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2006 New Orleans Saints Preview

By Robert Ferringo of Doc's Sports Picks

Death. Destruction. Chaos. A complete societal breakdown. One of the most horrific disasters in recorded human history.

I'm not talking about Hurricane Katrina, I'm talking about quarterback Aaron Brooks' play during his time in New Orleans. The maddeningly inconsistent and moderately brain-dead quarterback has moved on. And as the city around the Saints picks up the pieces, the team attempts to do the same.

After suffering a natural disaster of biblical proportions, the plight of the 2005 New Orleans Saints directly reflected that of their demolished city. The Saints were forced into a nomadic existence, meandering around the country and sleep-walking through the season while trying to grapple with the reality that their city had been swallowed by the sea.

For the Saints, the defense fought hard but the offense was crippled once Deuce McAllister went down. The result was a scoring differential of -10.2, third-worst in the NFL. Despite an array of talent there was simply no way for New Orleans to overcome the competitive disadvantage that came from having its practice facility in a parking lot.

But the Saints have entered a new Era. Actually, Eras. The Sean Payton Era and Reggie Bush Era are intertwined, and the pair has joined forces to take the organization and city by storm (D'oh!). Yet the most critical import for the Cajuns will be new quarterback Drew Brees. His shoulder has appeared fine though through the preseason, though he has been hesitant to attack down the field. His accuracy and speed are fine but no one can be sure how the surgically repaired wing will respond to a monster shot delivered by some seek-and-destroy linebacker.

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New Orleans will undoubtedly be a better team in 2006. However, the specter of last season still hangs over them. Their fan base is depleted and the remaining veterans from that squad would be lying to say that they've fully recovered. Residing in a tough division and with a ruthless schedule the Saints are headed for another losing season. But the good news is that with a new foundation in place, the team, and the city, has a lot to be hopeful about.

Here's Doc's New Orleans Saints Preview

  • 2005 Record: 3-13 (2-7 road, 1-6 home)
  • 2005 Rankings: 20th offense (14th pass, 18th run); 14th defense (3rd pass, 27th run)
  • 2005 Against the Spread: 5-10-1 (2-4-1 home, 3-6 road); 7-9 vs. total (2-5 h, 5-4 r)
  • 2006 Odds: 95/1 to win Super Bowl, 40/1 to win NFC, 9/1 to win NFC South, 7.0 wins O/U
  • 2006 Strength of Schedule: 1st (.566 opp. win %)
  • Key stat: Of the initial 84 people listed on the New Orleans roster to start camp, 49 of them weren't wearing a Saints roster in Week 17 of last year.

Returning starters: 15 (7 offense, 8 defense)
Key acquisitions: Drew Brees, QB (from S.D.); Jeff Faine, C (from Cleveland); Reggie Bush (draft); Hollis Thomas, DT (from Philly).
Key departures: LeCharles Bentley, C; Aaron Brooks, QB; Wayne Gandy, OG; Az Hakim, WR; Darren Howard, DE; Antowain Smith, RB; Boo Williams, TE.

Offense: Like so many teams in the NFL, the Saints offense will be a function of how their young line gels. There are two new starters and they must overcome the loss of Bentley, a Pro Bowler. The Saints attack still has some bite, but I expect Sean Payton to play things a bit shorter and a bit closer to the vest with the offense they possess. Brees is methodical and at his best when he's in rhythm. Bush is the home run hitter. I expect N.O. to be an under team. I believe the public will overvalue their ample amount of skill players while the Saints attempt to become more conservative and consistent.

Defense: This group played surprisingly well last season, finishing 14th in total yards allowed. However, they were 27th in points allowed, surrendering 24.9 per outing. A big reasons for that were the sacks and turnovers by the offense, which put the D in the position of defending a short field. That shouldn't be the case with the steady Brees under center. Will Smith and Charles Grant are hitting their primes, but the front four will miss rush specialist Howard. The secondary, led by Mike McKenzie and underrated Dwight Smith, is aggressive and talented.

X-factor: The Superdome. What type of home-field advantage will the Saints have this year? They had losing records against the spread and the total in '05 so they can only get better. But are the ghosts of that stadium - from the franchise and from the hurricane - completely gone?

Outlook: This is a difficult team to handicap since last year was such an anomaly. You would have to expect that the increase in stability will have a positive impact, but as our key stat suggests, this is a completely different team.

Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at robert@docsports.com.

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