The New Orleans Saints will enter training camp in 2013 with an unfamiliar sense of calm.
While the team is deep into a transition to the 3-4 defense under Rob Ryan, there's no longer the dark cloud of Bountygate hovering over the entire franchise. The aftershocks of last season's scandal rattled the franchise to its very core.
Highlighting the return to normalcy is Sean Payton, who regains his role as head coach after a season-long suspension. He'll attempt to lead the Saints to a rebound season after New Orleans won just seven games in 2012.
In the following slides, we'll highlight the rest of the major themes and storylines of the Saints 2013 training camp. Topics include schedules, roster breakdowns and positional battles.
The New Orleans Saints open up their training camp in Metairie, LA later this week. Players report to camp on Thursday, July 25 and begin to practice on Friday, July 26. There will be a scrimmage open to the public on Saturday, August 3.
Public practices will be held daily from 8:50 a.m.-11:50 a.m. However, practices on August 2 and 5 are closed to the public due to a change in the football operations schedule.
The final public practice will be on Thursday, August 15, with the team following that up with a Friday night game against the Raiders at the Superdome on the 16th to close training camp.
Aug. 9: vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Aug. 16: vs. Oakland Raiders
Aug. 25: at Houston Texans
Aug. 29: at Miami Dolphins
Much like the 31 other NFL franchises, the Saints will take the maximum 90 players to training camp.
By the end of August, that number will need to be trimmed to just 53.
The coaching staff and front office will use training camp practices and preseason games as an opportunity to break down their 90-man roster. By the end of August, a total of 37 players will need to be let loose.
For complete analysis of the entire roster click here.
The Saints do not have to deal with Bountygate or the suspension of their head coach in 2013, but this is still a team entering training camp with a number of burning questions on both sides of the football.
While Sean Payton returns from a season-long ban to pilot a prolific offense led by Drew Brees, there remain question marks at several positions, including left tackle. Replacing Jermon Bushrod on Brees' blind side might be the most pressing issue facing the Saints in training camp.
However, the defensive transition houses the most unanswered questions in New Orleans this summer.
New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is taking over a defense that allowed more passing yards than any other in NFL history. He's also moving the Saints to a 3-4 defense, which presents a number of position changes and transitions. Ryan will need to find answers at rush linebacker and safety, among others.
For complete analysis of the Saints' burning questions click here.
Positional battles remain one of the main talking points of every NFL training camp. The Saints in 2013 shouldn't be any different.
Some of the many camp battles expected to play out for New Orleans this summer will be at left tackle, outside linebacker and safety. Other, less important competitions will include those at backup quarterback, nickel cornerback and inside linebacker.
Few teams are as unsettled on the defensive side of the football as the Saints, and left tackle is arguably the team's biggest question mark. Training camp should begin to reveal answers for each of the battles.
For complete analysis of the Saints' biggest training camp battles click here.
The Saints hope that what they lacked in volume at the 2013 NFL draft is made up in quality.
New Orleans made just five selections: safety Kenny Vaccaro, tackle Terron Armstead, nose tackle John Jenkins, receiver Kenny Stills and linebacker Rufus Johnson.
Vaccaro was widely considered the draft's top safety, while Armstead and Jenkins will both compete for starting jobs right away.
The Saints augmented their five picks with a group of undrafted free agents.
Training camp is a time of learning for drafted and undrafted rookies alike. For the Saints smaller-than-usual draft class, this summer will be important to get each of the young players on the same page.
For complete analysis of the Saints' rookies and UDFAs click here.
As most teams enter training camp, roughly 45 roster spots are already locked into place. It's the eight-to-10 bubble roles that the remaining players on the roster must fight for in August.
The Saints have a number of players sitting on the roster bubble this summer. Among those include veteran safety Jim Leonhard and linebacker Will Herring.
Each of the bubble players will need a strong showing to stick. The chopping block is never far away for those without a solidified spot on the roster.
For complete analysis on the Saints' bubble watch click here.
By the end of training camp, the Saints will need to decide on the best 53 players for the start of the 2013 season.
The month of August is likely to significantly change the landscape of that roster composition, whether by performance or injury.
But it's never too early to make an educated guess on who could wind up as the final 53.
For complete analysis and projections of the Saints' final 53-man roster click here.