New Orleans Saints 2014-15 Team Preview
The New Orleans Saints stand a strong chance of returning to the Super Bowl this year. The team has had its GM, coach and QB together since 2006 and Loomis is a great talent scout for helping this team sustain its roster greatness. The Saints are a force at home but must improve its road play this season. To get the title though, the Saints have to find an answer for the Seattle Seahawks, though.
Odds to win Superbowl: 12/1
Odds to win NFC: 7/1
Odds to win NFC South: -150
Betting Odds courtesy of Bovada
Drew Brees and the Saints WRs drive one of the best pass offenses in the NFL. The Saints finished 4th in net passing yardage (399.4 per game) and second in pass offense (307.4). Pete Carmichael is one of the best offensive coordinators in the league and will enter his sixth season with the Saints, the first of three were spent working with the QBs. The Saints will look to balance the attack more this season, which should render the offense more dangerous still.
Brees is entering his 14th season, but really has shown almost no signs of declining. He’s remarkably consistent, and the Saints don’t really need any kind of contingency plan with his health record. Brees completed 68.6 percent of his passes last season while throwing for 5,162 yards, 36 TDs, just 12 INTs, three rushing TDs and a 104.7 passer rating. He led the NFL in all of those categories.
The regular season and playoff losses to Seattle sting, and Brees is going to come in with that chip on his shoulder motivating an even better season. While depth isn’t really that much of a concern, if Brees happens to miss any time Ryan Griffin and Luke McCown are both decent backups.
The Saints are a much better team with the run than given credit for. Pierre Thomas is a triple threat RB, as a runner, blocker and receiver. He led the team in rushing with 549 yards while leading all RBs in the league in receiving (77 receptions for 513 yards).
Darren Sproles was dealt, but Khiry Robinson and Mark Ingram will be ready to usurp his production. Robinson rushed for 224 yards last year during the regular season and Ingram is trying to prove himself after having his $5.2 million option for 2015 declined.
The receiving corp is deep and talented. The Saints became only the fifth team in NFL history to boast four receivers with 65 catches or more. Thomas and Sproles accounted for two of those four receivers, so it gave the Saints some viable threats and kept opposing defenses on their collective toes. Jimmy Graham is a TE that functions mostly as a receiver and is Brees’ favorite target. He caught 86 passes for 1,215 yards and a franchise-record 16 TDs.
Marques Colston nearly had his fifth straight 1,000 yard season. Kenny Stills started 10 games and finished with 641 yards, showing he was a solid deep threat. Brandin Cooks ran a 4.33 40-yard at the combine and may be an immediate contributor. Long term, he could be a top WR in the league.
The OL has two of the best guards in the league in Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs. The Saints will have two second-year players starting on the line in LT Terron Armstead and C Tim Lelito. Armstead emerged big time last year and made Charles Brown expendable.
The Saints made an unthinkable turnaround defensively last season, improving to be one of the best defensive units in the league. The Saints allowed 305.7 net yards last season and ranked 4th in the NFL in total defense. The 3-4 scheme employed is a variant with three down linemen, three LBs and 5 DBs.
The DL was a huge part of why the Saints allowed the 4th fewest yards last year. Cameron Jordan had 12.5 sacks (5th in NFL) and made the Pro Bowl. Akiem Hicks may be due for a leap in production, too. He moved from tackle to left end and started all 16 games (4.5 sacks, 72 stops). The Saints will aim to be deep and keep fresh bodies on the field.
The Saints have five DBs and Curtis Loften had 139 tackles last year. David Hawthorne came through with 128. It helped the Saints limit opposing offenses to just 19 points per game last year. Junior Galette had 12 sacks, as well. The depth at this position is nearly unparalleled by other clubs, and Ryan’s scheme is largely why.
The secondary is bolstered by the addition of a Pro Bowl safety in Jairus Byrd and CB Champ Bailey. Kenny Vaccaro led the secondary with 93 tackles last year, and CB Keenan Lewis had four INTs. Bailey may be the No. 2 cornerback, and though he isn’t lockdown anymore, he’s bound for the Hall of Fame unquestionably.
Corey White and Patrick Robinson have outside shots at taking Bailey’s spot, but that is a nice problem for the Saints to have. Byrd should help produce more turnovers, and that will further help the secondary.
The Saints have their special teams to thank for three wins last season. The team ranked 7th in punt return average (7.5 yards). Shayne Graham ranks 5th in NFL history in FG accuracy (85.5 percent).
Thomas Morstead does both kickoff and punt returns and finished 5th in the NFC and 8th in the NFL in gross punt average with 46.9 yards per. Travaris Cadet will replace Sproles as a return man and he returned 26 kicks last year for 690 yards.
There was obviously only one team that stood in the way of the Saints winning a Super Bowl, and the team (Brees in particular) is coming into this season with visions of beating a team that handed them Ls twice last season. The Saints were undefeated at home last season, but the issues with road consistency is the biggest question mark this team has. Still, having such a consistent and great QB in Brees ensures New Orleans will be in the chase this year again.