Over the last couple of years, the New Orleans Saints have had the most prolific offense in the NFL. The Saints' offense has been an absolute nightmare for defensive coordinators and it only seems to be getting better.
However, the loss of head coach Sean Payton for the entire year as a result of his involvement in the bounty scandal is significant. New Orleans also lost Pro bowl offensive guard Carl Nicks in free agency. Nicks was a monster in the running game and is going to be difficult to replace.
Nevertheless, this is the New Orleans Saints we are talking about, and they aren't going to let those losses prevent them from being an offensive juggernaut.
The Saints gave Drew Brees the franchise tag in hopes of coming to terms on a long-term deal in the near future. While it is likely that Brees wasn't psyched about getting tagged, he is a professional and he won't let it affect his game.
The Saints still have one of the best quarterbacks in the league and someone who knows the offense very well. Brees has played in Sean Payton's offense for the last five years and recorded the most passing yards ever by a quarterback last season.
Brees should have a little bit more responsibility in regards to running the offense without Payton. And he will handle it fine.
Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael took over the play-calling responsibilities last year when Sean Payton suffered a leg injury. While it isn't exactly defined how much responsibility Carmichael had when Payton was healthy, he knows the offense backwards and forwards.
While his play-calling only lasted a couple of games, any experience is better than no experience and it at least proves that Brees is comfortable with Carmichael calling plays. There might be some growing pains in the beginning, but the transition shouldn't be as bad as advertised.
The Saints had a running-back-by-committee approach last year and it yielded positive results. Ingram will add another dynamic to the running game and bring it to another level.
Ingram didn't blow anyone out of the water with his performance in his rookie year. But he had five rushing touchdowns, which is more than any other Saints player, and that was before he missed the last six games with a turf toe injury.
Ingram won the Heisman Trophy in his sophomore year at Alabama and can really be a game-changer when healthy. His addition will be huge for offense in 2012.
New Orleans smartly re-signed Marques Colston in free agency, though they lost Robert Meachem to the Chargers. The Saints pride themselves on their depth at wide receiver, and losing Colston wouldn't have been the worst thing in the world. But the fact remains that keeping the core of Colston, Devery Henderson and Lance Moore makes things that much more difficult for opposing defenses.
Colston is also a veteran of Sean Payton's system. So having one more receiver who knows the offense will make the transition easier.
Graham erupted for over 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns in his second year in the NFL. But the scariest part about Graham is that he is still learning the game of football.
Graham converted to football after playing basketball at the University of Miami. He hasn't been playing football for very long yet is still one of the best offensive weapons any NFL team has.
Every year is going to bring more knowledge and more comfort for Graham, which will make him even tougher to match up against.
Losing Nicks is going to hurt, especially in the running game. But besides Nicks, the offensive line remains in tact.
In 2011 New Orleans had one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and while it may not be as good as it was last year, it will still be a top-10 line.
It also helps that Drew Brees has one of the quickest releases in the NFL.
Spagnuolo was a fantastic defensive coordinator with the Giants before taking the head coaching job with the St. Louis Rams. We will have to wait to see if any players get suspended as a result of the bounty scandal, but Spagnuolo should help New Orleans improve from last year's 24th ranked defense.
It won't be easy, though. New Orleans lost Tracy Porter and is likely to lose Johnathon Vilma for some time as a result of his involvement in the bounty scandal. But Spagnuolo is an experienced coordinator and the Saints should improve on defense as a result.
A better defense means more opportunities for Drew Brees and company. And no opposing team wants to give more opportunities to Drew Brees.
Every team in the NFC South had trouble stopping the pass last year, as no team ranked higher than 20th in the NFL in passing yard allowed per game.
Atlanta was 20th allowing 236.6 passing yards a game. Tampa Bay was right behind them ranking 21st and Carolina ranked 24th. While these defenses are subject to improve next year, there haven't been any indicators that Atlanta, Tampa Bay or Carolina will drastically increase their pass defense.
This means the Saints have six guaranteed games against subpar pass defenses.
While this is an obvious observation, the Saints light it up on offense when they play at home. Playing half of their games in the Superdome gives their offense a distinct advantage. The Saints utilize a lot of speed in their offense and the Superdome is perfect for that.
As long as the Saints can remain effective in the Superdome, there is no reason to believe they won't go off this year.
It's obvious that Saints players thought Sean Payton's suspension was too harsh as many expressed their disagreement on Twitter. As a result, they will have a chip on their shoulder heading into the season and could end up uniting around their suspended coach and GM.
If the Saints can adopt the whole "it's us against the world" mentality, then they might be able use the suspension as motivation.