The New Orleans Saints' quest to claim a second straight Lombardi Trophy is just about underway. All players report to camp on July 29 and the first practice is July 30.
Saints fans will have over 20 opportunities over the next month to see their favorite team up-close and personal at the Saints' outdoor fields in Metairie, LA.
The Saints return all but two of their starters from a year ago. But don't be surprised if a couple of unknown names make this team.
Here are some important dates for Saints fans to know:
- Aug. 12: Preseason game at New England.
- Aug. 21: Preseason game against Houston in the Superdome.
- Aug. 27: Preseason game against San Diego in the Superdome.
- Aug. 31: Rosters cut down to maximum of 75 players.
- Sept. 2: Preseason game at Tennessee.
- Sept. 4: Rosters cut down to maximum of 53 players.
- Sept. 9: Saints open up season against Vikings in the Superdome.
Starter: Drew Brees
As if there was any question. After four straight 4,000-yard seasons and a Super Bowl MVP, look for Brees to catapult himself into the regular season MVP race.
Backup: Patrick Ramsey
Ramsey isn't signed yet, but likely will be before the start of camp. Once he's signed, it's his job to lose.
Starters: Jermon Bushrod and Jonathan Stinchcomb
There are whispers that Bushrod's job could be in jeopardy if he struggles early.
Stinchcomb enters his fifth straight year as the Saints' starter at right tackle. Entering his eighth season in the black and gold, no one has been with the Saints for longer.
Backups: Charles Brown and Zach Strief
Saints wouldn't have traded away one Brown (Jammal) if they didn't have confidence in the other Brown (Charles).
Starters: Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans
Perhaps the best guard tandem in the league returns for the third straight season.
Backup: Tim Duckworth
The 27-year old has played in 13 career games. Too bad they're all in the preseason.
Starter: Jonathan Goodwin
Ninth-year pro begins his fifth season with the Saints and third as a starter.
Backup: Matt Tennant
Rookie who started 41 straight games at Boston College. Could take starting job when Goodwin is a free agent in 2011.
Starters: Marques Colston and Robert Meachem
Colston looks to break 1,000 yards for fourth time in five seasons.
Emerging Meachem may be most talented of the group.
Backups: Devery Henderson, Lance Moore, and Courtney Roby (kick returner)
Henderson is perhaps the fastest player on the team.
This is a do-or-die season for Moore, who followed a 79-catch season with just 14 in 2009.
Starter: Jeremy Shockey
Shockey isn't an elite tight end any more partly because of durability issues, but he brings a toughness to this offense that's contagious.
Backups: David Thomas and Jimmy Graham
Thomas' versatility makes him so valuable. He can catch passes in the flat and serve as a lead blocker from the fullback spot.
Graham is the rookie that has the fans most excited. But they'll probably have to wait at least a year before he's more than a situational player because he only played one year of college ball.
Starters: Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush
Sometimes Thomas starts. Sometimes Bush starts. Sometimes they both start. Thomas is the more complete back, while Bush is the home run threat.
Backups: Lynell Hamilton and P.J. HIll
Hamilton takes over the "bruiser" role from the departed Mike Bell. Hamilton got most of his work when the starters shut it down in Week 17 against Carolina and responded with 86 total yards and a touchdown. He was rewarded with a goal line carry that resulted in a touchdown against Arizona in the playoffs.
Starter: Heath Evans
Versatile fullback is a solid lead blocker and is a threat in the short passing game. Team's running game slowed down after he went down with an injury.
Starters: Will Smith and Alex Brown
Smith may have benefited the most from the arrival of Gregg Williams as he posted a career high 13 sacks.
Brown has been a quiet addition but could really flourish. The veteran is good for about six sacks per year and is strong against the run.
Backups: Jimmy Wilkerson, Bobby McCray, and Jeff Charleston
Wilkerson will battle Brown for the starting spot.
McCray was cut during the summer for financial reasons but later re-signed.
Charleston is primarily used on special teams.
Starters: Sedrick Ellis and Remi Ayodele
Ellis is the Saints' best interior lineman but has yet to live up to his draft status (seventh overall in 2008).
- Ayodele is a space eater but that's about it.
Backups: Anthony Hargrove, Al Woods, and Earl Heyman
Hargrove is the best interior lineman at penetrating the line of scrimmage.
Woods is a rookie who has the potential to take Ayodele's starting job as nose tackle.
Heyman was a rookie last year who spent 2009 on the practice squad.
Starters: Scott Shanle and Jo-Lonn Dunbar
Shanle is easily the Saints' most experienced OLB. He also said Monday on NFL Radio that if the season started tomorrow, Dunbar would start at strong-side. His opinion is more than good enough for me.
Backups: Clint Ingram and Stanley Arnoux
Ingram is an injury concern as his season ended early with a shoulder injury and then had offseason knee surgery.
Arnoux was drafted in the fourth round last year but didn't make it through OTAs before landing himself on IR.
Starter: Jonathan Vilma
He has led the team in tackles by a wide margin each of his two years in New Orleans and is an extension of coach Williams on the field.
Backup: Marvin Mitchell
The former seventh-round pick is able to play in the middle or on the strong side.
Starters: Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter
Greer and Porter are perfect for a heavy blitz scheme because they are both above-average in man coverage. The duo combined for eight interceptions, including Porter's two in the postseason, but also combined to miss 11 games.
Backups: Patrick Robinson, Randall Gay, and Leigh Torrence.
Robinson, the Saints' first-round pick, allows the Saints to avoid the predicament they were last year when they had to sign and play two corners off the street (Mike McKenzie and Chris McAlister).
Don't be surprised if the Saints force Gay, who is scheduled to make $2.5 million, to take a pay cut to stick with the team.
Torrence is a sixth-year pro who appears only in emergency situations.
Starter: Roman Harper
Harper is the classic "in the box safety" who is one of the hardest hitters on the team.
Backups: Chip Vaughn and Chris Reis
Vaughn, like Arnoux, was a fourth-round pick out of Wake Forest who didn't make it to Week One last year.
Reis, who reminds Sean Payton of the now retired Steve Gleason, is too valuable on special teams to let go.
Starter: Darren Sharper
The future Hall-of-Famer had nine picks last year but may not be the opening week starter if he's not fully recovered in time from microfracture surgery.
Backup: Malcolm Jenkins
The former first-round pick struggled at times in man coverage at corner but should excel at safety with his speed and size (6'0, 204 lbs).
Placekicker: Garrett Hartley
Kicked game-winning field goal to send Saints to Super Bowl XLIV. Also, set a Super Bowl record with three field goals over 40 yards.
Punter: Thomas Morstead
Has achieved a five second hangtime and is also the kickoff specialist.
Long Snapper: Jason Kyle
Longest tenured player on the team is entering 16th NFL season.
QB: Chase Daniel and Sean Canfield
Saints usually break camp with just two quarterbacks. One of these guys will be signed to the practice squad. My guess is that it's Canfield.
Center: Nick Leckey
Played eight games for the Saints last year.
WR: Adrian Arrington
Spent all of 2009 on the practice sqaud and was signed to the active playoff roster. Probably will spend 2010 on the practice squad.
FB: Jason McKie
Former Bear has started 46 career games.
LB: Jonathan Casillas
Played in 11 games last year and started two of them. Is probably battling Arnoux for the last linebacker spot and is really only suited to play on the weak side.
FS: Usama Young
Fourth-year pro is most famous for his Super Bowl ad in 2008-09.