4 Biggest Hurdles Facing the 2012 New Orleans Saints in Training Camp
The 2012 New Orleans Saints training camp has kicked off, and despite the horrible offseason, the excitement surrounding the city of New Orleans has been electric.
Quite possibly as electric as the 2010 season coming off of the '09 Super Bowl victory.
And why shouldn't it be? The Saints are returning all of the main players from a team that finished 13-3 and were one dream Alex Smith drive away from hosting the NFC Championship Game.
With that being said, there are a few hurdles that are facing New Orleans in training camp this year. All are manageable, but the team will best served knocking these out in camp and not having them linger throughout the season.
New Defensive Scheme
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It's always good to get the kinks out of a new system while the games don't count.
Steve Spagnuolo's scheme is different than Gregg Williams' kitchen sink-defense.
And by different, I mean better.
There's a reason why Spagnuolo's defenses have consistently been at the top of NFL rankings: discipline.
Not saying that Williams' defense wasn't disciplined, but when your only choices are "blitz-light" and "blitz-heavy," there's not much to be disciplined on anyway.
Spag's has been very hands-on in the practices that I was able to see, and, from the looks of it, has this defense chomping at the bit to get in a real game. And that's just after a few practices; think of how they will be when they know the playbook completely.
Jonathan Vilma's Absence
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Yes, Curtis Lofton has been an upgrade in the middle of this defense in just about every conceivable way except for one: leadership.
Not saying that he won't get to that point because trust me, Spags wants Lofton to become an extension of him on the field. That just takes time; it will come.
But this team will miss Vilma's locker room presence because he was the "Drew Brees" of the defense. That shouldn't be discounted by the fact that they upgraded this offseason.
The veteran leadership that remains on the team should help, but who will step up in those defensive meetings and hold others accountable. That guy needs to show up soon.
Sean Payton's Absence
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This absence is a little more confusing to solve, and the only reason that is is because the coach who was made interim is also suspended for the first six games.
But actually, none of that matters when you have a coach on the field in Drew Brees, and it also helps that his right-hand man this year, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, has been with him since his rookie year in San Diego in 2001.
This hurdle was also made much, much more manageable after Mr. Brees signed his $100 million contract.
His leadership on the field and Carmichael's off should offset the loss of Sean Payton, no matter who has the "interim head coach" title that week.
Finding a Playmaker Opposite Marques Colston to Stretch the Field
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This is where Robert Meachem will be missed.
Yes, Devery Henderson might be faster than Meachem, but Meachem was much more consistent than the former LSU product.
That consistency is what the Saints need out of their guy that's going to stretch the field.
With Colston's lack of speed and Jimmy Graham and Lance Moore working the middle of the field, it could get a little crowded in that area, and not in a good way for the offense.
That's where a burner like Joe Morgan comes in. He has impressed in camp so far (sounds like a broken record). His deep speed and playmaking ability have fans giddy as they watch him in camp.
He should be starting ahead of Devery with a solid camp the rest of the way.