The San Francisco 49ers have entered a dead period, with four weeks left until the team reports for training camp. Since we know the schedule, and most 90-man rosters are just about set, now seems like a good time to start previewing each of the 49ers opponents heading into training camp. With the help of the other 31 SB Nation blogs, we’ve come up with preview content breaking down where things stand for each team on a variety of issues. We’ve got a template looking at key additions and departures, big storylines and under-the-radar storylines heading into camp, and injuries to consider.
We’re going to run down the schedule, but I will be saving the divisional opponents for the end. We started with the Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and today we move on to the 49ers Week 9 opponent, the New Orleans Saints. The 49ers host the Saints after playing the last three matchups in New Orleans. The last time the 49ers hosted the Saints was a little affair you might recall in January 2012.
The Saints enter the 2016 season scuffling through back-to-back 7-9 seasons. Their defense has been an absolute disaster move of that time, and they’ll be looking for young talent to improve that unit. The offense can score a lot of points, but they struggle with consistency on the road. They need to figure that out if they’re going to get back to playoff contention.
Here is what our friends at Canal Street Chronicles had to say about their New Orleans Saints.
Notable free agent additions: TE Coby Fleener; DT Nick Fairley; LB Craig Robertson
Notable free agent departures: WR Marques Colston; G Jahri Evans; LBs David Hawthorne & Ramon Humber
Trades: Traded their 2016 3rd & 4th round picks to the Patriots to move back into the 2nd round (61st overall) and acquire S Vonn Bell; Traded their 2016 & 2017 5th round picks to the Washington Redskins to get a 4th round pick and selected DL David Onyemata
Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies: DT Sheldon Rankins (Round 1); S Vonn Bell Round 2); WR Michael Thomas (Round 2); DL David Onyemata (Round 4)
Biggest offseason addition: This will be a point of contention for many Saints’ fans, but the Saints’ biggest offseason addition on the field will presumably be rookie Sheldon Rankins. The Saints’ complete lack of interior pass rush in 2015 is what led to this pick, and he was the consensus pick for many experts once he outstripped Alabama NT A’Shawn Robinson in most workouts. A notable mention goes to TE Coby Fleener, but with Drew Brees giving Benjamin Watson the best receiving season of his career just last season, the Saints likely see TE as a plug & play position these days.
Biggest storyline heading into training camp: With what has consistently been one of the worst defenses in the NFL for several years (really since the departure of Gregg Williams), the Saints hope that Dennis Allen can bring them some stability at the defensive coordinator position. Allen was the Saints’ DC for 6 games last season, in which the Saints went 3-3. Known as a secondary coach first, Allen hopes to bring the Saints up from the depths of being one of the worst pass defenses in NFL history last year.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp: Getting carries in a running back by committee system is always a battle, and the Saints have a few hungry players this year. Tim Hightower’s surprising breakout towards the end of last year led to the Saints re-signing him to a one year deal. Rookie RB Daniel Lasco is a lifelong Saints’ fan getting the opportunity to prove himself to the Saints, and sophomore Daniel Murphy is vying for carries as well after primarily serving as a return specialist in his rookie year. CJ Spiller is heading into the second year of his 4 year deal after a massively disappointing 2015, and the Saints hope to recapture some of the excitement that he brought to the Buffalo offense.
Notable injuries heading into training camp: OLB Hau’oli Kikaha (Torn ACL); CB Kyle Wilson (Torn Labrum); S Jairus Byrd (Knee); CB Keenan Lewis (Knee/Hip); RB CJ Spiller (Knee)