by Justin of The Sportmeisters
The New Orleans Saints finished last in the NFC South in the 2008 season with a .500 winning percentage at 8-8. The Saints showed at times that they can be a team to be reckoned with offensively, thanks to the efforts of QB Drew Brees.
Brees finished the 2008 season leading the league in passing yards with 5,069, making him a part of the MVP talks. The hype suddenly stopped when the Saints could not consistently put wins together.
Their longest winning streak last year was two, which highlights a sense of inconsistency. How can a team with a QB as talented as Brees lose as many games as they win?
The answer to that question is no running game and less than stellar defensive play.
While the Saints have a very talented receiving corps that is very athletic, and the acquisition of Jeremy Shockley had some positive moments, the backfield lacks an explosive every down back that can get tough yards in the trenches.
College superstar Reggie Bush still has not proven the capability or the proper running style needed to propel him between the tackles. New Orleans ranked 28th in the league in rushing offense last year, which can explain why the Saints weren’t as successful as they hoped last year.
Despite all their running woes, they need some defensive help first and foremost.
New Orleans Saints Draft Picks
Round 1: pick 14
Round 2: pick given to Giants
Round 3: pick given to Jets
Round 4: pick 16
Round 4: pick 18
Round 5: pick given to Giants
Round 6: pick given to Green Bay
Round 7: pick 13
Team Need One: OLB
The Saints run a base 4-3 defense, in which consistent linebacker play is paramount to the success of the defense. The middle linebacker is the QB of the defense and must lead by example on the field by making plays in the running and passing games.
The Saints are solid at this position to say the least with Jonathan Vilma, who recorded 132 tackles in 2008. The weakness of the Saints' defensive front seven was at the outside linebacker position.
The strong side linebacker, Scott Fujita, only recorded 81 tackles last year. On the other side at weak side linebacker, Scott Shanle recorded 87 tackles.
The Saints were 17th in rushing defense and could have been much better if they had improved linebacker play.
Team Need Two: C
The Saints need another leader on the offensive line that will help in the rushing game. Currently the Saints have Jonathan Goodwin listed as the starter; he is 30 years old.
Other than the QB, the center position is the most important player on the field. The center is the only other player on the entire team who touches the ball on every play.
The center must be able to command the respect of the other offensive linemen on the team and be the second most intelligent player on the team. The center barks out protection adjustments against defensive stunts and blitzes.
Because Goodwin is aging, it is important that the Saints begin to groom another commander of the offensive line. Without a stud at the center position, the Saints will not have even as much offensive success as they have had in the past.
Team Need Three: RB
As previously mentioned, the Saints’ running game was not intimidating at all in 2008. Ranking 28th in the league, the Saints backfield needs an upgrade, and fast. Deuce McAllister is out due to injuries and the effects of age.
Pierre Thomas is a decent back that has shown glimpses of becoming a talented running back, but he has not proven himself as a gamebreaker or elite back in the NFL. Reggie Bush has the big play capability but has cases of fumble-itis at times.
Bush is more effective on the outside or even as a third down back with screens and draws. The Saints need a back that can grind out four yards on every touch to make it easier on Brees and the passing game.
The Saints were last in the NFC South in 2008 because of lackluster linebacker play and a nonexistent running game. If the Saints can learn the advantages of establishing the run, they will have much more success in 2009.
An offense that throws the ball all around the yard is exciting and fun, but there has to be at least a bigger threat in the backfield in order to make a run at the NFC South title.