New Orleans Saints training camp is in full swing. I’m not a big training camp fan. The years I spent leaving work early to watch practices thinking Aaron Brooks was going to the Hall of Fame only to watch him flame out year after year taught me that every player looks pretty good in practice. I’m waiting to see the team play against other players before I really get a grasp on what we should expect.
A lot of the media are high on the Saints. I keep reading that this is their deepest roster. Some fans are making Super Bowl plans. I’m a little more cautious about a championship at the moment because there a few things that concern me. Surprisingly, most of the concerns are on the offense. My main concerns before the season are the offensive line, wide receivers, creating turnovers and playing on the road.
Can the offensive line can run block consistently and the offense close out games? Two of the five loses last year would have been wins with one first down at the end of the game. Zach Strief is still there at right tackle. Right guard Jahri Evans has had a few injuries now. Ben Grubbs made the Pro Bowl at left guard but I am not sure how good he is. The center will either be Tim Lelito who is fairly inexperienced or Jonathan Goodwin who is a little old at this point. Terron Armstead is the left tackle. I think he’s going to be really good there for a long time but he only started four games last year. He may be the key to the season.
Brandin Cooks took some of the concern about the wide receivers away and if his play in the game matches his performance in camp then there may not be any worries at all. Last year the team was missing the one guy that scared defenses vertically and could take a safety out of the middle of the field where Jimmy Graham could go to work.
The Saints defense led by Rob Ryan looked like an entire different unit last year. Their only problem is that they could not get turnovers. The Saints were 14th in turnover differential. The defense had 19 takeaways. The Carolina Panthers won the division and had 30. The Seattle Seahawks had 39.
The team won it’s first road playoff game against Philadelphia last year. That was the highlight of the road performances because the other 8 games were pretty rough. The two games against Carolina were a perfect example of how different the team plays on the road. I thought the Eagles game cured this but it came back the next week in Seattle. The NFC is so competitive this year that I can make the case for ten teams playing in the NFC Championship game. If you give away games you will be in a lot of trouble. Besides that, loses from last second touchdowns take years off my life.