Offseason Shake-Ups Are Sure To Shape the 2009 Saints

Brian Scott@@mancaveradioshoAnalyst IMay 28, 2009

Most Saints fans fully expected the majority of the offseason tweaking would come on the defensive side of the ball, and they were right. 

Gary Gibbs was dismissed as the team's defensive coordinator and Gregg Williams was brought in.  Williams has a reputation of producing the "in-your-face-" style defenses that head coach Sean Payton was looking for.

Payton, along with Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis, showed their confidence in Williams by giving him three out of the team’s four total draft picks in 2009.  It had been widely reported the offensive-minded Payton and Loomis were interested in picking up Ohio State standout running back Chris "Beanie" Wells to replace big back Deuce McAllister, who was released in the offseason.

The Saints did tap some Ohio State talent, however, by picking up cornerback Malcolm Jenkins as the 14th overall selection in this year's draft.  Saints officials are hoping that Jenkins will be a major position upgrade for a secondary corps that has been extremely porous in the last few seasons.

Look for the Saints to use Jenkins' size and aggressiveness to match up against the division's talent-rich tight end corps to stop the long gains the secondary has become infamous for.  The unit gave fits to the fans by giving up 53 pass completions for 20-plus yards in 2008.

If all goes well in summer camp, the fans may get their wish by seeing Jenkins pass up one of the biggest targets of the "Who Dat" ire, Jason David, on the cornerback depth chart.

Saints management didn't make many changes on the defensive front seven in the offseason.  But the biggest defensive news, next to the acquisition of Gregg Williams and Malcolm Jenkins, was the re-signing of linebacker Jonathan Vilma. 

Vilma anchors a talented linebacker corps that has shown consistency against the rush as well as impressive red zone statistics.

Another member of the defense the coaching staff expects big things from in 2009 is defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis.  Ellis made headlines in New Orleans last fall by not showing up to fall camp while his contract was still being negotiated. 

He eventually joined the camp and quickly got up to speed.  Ellis showed several flashed of brilliance in his rookie season and Saints officials are looking for him to build on that as the team unveils their new defense in 2009.

But what about on the other side of the ball?  Would Saints officials want to change anything about the number one offense in the NFL?  Well, they did.

Of course, Drew Brees will be back under center and remain the overall team leader this season.  But what about his supporting cast?  After all, Brees needs guys to hand off to and pass to.

Let's start with the backfield.  Saints management shocked and saddened the "Who Dat" nation by releasing the beloved running back Deuce McAllister earlier this year.  The Saints didn't use Deuce much last year and probably to their detriment as they failed to convert on many down and short situations.

A few of those failed conversions were the difference between winning and losing, which drove the fans nuts.

By now, everyone knows the Saints plan to use Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush as their new "thunder and lightning" tandem approach to the rushing game.  I think most fans agree the proof will be in the pudding.

But one offseason move we haven't seen much analysis on is the impact of the release of fullback Mike Karney.  Karney blew open a lot of holes for the guys that made the touchdowns in the last few years.  He also often served as the last line of defense between a big, speedy defensive back and Drew Brees.

The fear is that we may not notice his absence on the field until somebody ends up hurt.  Let's hope the coaching staff has a plan.

With all of the Saints' receiving corps coming back, including the re-signing of deep ball threat Devery Henderson, Drew Brees will have plenty of targets to hit in 2009.  Let's just hope he has enough time to find one of them.

The coaches would like to see big man Marques Colston return to his rookie form after having arthroscopic surgery to fix a nagging knee injury.  Colston hauled in 47 receptions for 760 yards and five touchdowns last season.

Robert Meachem, the Saints' first overall pick in the 2008 draft, is also poised to break out this season.  Meachem has been impressing coaches in his offseason workouts and figures to be in the mix on many of the big passing plays this year.

Assuming that tight end Jeremy Shockey stays out of trouble long enough to hit the field, he should take on a larger role in the 2009 Saints offense.  Brees likes to throw short darts, and he does so very well.  If Shockey can shake the bricks off his hands, he just might be one of the team's most dangerous third down weapons.

One area of the Saints offense that we hope to see little, if any change in is with quarterback Drew Brees.  Brees finished the season as the top quarterback in the NFL and came only 16 yards shy of breaking Dan Marino's single-season passing record set in 1984.

Brees has every opportunity to take another shot at breaking that record, but you can bet that the highly competitive quarterback will be much more focused on getting his team into the post-season.

Overall, the Saints offseason activity seems to have been geared toward accomplishing that very goal.  If Gregg Williams can turn things around on defense just somewhat, it should be plenty enough for the high-powered offense to slide into a playoff spot this season.