Needless to say, many are looking forward to when this Big Easy team takes the field, so we can all see how all this drama affects them.
Without Sean Payton (all year) and the GM for a chunk of games, the Saints will also not have the likes of Jonathon Vilma, their middle linebacker for the entire 2012 season. But, for the most part, the majority of their roster still stands pat.
With summer coming to a class, I'm sure we can all feel the same thing. The NFL season is approaching. Based on everything that's happened this offseason, it's time to predict the Saint's two-deep depth chart for 2012. This show will only include the offense and defense, no special teams this time around.
1. Drew Brees
2. Chase Daniel
Come on, people. Who are we kidding? Is this even up for debate? There's no question that the fan favorite Drew Brees will be the starter in New Orleans unless something absolutely tragic happens.
1. Mark Ingram
2. Pierre Thomas/Darren Sproles/Chris Ivory
The Saints have a number of intriguing players at running back in Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram. And one also shouldn't forget about the vastly underrated Chris Ivory.
While Ingram will be hampered early with his ongoing toe and knee injuries, Thomas and Sproles both can handle the load themselves. Thomas, an on-the-rise back, totaled 552 years in 2011 to go along with five touchdowns. Expect those numbers to increase as he will handling the ball more in the upcoming season.
Sproles, a dual threat from the run and passing game, is also a very serviceable back. This past season, Sproles pulled in a total of nine touchdowns (seven receiving and two running).
The Saints definitely can be a threat from the running game when they want to be. Once Ingram returns, the triple-threat at the running back position could end up destroying opposing defenses.
1, Marques Colston
2. Devery Henderson
3. Lance Moore
With the departure of promising player Robert Meachem in the offseason for the San Diego Chargers, the Saints may be a little less than stellar at the wide receiver position. While Colston and Henderson (Lance Moore is fantastic as well) are more than capable receivers, the talent level may drop off considerably after them.
Colston had himself a stellar 2011 campaign, pulling in 80 passes for 1,143 years and eight touchdowns. Keep in mind, he was also injured for part of the season.
On the other side, Devery Henderson showed lots of promise as well, pulling in two touchdowns during the season. Now a primary target, expect his numbers to skyrocket.
If Henderson struggles early, expect Lance Moore to take his spot early. Adrian Arrington is also worth keeping an eye on. A sleeper rookie pick could also be Nick Toon out of Wisconsin. Picked in the fourth round, Toon could also see considerable time on the field.
1. Jimmy Graham
2. David Thomas
After last year's breakout performance, this spot belongs completely and totally to Jimmy Graham. Easily the Saint's biggest pass catching threat, Graham pulled down even more touchdowns than Colston (11 touchdowns on 1,310 yards).
This guy is a stud. While Thomas may see garbage minutes, Jimmy is a full-fledged star for this offense. With a lack of considerable talent at the wide receiver spot, Graham may end up being Brees' primary target after Colston.
1. Jermon Bushrod, Brian de la Puente, Ben Grubbs, Jahri Evans, Zach Strief
2. Marcel Jones, Eric Olsen, Andrew Tiller, Matt Tennant, Charles Brown
There was a huge hole for the Saints at left guard when Carl Nicks departed for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a massive contract. Regardless, this team still has plenty of talent on the line protecting Brees from opposing defenses.
With the Saints pulling in Ben Grubbs from the Baltimore Ravens, the spot left by Carl Nicks should be held in check for the meantime. I feel that halfway through the season, Grubbs will have had us all forget about the departed Nicks. Grubbs has a big season ahead.
Behind him, Eric Olsen won't be expected to stand out more than he has in the past. Expect him not to see much playing time, barring major injury.
Last year, a big surprise was Brian de la Puente, who will be the unquestionable start at center this year, with the disappointing Matt Tennant backing him up. Tennant had his chance to snag the spot last year and lost out to Mr. de la Puente.
Of course, over at right guard Jahri Evans has already proven to be an effective and quality product. Already one of the highest paid guards in the NFL, Evans has seen his share of Pro Bowl time.
Backing him up will be the rookie Andrew Tiller, a Syracuse Orangeman. He's a sixth-round pick we should all keep an eye on.
NFL.com has him pegged as a potential backup, and I believe he'll end up winning the spot. According to NFL.com's draft analysis:
Tiller makes his mark as a run blocker. Although not very explosive, he is generally able to move defensive linemen out of the play if he can get his hands on them. Size and strength are the shining attributes of his game.
Rounding out the offensive line are Jermon Bushrod and Zach Strief, consistent, capable starters for this team. Bushrod was even selected to his first Pro Bowl last year. Expect them to continue their quality play on the offensive line.
Backups Charles Brown and Marcel Jones (a rookie) shouldn't be expected to see much burn at the spot. Brown has been a major disappointment for the team, after every opportunity was handed to him.
In all honesty, it's nearly impossible to predict this position for the Saints. With Vilma out for the season and unlikely to win his case against Roger Goodell, this position is up for grabs for a number of players on the roster.
Scott Shanle is a projected starter as of now, but that could change at any time. Will Herring has been rumored to be cut by opening day. The linebacker position is one of the deepest on the Saints roster, due to a number of offseason acquisitions by the team.
No Vilma? No problem.
Brought in this season are Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne, and Chris Chamberlain. Martez Wilson is out of the running, having been moved over to defensive end.
Interim coach Joe Vitt said it best (h/t nola.com): "It's probably the deepest group I've ever been around. I would say this, linebacker one through seven or eight could start for a lot of teams in the National Football League. That's a compliment to the group."
1. Jabari Greer
2. Patrick Robinson
3. Johnny Patrick
The Saints will have Jabari Greer for some time, but the competition at corneback is still there. Now that Tracy Porter is gone, expect the position to be up for grabs for anybody on the roster.
Johnny Patrick is already slated to be a suitable backup, behind probable starters Greer and Patrick Robinson. But we should all keep an eye on fifth-round pick Corey White, as well as newly signed Marquis Johnson.
In a recent article, new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had this to say about his corner competition, which a key piece to his defensive schemes:
Joe and I have talked about it a lot that these players that come out of this Alabama program, especially on defense for whatever reason (have been impressive).
I think we know the reason. They have good coaching down there. Marquis has shown that. Marquis is new here and has some things to work through. He knows that. It's a second chance. We'll give him a good look.
1. Turk McBride
2. Will Smith (after suspension is up)
3. Cameron Jordan
4. Greg Romeus/ Martez Wilson
With this section, let's start off with another great quote from Spagnuolo .He says it much better than I can (h/t nola.com):
I am a firm believer, and I have been for years learning from one of the best in the league (late former Philadelphia Eaglescoordinator Jim Johnson), that you win up front both offensively and defensively.
If you are talking defense, you are talking defensive linemen. Sometimes you have four out there, sometimes you have three out there. In my opinion, you get as many out there as you can.
Defensive end is an interesting position for the Saints. With Will Smith gone for the first half of the season, this paves the way for younger prospects to show what they got in his absence. Re-signing Turk McBride was key for this defense, who was slated to become a free agent in the near future.
Keep an eye on Cameron Jordan, who may steal plenty of time this year. Junior Galette and Greg Romeus will also see time. Martez Wilson has been moved over from linebacker, and being a third-round pick, should see time.
Romeus is the most intriguing prospect, in my mind. He still hasn't seen any NFL time, due to a significant injury last year. But he should be ready, hungry, and willing this season.
According to nola.com, Romeus is rearing to go:
1. Roman Harper
2. Malcolm Jenkins
3. Read Below
The safety spot is pretty much set in stone. Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins have proven their worth in the past, despite a postseason no-showing when they allowed Vernon Davis of the 49ers to run all over the field.
An article on nola.com put it best on why they should see the bulk of the time next year:
Harper has been more of an in-the-box enforcer and Jenkins, a deep center fielder. Harper had a team-leading 95 tackles and 7.5 sacks last season, and Jenkins had 77 tackles. In 2010, Harper finished with 98 tackles, three sacks and six forced fumbles and Jenkins added 64 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
But in training camp, there have been a number of undrafted safeties that have impressed, among them the top player being Jerico Nelson, as well as Oklahoma State's Johnny Thomas and Monmouth's Jose Gumbs. All have hoped to make the team
Due to all their performances, current backup saftey Jonathan Amaya has the risk of getting cut sooner rather than later. Former undrafted player, Isa Abdul Quddus is also expected to compete for time.
1. Brodrick Bundley
2. Sedrick Ellis
3. Remi Ayodele
4. Tom Johnson
The Saints have new blood at defensive tackle and plenty of talent. Brodrick Bundley was brought in to start alongside Sedrick Ellis. They were also able to bring back former Saint Remi Ayodele, who is expected to back up newcomer Bundley.
A few other players, most likely Aubrayo Frankling and Tom Johnson, are expected to see time. Spagnuolo likes to use players with fresh legs.
All in all, this year for the Saints should be an interesting one, as many eyes will rest on the Big Easy.
And by all means, we all mistakes, so let me know what I got wrong and we can debate this out!!
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