The Saints didn’t have the season they were hoping for in 2016. They started off the year with back to back narrow losses, 35-34 to the Raiders and 16-13 to the Giants. the Saints would go on to lose six games by less than seven points, making their 7-9 record feel much worse than it actually was.
A tale of two units
There was the offensive side, that put up 29.3 points per game (2nd in NFL). Drew Brees was amazing yet again, leading the league in yards (5,208) and was 3rd in passing TD’s (37). The Saints topped the 30-point mark nine times last season, compared to the Giants who made the playoffs last season and never scored 30 points.
Then there was their defense, or their attempted defense. the Saints D gave up 28.4 points per game last season (31st in NFL) and surrendered an enormous 426 yards per game to their opponents (last in NFL). The Saints offensive greatness was constantly smoldered by the atrocity of the Saints defense. So why will 2017 be different?
The saints made a point of improving their defensive personnel this offseason. LB A. J. Klein is a former defensive player of the year in the Big 12 and performed reasonably well for the Panthers after stepping in for the injured Luke Kuechly in 2016. LB Manti Te’o is infamous for his off the field issues coming into the league, but the former Heisman finalist and 2nd-round pick of the Chargers has improved every year in the league and can be a big addition to the middle of the Saints defense if he can stay healthy.
The Saints continued their defensive pickups in the draft, selecting CB Marshon Lattimore (11th pick), S Marcus Williams (42th pick), LB Alex Anzalone (76th pick), and DE Trey Hendrickson (103rd).
The Saints didn’t forget about their offense either, signing WR Ted Ginn Jr. to replace Brandin Cooks, a down the field threat and the perfect fit for a QB like Drew Brees. The 2nd best offense last year also may have signed one of the greatest running backs in NFL history in Adrian Peterson, a pickup I’m sure defenses around the league are having nightmares about at this very moment.
A final thing to consider is that the NFC South seems to be a revolving door. The Falcons are notorious for under-achieving, a stigma they were one-half away from erasing (sorry Falcons fans). The Panthers may have been the disappointment of the year in 2016, going 6-10 following their 15-1 Super Bowl run in 2015. In fact, we are just two years removed from the Panther winning the NFC South with a 7-9 record. That’s right, the division that has sent two different teams to the Super Bowl in 2015 and 2016, did not have a team go .500 in 2014. That’s not because of the talent in the division, but because there is no consistency when it comes to the teams in the NFC South.
I have no doubt the offense will once again be electric for the Saints, but it’s the defense that could change everything for this team. If these young draft picks can step in and make their presence felt, even just enough to get the saints D out of the bottom-third in the NFL, that may be enough to make New Orleans contenders once again.
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