5 Bold Predictions for the 2012 New Orleans Saints Season
This is the time of year when most rosters are set (with the exception of surprise cap casualties) and players are settling in to learn schemes and assignments. June is the month where I find myself delving into different possibilities for the upcoming year.
You know, like a guy planning what he will do with his winnings from the lottery before he wins it.
The thoughts and ideas rattled through my brain as I looked at the Saints' depth chart and schedule. It was hard at first, but I have come up with some raw, bold predictions for the forthcoming season. These predictions will solidify once the team starts getting into the grind that is training camp.
Saints Win the NFC South
"Why is this a bold prediction if the Saints won the division last year?" - Who Dat Nation.
If anyone knows the NFC South, it has have never had back-to-back division winners in its history, and with this division shaping up to be a tough one, not a lot of folks will pick New Orleans as division winners.
(Oh yea, and the whole bounty situation might cause a little pause for experts this season on the Saints.)
Call me delusional all day, but, in the end, the Saints have a quarterback (yes, you know who will be signed) that is in the middle of a Hall of Fame window of his career that can't be matched by anyone in recent history.
As long as he's under center and Pete Carmichael calling plays, there will be no major drop off like everyone is predicting.
People forget that Carmichael called the offensive plays for the last half of the season, and the team was averaging more points than in the previous games with Sean Payton.
Steve Spagnuolo will bring a much better scheme to New Orleans that will bump up everyone's play and production in this first year in the system. The Saints gave him plenty of toys to play with this offseason also.
Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne and Brodrick Bunkley are just a few of the new guys that will make this defense better than last year.
Martez Wilson Leads Team in Sacks
Once Spagnuolo was hired, I initially thought of Martez Wilson in that hybrid OLB/DE role that Mathias Kiwanuka was used in up in New York with Spags. A few short months later, he was announced as being switched to defensive end.
Now, he could still see some time as "linebacker" while dropping back in coverage, but he will mainly be used as a pass-rushing specialist while he gets better versus the run.
He has played with his hand in the dirt in college and excelled at it. He has the freakish athletic ability to blow by even the most athletic of tackles in the NFL. He will stay fresh and end up with double-digit totals in the sack column. (Let's hope that he gets stronger versus the run so he can play all three downs.
Devery Henderson Won't Be the Starter Opposite Colston
Devery Henderson is the longest tenured Saint on the offensive side of the ball. He has been consistently inconsistent. He has made just enough big plays to outweigh the bonehead drops he makes.
But this year might be his time to move to more of a reserve role.
The emergence of Joe Morgan last preseason and drafting of Nick Toon this year will soon relegate Henderson to a backup role (A minor knee injury landed Morgan on IR due to the team's depth and the fact that I don't think they wanted to lose him to waivers.)
Morgan, an undrafted free agent last year, has been impressing coaches in the first round of OTA's this season, and looks like he's building on the explosive preseason he had a year ago. He could shoot out of nowhere like Victor Cruz, and that's huge for a player Joe Vitt likened to Robert Meachem.
Morgan and Cruz both had their first years cut short by injury after great preseason work, but Cruz took off and ran with his opportunity this year with over 1,500 yards and nine touchdowns from Eli Manning.
Imagine what a talent like Morgan can do with Drew Brees at QB if Cruz put crazy numbers up with Eli.
Toon has the physical makeup to rise on the depth charts like Marques Colston did as a rookie. Toon is mature, but he has an injury history that could give Morgan a leg up if it comes back to haunt him. He works best with a pure passer, as evident with his drop in production when Russell Wilson came to Madison, WI.
This debate could be moot in a few years because both of these guys could be Brees' starting receivers as No. 9 enters his latter years.
Patrick Robinson Will Be a Pro Bowler
When I think of Robinson's development, it reminds me of Corey Webster's with the Giants.
Only one thing is different: Robinson's curve to Pro Bowl status is going to be accelerated based on the fact that he will have had significant playing time under his belt by the time Spagnuolo gets his hands on him.
Webster didn't start contributing until toward the end of the 2007 season—Spag's first year as defensive coordinator there. Spag's last year, 2008, is where his career took off to the playmaking, above average point is today.
It reached a peak with his six interceptions in 2011.
Robinson filled in excellently for the injured Tracy Porter last year, contributing four interceptions despite only starting seven games. He is prime for a breakout year that will bring him to the top tier of NFC cornerbacks.
Marcel Jones Starts at Right Tackle by Season's End
Zach Strief is an average right tackle in this league. His toughness outweighs his talent, as evidenced by his coming back sooner than expected from injury to replace a subpar Charles Brown.
He is batting a bit of an ankle injury this offseason that requires more rest than anything, but we'll see if that holds up for a full season.
Brown has been as disappointing as any high draft pick in recent Saints history. He was passed up on the depth chart—already—by rookie Marcel Jones, a man who has the best afro since Pulp Fiction.
I thought Jones was at least a year away from contributing, but the sounds coming out of recent mini-camps have been nothing but positive. Jones was running with the first team offense this week while Strief was out.
That's interesting—considering Brown is as healthy as a very slow horse.