer for Pantera, Phil Anselmo, is from New Orleans.
Current State: The previews on my Gridiron Blitz posts look at things strictly on things on the football field but you can’t deny the significance of the Saints winning the Super Bowl for the city of New Orleans.
We all know the struggles that the city and that entire region has experienced the past few years. The Saints winning the championship launched a party that probably still hasn’t stopped.
However, this does allow for distractions. Any defending Super Bowl championship squad has to deal with those issues. When you multiply that by a lot based on a city that had a history of losing in more ways than one, the Saints could be in trouble when trying to focus on repeating as champions.
Biggest Offseason Change: Everyone of the major players and coaching staff members are back accept for linebacker Scott Fujita.
You have to give credit general manager Mickey Loomis for managing to keeping the core together.
Uniform Grade: The Saints have a top-five uniform in the NFL. The black and gold combinations always look excellent and the helmet with the fleur-de-lis is a classic touch for the city. Grade: B+
Best Player: I’ve been wrong many times about projecting how well a quarterback will do in the NFL. The worst one was thinking that Ryan Leaf would be a better pro QB than Peyton Manning (as an aside, I still stand by the belief that Leaf had better physical skills and if he kept his head right, he could have been a solid starter in the NFL). Manning has turned into an all-time great and Leaf was an all-time bust.
The second-worst projection I had was on Drew Brees when he left Purdue. I thought that his size, weak arm and playing style wouldn’t work in the pros and for the first few years of his career, I was correct. However, he proved me wrong towards the end of this time in San Diego and now in New Orleans.
Brees may be the most valuable person to the overall success to his team in the NFL. He is a brilliant reader of defenses, has tremendous accuracy with his throwing and is the undisputed leader of the squad.
His run in New Orleans has been so good, Super Bowl title, two NFC championship game appearances, second-most yards ever thrown in a season and more, he may be a borderline Hall of Famer at this pace by the end of his career.
What you can guarantee is that he will not let his teammates as well as himself be content with one championship. The Saints have enough veterans and youth to have a two to three run year of being a championship contender and Brees realizes this.
Most important player: We know that the Saints can score points but if they want to win another Super Bowl, the defense has to repeat another excellent season. For that to happen, two players must be the leaders of the unit.
With free safety Darren Sharper nursing a knee injury, strong safety Roman Harper must be the man to help create the turnovers that the defense relies so much on.
Along those same lines, linebacker Jonathan Vilma must continue his excellent play, especially when helping the defense stop the run.
Best Case: Last year
Worst Case: The defense can’t create turnovers like it did last year and regresses. The offense still scores points but the Saints allow too many to a top offense in the playoffs like Green Bay. The Saints lose in the Divisional Round.
Coaching: Head coach Sean Payton, who also runs the offense, and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams may be part of the top coaching unit in the NFL.
Payton has done a good job of motivating the team and serving as the organizational leader but respect must be passed to Williams for having an aggressive defense that mirrors the team’s offense in taking chances and creating opportunities for success.
First memory of team: The Saints had a decent run in the late 1980’s with some great linebackers. My favorite was Sam Mills.
Schedule: The Saints will have to deal with Atlanta, Carolina and Tampa in the division.
The home games are against Minnesota, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Seattle and St. Louis. The away games are at San Francisco, Arizona, Dallas, Cincinnati and Baltimore.
City Nicknames: The Big Easy is the clear winner.
Fantasy Focus: You have to like any of the offensive players.
Overall Outlook: The regular season schedule is tough and the Saints may not have home field advantage in the playoffs. However, New Orleans is going to be a tough out for anybody in the NFC and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if they return to the Super Bowl.
Final Record: 11-5
Gridiron Blitz 2010 Season Previews:
New England Patriots
New York Jets
San Diego Chargers
Kansas City Chiefs
New York Giants
Green Bay Packers
Tampa Bay Bucs