New Orleans Saints Season Preview

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Rory Norris
Rory Norris is an avid fan of the Sunderland AFC and the Washington Redskins, and a new writer in the world of sport. Recently, he has been commenting on the action of the NFL and EFL League One, having recently followed the action of the 2018 World Cup.

The New Orleans Saints have been the NFL’s dirty secret for a while now. Unbeknownst to the general public, they have been secretly assembling a super-team of unlimited weapons and defensive might. This is clearly demonstrated by the Saints’ 2018 showing, excelling to an incredibly 13-3 record and reflecting their Super-Bowl intentions to the entire league.

However, it would be wrong to say that the entire season was plain sailing for the Saints. The season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was a high octane affair in which both side scored over forty points; nevertheless, an inspired display from journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick gifted the Saints their first loss of the season. From this moment onwards, however, the men in black and gold would look absolutely untouchable.

The Saints proceeded to ravage the NFL as part of an incredible ten-game winning streak, demonstrating clearly the brevity of quality displayed within their roster. As part of this, the Saints knocked off such imposing opposition as the formidable Los Angeles Rams and a Philadelphia Eagles team only a year removed from their Super Bowl victory.

The focal point of the Saints had to be their high powered offense, led by legendary quarterback Drew Brees, who showed no sign of ageing despite his growing experience. Brees barely missed a step throughout the entire season, throwing for 32 touchdowns with only 5 interceptions and almost 4,000 yards. One of the principal factors in Brees’ success was the sheer amount of talent surrounding him; young wideout Michael Thomas continued to establish himself as one of the most reliable receivers in the league, snagging an impressive nine touchdowns for over 1,400 yards. Furthermore, running-back Alvin Kamara built on an impressive rookie season by reaffirming his status as a threat both on the ground and as a receiver, totalling over 1,500 all-purpose yards for the year.

The good fortunes of the Saints would take them all the way to the NFC Championship, where they fell to the Los Angeles Rams in overtime. The chief talking point of this game has to be the controversial no-call on Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman despite his clear pass-interference. The Saints were arguably one call away from the Super Bowl, where many speculated that they could defeat Tom Brady’s New England Patriots.

The fact that so little went wrong for the Saints last season meant that there was little need for any major staff additions. Here’s a look at the sparse changes made on the coaching staff.

Staff Additions

Darren Rizzi: Rizzi joins the Saints as special teams co-ordinator, having previously held this role for the Miami Dolphins. He has also held various college-level positions, and brings over 20 years of experience to the Saints.

Phil Galiano: Galiano takes the position of assistant special teams co-ordinator, meaning that he will work alongside the newly appointed Rizzi. The pair have worked together before at the Miami Dolphins and also at Rutgers college, and thus represent a proven partnership.

The Saints also only made sparse free agent acquisitions. Let’s see what they bring to the team.

Player Additions

Latavius Murray: Murray enlists as the replacement for the departing Mark Ingram, and will be the backup to Alvin Kamara in the new season. Murray has impressed as a member of both the Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings, and represents a reliable option should Kamara become injured.

Jared Cook: The tight-end position in New Orleans has been mostly calamitous since the years of Jimmy Graham, leaving Drew Brees mostly without a reliable target in this area. The signing of the veteran Jared Cook should alleviate this issue, having been a valuable part of the team in Oakland.

Nick Easton: The Saints secured some offensive line help by signing Easton, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings, to ensure that Drew Brees has the best possible protection in the new season. Easton secured a deal worth $22.5million, a testament to the level of quality expected from the player.

Malcolm Brown: Brown, formerly of the New England Patriots, provides some valuable defensive line help for the Saints here.

NFL Draft

2.46: Erik McCoy, C- Texas A&M
4.105: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S- Florida
6.177: Saquan Hampton, S- Rutgers
7.231: Alize Mack, TE- Notre Dame
7.244: Kaden Ellliss, LB- Idaho

A quiet draft-day showing from the New Orleans Saints, who had already given up their first-round selection as part of a trade to secure edge-rusher Marcus Davenport in last year’s proceedings. I would go as far to say that the Saints have no obvious holes in their team. The draft was therefore a valuable source of depth for the Saints, especially the choice of Texas A&M centre Erik McCoy, who should take a positive role in protecting Drew Brees as he reaches the end of his career. Florida safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was a very good selection for round four, and again may contribute to winning efforts in this team.

Undrafted Free Agents

Emmanuel Butler, WR- Northern Arizona
Chase Hansen, LB- Utah
Mike Herndon, G- Pittsburgh
Corbin Kaufusi, DE- BYU
Darius Williams, DB- Colorado State-Pueblo

The New Orleans Saints’ undrafted free-agent class has been widely recognised as one of the better hauls in the league, gaining the services of several players who should have gone drafted. Corbin Kaufusi is an absolute physical freak standing at six feet and nine inches, having also played for the BYU basketball team for three years. Emmanuel Butler now holds the Northern Arizona records for both receiving yardage and touchdown receptions, and offensive lineman Mike Herndon had been a stalwart on the Pittsburgh line for the best part of half a decade. There is absolutely no doubt that these players will be able to immediately contribute to the Saints’ fortunes.

Notable Camp Standouts

Emmanuel Butler, WR
Latavius Murray, RB
Lil’Jordan Humphrey, WR
Devine Ozigbo, RB
Taylor Stallworth, DT
Teddy Bridgewater, QB

One of the chief standouts from New Orleans Saints’ training camp is undrafted free agent Emmanuel Butler, who should see his place in the squad confirmed very soon. Free agent signing Latavius Murray has also been impressing in his first training camp with the team. The recently extended Teddy Bridgewater further cemented his position as backup to Drew Brees this offseason, as he continued to impress in a practice capacity.

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