It was a long, tumultuous offseason for the Saints, but the regular season is right around the corner. In case you live under a rock, the Saints were punished harshly for the bounty scandal led by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Head Coach Sean Payton is suspended for the entire season, and interim head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt will be suspended for the first six games. That leaves offensive line coach Aaron Kromer as the head coach for the first six weeks of the season. On top of that, Jonathan Vilma will be suspended for the season (which could be reduced to eight games) and Will Smith will be sidelined for four games. On top of that, New Orleans has been depleted at LB by injuries, lost Meachem and All Pro guard Carl Nicks to free agency, and another NFL investigation on claims on wiretapping. So, yeah, it’s been a rough offseason for Saints fans.
It isn’t all bad for the city of New Orleans, however. Drew Brees had his contract extended to 5 years with a record $37 million guaranteed. The rest of the record breaking offense is also in tact with Colston, Sproles, and Graham all returning. As it stands now, New Orleans is still favored in the hotly contested NFC South. The distractions may be a lot to overcome, but with Brees back under center, the offense should be firing at all cylinders when they face Washington on September 9th.
As for the defense, new defensive coordinator Steve Spaguolo has his hands full. Injuries and suspensions have shed the depth of a defense that struggled to slow down teams last year. New Orleans went 13-3 last year with a below average defense, but Atlanta and Carolina look to be making big strides in the division. Slowing down the likes of Matt Ryan and Cam Newton will become much more crucial this year. The weight on Drew Brees’ shoulders will be much heavier this year, but he has shown he can take on a lot. Despite all the offseason distractions and uncertainties on defense, I see the Saints as once again on top in the NFC South Division.