The Saints are marching in
The Saints magical season ended in Chicago when they were beat 39-14, but that could not take away the real hope that this football team is good enough to play on Super Bowl Sunday in the very near future.
The team that Saints fans saw last year will never be seen again. In the NFL you either get better or you get worse - you rarely stay pat.
When the Saints take the field against Peyton Manning and the Colts you will see 18 new faces on the roster from that January day in Chicago.
That is a far cry from the wholesale changes of 2006 when first-year head coach Sean Payton had 28 new faces on the roster, but what you see is a coach and a coaching staff that is constantly trying to upgrade the talent on the roster.
But you also see a coach that knows who his core players are and he has done everything in his power to keep those players in black and gold uniforms.
This team is built around the passing and leadership talents of quarterback Drew Brees. It is obvious that the Saints have ripped a page out of the blue print playbook of the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts and are doing everything in their power to keep their star quarterback healthy for an entire season and also arming him with a host of big-play performers.
For one of the few times in the history of this franchise the Saints have a star quality quarterback in Drew Brees and a cast of talents like Deuce McAllister, Reggie Bush, Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, David Patten, Terrence Copper, Lance Moore, Mike Karney and Eric Johnson that make his life easier in the league.
Not to mention that the Saints have each one of the starting offensive linemen back from 2006 and they were a huge part of making those talents very effective last season.
Offensive linemen rarely get publicity, but when you watch Jammal Brown, Jon Stinchcomb, Jeff Faine, Jahri Evans and Jamar Nesbit work together as a unit, you can see just why this team could well exceed the 413 points they scored last year.
This is just not a good offensive team, it is an upper-echelon offense in the NFL and opposing teams have taken notice.
On defense the Saints are built around the talents of defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant.
This past off-season Grant signed a $60 million contract extension and he certainly has played in the pre-season up to those gaudy numbers, and teamed up with the All-Pro skills of Smith, the Saints have one of the best pair of young defensive ends in the NFL.
Along with the talents of Smith and Grant, the Saints are also getting outstanding play from outside linebacker Scott Fujita.
But I strongly feel as though the new impact player on the defensive side of the ball will be safety Roman Harper.
Last season, as a rookie, Harper displayed outstanding football instincts and skills to excel in the secondary, but his season was cut short due to a knee injury.
The former University of Alabama All-SEC performer is now healthy and primed for a huge sophomore season in the NFL.
Just think about how far this team has come in just one year. Last season most of us in the media world felt as though this football team would win five or six games at best and now many people covering the league feel as though the Saints will be the NFC representative on Super Bowl Sunday.
The first game against the Colts won’t be easy. Let’s face it, the Indianapolis Colts are the defending Super Bowl champions, who have gotten off to a 9-0 win/loss start in 2006 and a 13-0 start in 2005.
That is very impressive, but when they look across the field this coming Thursday they will see a mirror-image of themselves.
The off-season is now officially over and the long wait is here. For Saints fans, it’s now “Bring on the Champs.”
Mike Detillier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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