New Orleans Saints 2010 Season Preview: No Super Bowl Letdown
The Saints finally won the first Super Bowl title in franchise history, washing away years of frustration and pain. However, many feel the Saints will have trouble defending their title in 2010. Have the 'Aints from the 70s, a moniker of shame and self loathing, turned into the 'Aints of 2010 -- as in "'Ain't gonna happen again"?
This team looks remarkably similar to last year's champions. Almost every starter is back in place, and save Scott Fujita, the names on the backs of jerseys that were there in 2009 are once again there in 2010. This team is primed to make another run and has the talent to succeed.
Offense -- Look no further than quarterback Drew Brees as the answer to why the Saints are so successful. He's everything you could possibly want in a quarterback. He's poised, intelligent, durable, driven and one of the most accurate passers in the league. Brees leads this team both off the field and in the huddle like very few other quarterbacks in the league can. Neither Reggie Bush nor Pierre Thomas are prototypical feature running backs, but as a tandem, they get the job done. Bush is the multi-purpose back that can explode at any moment, while Thomas is constantly moving forward and is sometimes impossible to bring down for a loss.
The receiving corps succeeds without shining, which is tough to do when you have such a prolific passer throwing the ball. The Saints have four targets that deserve attention, and Brees does a great job getting the ball to each of them. Heat Index: 10
Defense -- The Saints signed ends Alex Brown and Jimmy Wilkerson, who will platoon to give Wilkerson action on run plays and Brown the ability to rush the quarterback on passing downs. The Saints were in the middle of the pack in sacks last year, and Brown will give New Orleans an upgrade there. Jonathan Vilma has a non-stop engine and gets from sideline to sideline with the best of them, which is good, as injuries have forced the Saints to scramble with their outside linebackers.
Where this defense really shines is in the secondary, where Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer make up one of the best cornerback tandems in the league. Both are athletic, have tons of speed and can cover any receiver they match up against. Porter will forever be known as a Super Bowl hero, but Greer is still the better corner. Who the No. 1 guy is isn't important. What is, is that they both stay healthy. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is free to get aggressive with his packages as long as he knows Porter and Greer are in the back to keep things in check. Heat Index: 7
Special Teams -- Legs don't get too much more powerful than Garrett Hartley's, and his clutch overtime kick in the NFC championship game showed that he has mettle. Punter Thomas Morstead is inconsistent at times but makes up for that as a kickoff specialist who logs touchbacks in droves. Courtney Roby excelled in the return game, helping the Saints rank in the top five among average yards per return. Bush is always a threat to break open a punt return -- kickers opt to avoid him most of the time. Heat Index: 8
Coaching -- Payton and Williams make an incredible coaching partnership, with Payton the often unconventional, always aggressive, offensive strategist that has the talent and know-how to move the ball at will. Williams doesn't have the strongest front seven in football, but his aggressive, attacking style is useful and often rewarded because of his impressive secondary. Heat Index: 9
Intangibles -- The 12th man for the Saints is very alive, as the fans in New Orleans, beaten and downtrodden from years of losing, have come together and voiced support for their team like few groups of fans can in the country. Hurricane Katrina brought these fans even closer to the team they love after players and staff worked hard to clean up and get football back up and running quicker than many thought possible. There will always be a bond between the fans and the team in New Orleans that most just can't grasp. Heat Index: 10
Total Heat Index: 44/50 -- There is absolutely no reason to think that the Saints can't return to glory in 2010 and compete for another NFL title. They still have most of the pieces in place, and those calling for a drop off are only doing so because it's chic to pick on Super Bowl champions in the year following their title. This team is still the pick of the NFC South litter and likely still king of the hill in the NFC.