New Orleans Saints: 3 Players in 2011 That Underperformed and Need to Step Up
The New Orleans Saints had a 13-3 season last year and looked like one of the teams that could possibly reach the Super Bowl. Their offense was a juggernaut, but their defense had a few flaws. They were awfully close to reaching the NFC Championship game. But, we all know how that turned out.
The 49ers exposed the Saints' defensive flaws; Alex Smith and Vernon Davis crushed any Super Bowl dreams the team and Who Dat Nation had. Oh, what could have been.
The New Orleans Saints still have a strong team and still have the potential to make a run at the Lombardi trophy (yes, even with suspensions). They did a good job of keeping most of their high-powered offense intact. But there are still some players, with great potential, that need to step up and help the Saints in achieving their ultimate goal in 2012.
Let's take a look at a few, shall we?
Will Smith, DE
Improving the Saints pass-rush should be a priority. Their pass-rush was weak, and they had to rely on heavy blitz packages. With new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, the team will be switching to a 4-3 defense.
Will Smith is the Saints' best defensive lineman, but has been an average pass-rusher the past two seasons. That's not to say he had a terrible season last year. He had a decent season, statistically, but he needs to step up and be a force once again. He had a 13-sack season not too long ago in the 2009 season. If he can get back to that form, it will require less blitzing and vastly improve the Saints' defense.
Mark Ingram, RB
Mark Ingram didn't really under-perform. He had a solid rookie season. His numbers weren't spectacular for a couple of reasons, the main reason being his injuries last season. Another reason is that he is part of a committee at running back, sharing carries with Darren Sproles, Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas. Still, the former Heisman trophy winner from Alabama should step it up this upcoming season.
Last season, Ingram averaged 3.9 yards per carry for 474 yards and five touchdowns. Not as spectacular as the Saints—who gave up their 2011 second-round pick and this year's first-round pick to select Ingram—had hoped for. But the potential is there. His combination of size and quickness can make him a huge weapon for the Saints, he just needs to produce as he did for Alabama.
Sedrick Ellis, DT
The former seventh overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft never lived up to his potential. Ellis hasn't made a big impact as the Saints had hoped he'd do. Ellis' strength is against the run and has potential as a pass-rusher, but his numbers haven't been amazing.
Last season was Ellis' worst statistically with 29 tackles and 0.5 sacks, numbers that don't jump out at you, especially not for a seventh overall pick, and those are a drop-off of production compared to his other seasons.
The Saints' defense needs to improve. If Ellis can live up to his potential, along with the newly acquired defensive players, the Saints will be a very tough team to beat.