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NFC South Preview – Part 2 – New Orleans Saints

Saints fans may not agree, but New Orleans were one of the biggest surprises of 2017. Three successive 7-9 seasons between 2014-16 were obliterated as the Saints went on an eight game winning streak as they finished 2017 with an 11-5 record and a spot in the play-offs. Unfortunately, when Saints and play-offs are mentioned in the same sentence, it’s impossible not to think about the Minneapolis Miracle as New Orleans snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with one of the most painful of post-season losses of all time in the final seconds of the NFC Divisional game against the Vikings. What tends to be overlooked in this game was the epic comeback which Drew Brees and co engineered from a seemingly down and out position being down by 17 points at half-time and on the cusp of a famous road win by being ahead with only seconds remaining.

So what chance of a return to the play-offs for New Orleans in 2018.

Like Meryl Streep in Death Becomes Her, Drew Brees has somehow found the secret of eternal youth. Continually written off by many, Mr New Orleans just keeps delivering the goods. Even during the Saints somewhat poor spell mentioned above, Brees’ play never declined. Brees was still averaging over 5000 passing yards thoughout those three mediocre seasons. Already having one of the top wideouts in the league in Michael Thomas, Brees now has Cameron Meredith as a target after his move from the Bears after missing out on the entire 2017 due to a torn ACL. If Meredith can capture his form from his 2016 season in Chicago then the Saints will have a formidable downfield threat.

Of course, you can’t mention New Orleans Offense without talking about the formidable Running Back duo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. Ingram always had the ability but it was his durability which was the issue. Seemingly never able to play an entire season due to injury, keeping the elusive Running Back on the field of play was New Orleans priority. There are few players who have made an impact in their rookie season like fellow Running Back, Alvin Kamara. The 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year was virtually unstoppable as the third round draft pick tore his way through the opposition. Unfortunately for the Saints, Ingram will be missing the first four games of 2018 due to suspension so expect Kamara’s number of touches to be increased. Can Kamara keep the production up through the first four games whilst his partner is suspended? Only time will tell.

A much improved Defense has been the main reason for the Saints rise from mediocrity to Super Bowl contenders. As well as having 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year in Kamara, the Saints also had Defensive Rookie of the Year in Marshon Lattimore. Lattimore picked up five interceptions in his rookie season and will be looking to carry that form into his Sophomore season. Fellow 2017 Rookie, Marcus Williams, also had a stellar season which shouldn’t be tarnished by his part in the final play against the Vikings, Brave enough to face the media and accept his role in the loss, Williams strength of character will surely see him improve in his second year.

Cameron Jordan is one of the premier rushers in the NFL. New Orleans spent big in the 2018 Draft by giving up next years 1st round draft pick to move up and nab Defensive End Marcus Davenport and the Saints will be hoping that Davenport will make an immediate impact with the high price paid for his services.

Long time New York Jet Linebacker, Demario Davies, has been added to the team at a position which is unrecognisable from just over a year ago. New Orleans have added plenty of experience at Linebacker over the past 12 months. Along with 2017 Rookie Linebacker, Alex Anzalone, the Saints finally have a strength and depth at what was once a weakness in the heart of their defense.

So a return to the play-offs for the Saints. Almost definitely. A chance of redemption for their 2017 loss? Possibly.

Image copyright neworleanssaints.com

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