New Orleans Saints look to improve in 2009

Michael Tortorich
Michael Tortorich is a reporter for The Gonzales Weekly Citizen. He can be reached at reporter1 @ weeklycitizen.com.

Despite finishing the last two seasons 7-9 and 8-8, respectively, the New Orleans Saints have been one of the more exciting teams in the NFL.

Boasting arguably the best offense in the league, the Saints have shown up in defensive coaches’ nightmares over the last few seasons.

Led by quarterback Drew Brees, the versatile Reggie Bush and several sure-handed receivers like Marques Colston, Jeremy Shockey and Lance Moore, the offense has set off fireworks on the field in recent memory.

And they have depth – that’s not to mention former LSU stars Devery Henderson and Skyler Green, and former Tennessee first-round draft pick Robert Meachem in the receiving corps.

With the loss of longtime running back Deuce McAllister, the rushing attack will likely focus on Pierre Thomas as the primary runner between the tackles – with a steady dose of Bush as well, no doubt.

The ball handlers will be in good hands, as the five starters on the offensive line all return. They allowed an NFC-low 13 sacks last season.

A quick glance at last year’s results shows even when the Saints dropped a game, they weren’t often far behind on the scoreboard. Of course coming close doesn’t count in the win-loss column, but it does give the impression that the team may be better than their record indicates.

While solid offensively, the organization understands that an added emphasis must be placed on the other side of the ball by shoring up the defense.

Last season the Saints brought in Jonathan Vilma to anchor the linebacking corps. The former New York Jet played every snap last season and led the team with 151 tackles.

Vilma teams up along side Scott Fujita and Scott Shanle.

In the 2008 draft, the Saints went for Southern California defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis with the seventh overall selection. Ellis was brought in to plug the middle of the line which features Will Smith and Charles Grant on the ends.

New Orleans used this year’s first-round draft choice to pick up Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins. He recently signed a five-year deal with the Saints and is now on the practice field.

Jenkins will battle veteran corners like former LSU star Randall Gay and Jabari Greer. Tracy Porter, Roman Harper and Darren Sharper are expected to round out the secondary.

Now under a new defensive coordinator, Greg Williams, the Saints have clearly made a concentrated effort on improving the defense.

With such a focus on revamping the defense and so much fire power on offense, anything less than a playoff berth would be a disappointment for the season.

Anything can happen in the NFL. Last year’s losers can quickly become this year’s winners, especially in the modern era.

As much as any other team that has run in the middle of pack over the last couple of seasons, the Saints have just as much reason to be optimistic as anyone.