Pluses, minuses revealed as Saints open season
There is a lot to like about these Saints.
The biggest is continuity at the three most important positions in an organization. Since 2006, the Saints have had the same head coach, general manager and quarterback.
In Gregg Williams, the Saints have a top shelf, experienced defensive coordinator.
Free safety Malcolm Jenkins appears to be on the verge of greatness. The Saints have had outstanding players at the position before, but Jenkins could be better than Tommy Myers, Gene Atkins or Darren Sharper.
The Saints seemed to have replaced their key free agent losses with players who are equal or better. Darren Sproles will fill the role of running back Reggie Bush. Olin Kreutz will be a one- or two-year rental in place of center Jonathan Goodwin.
What I really like is the Saints’ chances of making the playoffs. The teams with quality quarterback play in the NFL have a huge advantage. In the NFC, six teams appear to have a difference-maker under center. They are the Saints (Drew Brees), Giants (Eli Manning), Eagles (Michael Vick), Bucs (Josh Freeman), Falcons (Matt Ryan) and Packers (Aaron Rodgers).
There are some things about the New Orleans Saints that I don’t like.
Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas are very solid backs. But if Sproles can’t provide some long runs, I am not sure Ingram or Thomas can either.
With Williams blitzing, man-to-man cover corners are vital. In Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer, the Saints have a pair of outstanding ones. But Porter has yet to play 16 games in a season. And in two seasons as a Saint, Greer has played in just 23 games.
During training camp, I heard about how deep and talented the Saints’ linebacking corps truly is. I am not buying. Free agent acquisition Will Herring started zero games in Seattle last season. And Scott Shanle, a beloved Saint, struggled mightily last season in pass coverage. Both could wind up as the starters at outside linebacker.
Just how good are the New Orleans Saints?
We will find out in four quarters at Green Bay.
In the 2007 NFL opener, we learned that free agent acquisition cornerback Jason David wasn’t ready to play man coverage against the Colts. David was torched as Peyton Manning threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns.
Later that season, David admitted he had played more zone coverage than man with the Colts. He admitted that he spent too much time looking back at the quarterback, a no-no in man coverage.
David was one of the few Saints’ “misses” in the Sean Payton/Mickey Loomis era. Loomis couldn’t have been more wrong when he said in a news release, “Jason is an emerging young player with his best days ahead of him.”
It took Payton two years to reconfigure his secondary. And when he did, the Saints won the Super Bowl.
In the 2010 opener, the Saints held Brett Favre to 171 yards passing as New Orleans beat Minnesota 14-9. That night, the Saints looked like a double-digit win team. They won 11.
Few games on the sports calendar are more revealing than NFL openers. All the training camp and preseason chatter vanish. The football truth appears, in an instant.