The New Orleans Saints finished an up and down 2014 season coming in second place in the NFC South. Their final record of 7-9 found them missing the playoffs for just the second time since the 2009. New Orleans struggled at home, going 3-5 while splitting all road games with a record of 4-4. Last seasons largest issue was the play of their defense. The Saints surrendered an average of 384.0 total yards per game, which ranked them 31st in the NFL. Supplemented by allowing 26.5 points per game, addressing the defense should be the main objective of this offseason.
Known as a passing offense, New Orleans once again ranked towards the top of the NFL in passing yards per game. However, a trade that sent star tight end Jimmy Graham to Seattle for draft picks and center Max Unger could put a damper on their passing attack in 2015. This took an even larger hit as they parted ways with wide out Kenny Stills, trading him to Miami for linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and a third-round pick.
The Saints seem to be in the rebuilding process, as the aging Drew Brees will need to be surrounded with better weapons to ensure a stronger 2015 campaign. So far to address this the Saints have signed veteran free agent running back C.J. Spiller. Spiller will replace Pierre Thomas in the backfield, who had spent all of his seven NFL seasons wearing black and gold. Spiller played in only nine games this past season as a member of the Buffalo Bills, rushing for 300 yards on 78 carries. Spiller provides New Orleans with a left hook to go in hand with the right hook of re-signed power running back Mark Ingram. On the defensive side of the ball, New Orleans has made a big splash, signing hard-hitting cornerback Brandon Browner. Browner, as a member of the reigning Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots, recorded 11 tackles this past postseason and showed time and time again why wide receivers fear his hitting ability.
The 2015 NFL Draft is set to be a large indicator for the direction of a Sean Payton coached team. The Saints will pick twice in the first round, 13th and the 31st, while having a total of nine draft picks. With five of these draft picks in first three rounds, New Orleans aims to reinforce the secondary and defensive line. These first round picks put them in position to add another high caliber cornerback. The top candidates to fill this slot and join the recently signed Brandon Browner and Keenan Lewis could be the likes of Michigan State’s Trae Waynes and LSU’s Jalen Collins. In addition to the secondary, adding a run stopping lineman should be the second area of focus. Ideally, the Saints would look to draft Washington’s Danny Shelton, if available, but could also select Texas’s Malcolm Brown, a first-team All-American.
Rumors have begun to circulate around the future of franchise face Drew Brees. This past season at the age of 36, Brees tallied 4,952 total passing yards ending the season with 33 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Brees needs to be given more weapons to target in order to make up of for the loss of Jimmy Graham. If they elect to pick a tight end, Maxx Williams would serve as good young replacement if on the board when the Saints select 31st in the first round.
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