As we roll along this offseason, I decided to add an offseason feature called "Know thy Enemy." There will surely be plenty of discussion concerning our divisional foes. In the meantime, I wanted to start looking at some of our other opponents outside of the division and outside of the conference. Once we approach the individual matchups, we'll have more in depth discussion, but this is more of an overview. We'll look at offseason transactions, brief previews, and a quick look at the respective SB Nation site, if one exists.
We'll start with everyone's Cinderella last year, the New Orleans Saints. After a long wait, the Saints finally have a home here at SB Nation at Canal Street Chronicles, written by Sunil.
The Saints bounced back from Hurricane Katrina to become America's team. They were led by Drew Brees, Reggie Bush and many others to a 10-6 NFC South title and a berth in the NFC title game. Coming off a major injury, Drew Brees threw for over 4,400 yards, finishing 3rd in DPAR and 4th in DVOA among all quarterbacks at Football Outsiders. Reggie Bush combined with Deuce McCallister for 1,622 yards and 16 TDs, while Bush also led the team in receptions with 88. Marques Colston, a no-name 7th rounder out of Hofstra surprised many fantasy owners with 1,038 yards and 8 TDs.
While the team was flattened by Chicago in the NFC title game, they did take our 49ers behind the woodshed with a 34-10 whuppin (although it primarily fell apart in the 2nd half).
The team had an interesting draft, adding Robert Meachem, arguably the 3rd or 4th best wide receiver available. In addition they snagged RB Antonio Pittman to an already explosive running attack.
In free agency, the Saints added my personal favorite 49er, Eric Johnson, who if healthy, I think could add a whole new element to that passing game, which makes them all the more scary.
The team was rather porous on defense and thus made a few additions that should help them. Usama Young, a third round pick out of Kent, is a guy that New Era Scouting says could make some contributions as a nickel back early on, but could also be a guy who benefited from a Pro Day and might not nail down the job. Their biggest splashes on the defensive side of the ball would probably be Brian Simmons, a 9-year linebacker from Cincinnati and Jason David, a rather short 3-year pro from Indianapolis...so that's not saying much.
The biggest loss would have to be Joe Horn, which considering his age is not that big a loss. Robert Meachem will not be Joe Horn coming out of the gates, but should be able to contribute as much as Horn did in his final season, a robust 37 catches for 679 yards. The team was able to retain Charles Grant at defensive end and Jon Stinchcomb at offensive tackle. Combine that with the rest of the returning players and the Saints are in good shape.
2007 Questions & Answers
Over at the World Wide Leader's Ultimate Depth Charts, the Saints are getting all sorts of love, as Hoge and Theismann both pick them as the best team in the division and I would definitely have to agree. The Falcons are a bit of a mess, although if Vick could get his crap together they could challenge the Saints. The Panthers certainly have the talent to compete, but were wildly inconsistent, which could very well carry over to this year. The Buccaneers are simply rebuilding and the only way they are in it is if Cadillac and Sims completely bounce back, or the Garcia magic works wonders again.
The talent on offense is clearly there for the Saints to repeat as NFC South champions. Drew Brees seemed to make the leap this past season, so obviously one question is whether he can put up a repeat performance, or even close to a repeat. Marques Colston came out of no where to have a phenomenal season. Can he repeat those numbers or was it a fluke? Can Reggie Bush take the next step in the running game as Deuce continues to age and what role will Antonio Pittman have in the offense?
Considering the 49ers early season schedule, this will be a big matchup. If things come together, I'd be happy if the 49ers were 4-2 heading in to this game. Personally, I think a 49ers win would be an upset, although clearly not as big as it would have been last season. While a win would be nice, I see something along the lines of New Orleans 27 - 49ers 21. Competitive and close, but the Saints outlast the Niners. Feel free to throw out your own analysis and prediction.