Earlier in the offseason, our man Josh Branco put together an excellent series of articles looking at the 49ers 2010 opponents. The series began with a look at each team as they prepared to head into free agency. As we approached the draft and most of the big free agency moves were completed, Josh then provided updates for each team, with a focus on where they then might need to look in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Now that we're through the majority of player transactions and the 2010 schedule has been completely released, it's time to start looking ahead to each of the individual battles coming up this season. As long time readers might recall, we'll have our annual "Know Thy Enemy" feature in which we'll look at each opponent, providing an overview, a look at additions and subtractions, 2010 questions and answers, and of course, a quick prediction on the game.
Before we get to that though, we've decided to take advantage of our network of NFL bloggers and get some answers to a few basic questions. Thanks to smileyman for both the suggestion of this, and title suggestions as well. We start with the first non-divisional opponent the 49ers face in 2010, the New Orleans Saints. The 49ers host the Saints in their home opener on Monday Night Football, which should make for a crazy atmosphere. The Saints are represented by Dave Cariello and Canal Street Chronicles. Thanks to Dave for taking a few minutes to answer some questions. I didn't dig too deep with the questions since training camp is still two months away. For now it's more a matter of getting a broader overview of the Saints heading into the 2010 season.
Fooch: What would you say has been the biggest acquisition and biggest loss in free agency for the Saints this offseason?
CSC: The Saints were pretty quiet this off-season due to restrictions being one of the final eight teams. By far the biggest loss was starting linebacker Scott Fujita. He was a solid player and a leader in the locker room. But the NFL is a business and he had to move on to greener pastures in Cleveland. Wait...Cleveland?
I think the biggest free agent pick up was defensive end Alex Brown, formerly of Chicago. Bears fans were sad and upset to see him go, which is a great sign that the Saints made a nice move. I expect Brown to be a significant upgrade over Charles Grant, who the Saints cut early in the off-season.
After the jump we look at the Saints' 2010 draft class, current holes, their chances of repeating, and Dave provides a prediction on the game.
Fooch: Can you give a recap of your draft as far as players that you expect to make an impact early on in 2010. Given that the teams square off in week 2, who do you think will be someone the 49ers will have to keep an eye on in this game?
CSC: Jimmy Graham has probably gotten the most hype so far during rookie minicamp. The former basketball player turned tight end with only one year of college playing experience was 'already turning heads.'
Offensive tackle Charles Brown was touted as being a great value at his draft position. If he lives up to the hype, he could definitely be a guy that could earn playing time quickly.
But the Saints are great at finding diamonds in the rough, so in reality it will probably be some undrafted rookie not even on the radar.
Fooch: Coming off the Super Bowl victory, what holes do you see in the Saints at this point in the offseason?
CSC: Outside linebacker is the only position the Saints could still seriously use an upgrade. They've done nothing other than sign a couple of undrafted free agents to address this need. But the off-season isn't over yet and there have been rumblings that the team is interested in signing Clint Ingram.
Fooch: Do you think the chances are good for a repeat, or at least, are the Saints in a good position to potentially repeat?
CSC: Yes, actually I really believe so. The Saints have done a great job of trimming the fat and keeping nearly all the core players. It's essentially the same team, if not better. That's difficult to do these days, as many championship teams end up getting plucked of their talent. I credit the kick-butt front office for this.
My only worry is that now there is tape out there and the Saints have a huge target on their back. Teams will have had all off-season to study what the Saints did and come up with ways to stop them. I believe they have the tools to repeat, but they need to have even more drive and determination and continue to stay one step ahead of the competition.
Fooch: Although it's still incredibly early, could you make a prediction on the 49ers-Saints game? Given that most teams haven't even conducted OTAs yet, we certainly won't hold you to it.
CSC: I'll just throw this out there and say that I really do believe the Niners are a team on the rise. That being said, I still don't think they'll be good enough to beat the defending champs. It might be close, though. Let's say 38-35.