New Orleans Saints: 4 Ways the NFL Lockout Benefited the Team
Last week I wrote of the chaos that this off season would produce. Monday we learned just exactly what form that chaos will take in its schedule.
The main premise of this article is that the Saints do chaos better than maybe anyone in the NFL. The franchise is built on it. They have experience—whether it be Katrina, Gustav, London, the Super Bowl—this organization handles chaos extremely well. You might even say they thrive on it.
But simply saying the organization thrives on chaos isn't enough to write an article on. Instead, here are four ways the organization will benefit either in 2011 or beyond, as a result of this lockout.
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This point speaks more to the result of the lockout. That is to say the nature of the lockout made it so that the players got a good deal, but so too did the owners.
The fact the salary cap will be $120 million means the Saints have to be a little wiser with the way they spend money in the coming days. But less of their resources will be spent on rookie salaries (not that the 24th or 28th pick would've been paid exorbitant amounts in the previous CBA either) which will allow them to focus on signing key veterans (Roman Harper, Scott Shanle, David Thomas, Jonathan Goodwin, and Jermon Bushrod).
The cap does mean that if Reggie Bush wants to stay around, his cap figure must be decreased dramatically, and we'll see what course that takes over the next few days.
The nature of the cap increasing in the coming years though, makes re-signing Drew Brees at a figure he would agree with more reasonable. And doing so is obviously key to the success of the Saints for the foreseeable future.
The overall point is that the cap will favor the Saints--a team that has wisely learned how to use its resources and money to field competitive teams every year under Sean Payton.
3. The Future Isn't Now and That's a Good Thing
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For all those who want Mark Ingram to be starting in the Saints' backfield from game one, I have one word for you—fuhgedaboutit!
This lockout means the drafted rookies will likely not sign until well after training camp has begun, making it nearly impossible for any rookie to win a starting job from the beginning of the season.
That means Mark Ingram, Cameron Jordan and the rest of the Saints' rookie class will be behind schedule with much of the squad, though so will the free agents who sign this week. The difference for them is they already know the system (I'm making the assumption that Harper, Shanle, Thomas, Bushrod, and Goodwin will all be back in the black and gold).
These guys can afford to miss a couple practices if it comes to that. The rookies are not afforded such luxuries in their pursuit of winning regular season playing time. It is an unfortunate reality for this crop of rookies, but it's likely that none, at least on this team, are going to be starting anytime soon.
But considering the Saints made the playoffs–and won a Super Bowl the year before—with essentially the same group of players, means they don't need a sudden batch of talent to filter through the facility.
Obviously young talent is appreciated and even coveted, but Gregg Williams and Sean Payton are going to go with the guys they feel most comfortable with from the beginning. Down the line, it is possible these rookies will make an impact, but don't expect that to come in 2011.
2. Coaches Had More of a Chance to Simmer Down to Fire Up Their Engines
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Most off seasons are not off seasons for the coaches in the NFL. Many coaches basically get two weeks off in late June to simmer down and recharge the batteries before the all-out craziness of training camp.
I'm speculating here, but there's no way the Saints' staff just kept drawing up situations. They had to have taken some of that time they would normally spend scouting, coaching and hosting players, to rest. I mean surely they saw this was a tremendous opportunity to do just that.
I'm hoping that Sean Payton—known as a family man—took the time, and instructed his coaches to do so also, to reinvest in their families and relax.
Sure these guys have been chomping at the bit, but I've got to believe they are more relaxed and rested than they've been at any time in their coaching lives. I hope that means we get the best out of all of them.
And I hope that bit of r&r will encourage Coach Payton to keep on keeping on a few more years than he is supposedly planning on. That's my hope, again only time will tell.
1. Players Became Coaches
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Much was made of the Saints' players-led organized spring practices which took place at Tulane University. Truth be told we can praise them all we want, and I do want to take a moment to do so.
Drew Brees organized the workouts and was essentially the head coach of the offense, while Jonathan Vilma played that role on defense. That is no surprise. But what I suspect is that some other players, like a Marques Colston, like a Roman Harper or even Malcolm Jenkins, had to step up their leadership abilities at their respective positions.
For those guys, having the experience of essentially becoming coaches for a time should make them that much better as players. It's like the saying (which is one of my favorite) "it's not until you can teach it that you know you know it". In other words, teaching proves you truly understand your craft.
That means their should be 22 guys on the roster, give or take, who should so fully understand their craft that they are basically experts. And that leadership should fester into the regular season, and make the coaches jobs even easier. Plus it should help the rookies, and younger players develop quicker.
Yes, most other teams in the league held similar workouts. But the difference between other teams and the Saints is that this team handles chaos well. And that's because it has great leadership, which was only further developed this off season.