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Will the Real New Orleans Saints Please Stand Up!

Meachem makes a catch

Let’s face it, 2007 was a fluke. The Saints were one win away from playing in their first Super Bowl ever in 2006. They were preseason favorites to take it all the way in 2007.

Then came the 0-4 start, and losing their prized running back Deuce McAllister did not help either. Then came the four-game winning streak, and everyone thought they were back from the dead. From that point on it was hit and miss. Missing the playoffs, and ending the season 7-9.

What happened?

First, it was the inconsistent play from Reggie Bush. Bush just could not give the Saints the edge in the running game, and Coach Payton was forced to go to the air.

Then you had the Saints defense not even showing up for games. You cannot expect to win football games by giving up (14) 20-plus-yard rushes and (54) 20-plus-yard completions.

This was clearly due to a defensive player being out of place, or just having the completely wrong defense called. I myself thought the defensive play calling was extremely bad last year.

As bad as the defense played last year, the Saints still had a chance to win. Drew Brees and the Saints offense still put up great numbers, Marques Colston had a pro bowl year, and had Bush not been hurt, the Saints may have made it to the playoffs. The season is over though, and the what if’s are said and done.

The 2008 season is almost here, and even though there are still some big questions to be answered on both sides of the ball health wise, the Saints are ready to come marching in.

The Saints have a great balance of veteran and young players in all positions.

Drew Brees is one of the top five QBs in the NFL right now. Mark Brunell is a seasoned veteran, and will provide sound advice to both Brees and second year man Tyler Palko.

Reggie Bush has now got the “Hollywood” out of his system. He had a disappointing sophomore season, and has yet to produce like he did while at USC. This year he will be focused, and more patient. He is going into his third year, and knows that unless he starts to produce, he will not be seeing any contract extensions in his future.

Jeremy Shockey is a proven play-maker as long as he stays healthy. Along with his play he adds a dimension that the Saints have been lacking the last two seasons.

David Patten was said to have helped Meachem this offseason. Patten has not had a stellar career in 12 seasons, but he has been consistent, and holds three Super Bowl rings while with the Patriots. He definitely is qualified to lend some advice to a possible future star in Meachem.

What makes this such a great story is the fact that Meachem will be challenging Patten for the second wide receiver position. Patten is a stand up guy in my book.

Then you have pro bowl tackle Jammal Brown to mentor the young guys on the offensive line. Jahri Evans is already making waves going into his third year as a Saint. Back ups Jermon Bushrod and Carl Nicks will also benefit from the first string talent.

On the defensive side of the ball, you have young veterans in Smith and Grant. Smith just signed a huge contract extension, and Grant is in the second year of his huge pay day. Both did not have great years last season, but with rookie defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis finally coming on board, they will not want to be showed up by the young up and comer.

I did not loose any sleep with the Ellis holdout; defensive tackle is probably the easiest position to learn and with Smith, Grant, Thomas, Young, and McCray all there, Ellis will be able to pick their brains and should fit right in.

As for the linebackers, Fujita and Simoneau are the veterans, and the acquisition of Jonathan Vilma is sure to give them a spark.

The defensive backs have got the most balance in terms of years in the league, while the only standout in the group is Mike McKenzie. He is getting older with nine years in the league. Arron Glenn is the grandfather of the bunch, and with 14 years of experience, he is sure to bring a wealth of knowledge to the position. I am sure that is exactly what the front office had in mind when they signed him.

Harper is coming into form, and with some tweaking he is not far from being great. Others like Usama Young and rookie Tracy Porter will all benefit from the veteran guys.

I am also impressed by the addition to the coaching staff. Coach Orgeron is fierce, and his personality will rub off on everyone.

So yes, there are some reservations when it comes to saying the Saints have what it takes to have a repeat of the 2006 season, but I truly believe that 2007 was a fluke, and that the 2008 season will prove that the Saints are Super Bowl contenders.

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