The most anticipated season in New Orleans Saints history ended just like it did last season with a loss at Soldier Field to the Chicago Bears.
The big difference is that when the Saints were knocked out of the NFC Championship by the Bears in January, they looked like one of the most promising football teams in the league for the 2007 season.
What we all witnessed in 2007 was a team that looked average at best in the NFC. Against the Bears, who also struggled in 2007, the Saints didn’t even look like an average team on defense and they were playing against the Bears’ third string quarterback in Kyle Orton .
Former NFL head coach and current Miami Dolphins president of football operations director Bill Parcells has a football line that he always states, “You are what your record says you are.”
For the 2007 version of the New Orleans Saints the 7-9 win/loss record says it all.
From the opening game of the season we all saw an offensive team that at times looked explosive, but seemed to never get their once-potent running game going, and that was even more evident after Deuce McAllister went down early in the season with a torn knee ligament and virtually every team they played against went after their leaky secondary.
For all the great work done by quarterback Drew Brees and wide receiver Marques Colston, the Saints lack of balance was evident all season long and in this league if you don’t have good compliment of a running game you will not win the majority of your games.
The good news coming out of the Bears loss was that the Saints may have uncovered a very productive pro running back in Pierre Thomas.
The undrafted rookie running back was an early fan favorite, but he had never really won over the coaching staff to see extensive action until injuries knocked out McAllister, Reggie Bush and Aaron Stecker for the finale.
All the young rookie back did was rush for 105 yards on 20 carries and he also caught 12 passes for 121 yards and 1 touchdown against one of the better defenses in the NFC.
In the off-season the Saints must acquire another quality wide receiver to compliment Marques Colston, but the building blocks are there for success on the offensive side of the ball, especially if McAllister can fully recover from his second knee operation in three years.
The major rebuilding job has to happen on defense.
From the opening game of the season the Saints secondary and in particular starting cornerback Jason David, who the Saints spent $16.5 million dollars on to pry away from the Indianapolis Colts, was picked on by opposing teams almost at will.
David had done a very solid job as a starter for the Colts in their “Tampa-2” zone coverage setup, but in the Saints man-to-man schemes his size and his inability to react quickly to what was happening in front of him set him to be a huge target for opposing quarterbacks.
Even worse for the Saints is the news that starting cornerback Mike McKenzie, who really played well this season, will probably miss the entire 2008 season due to a severe knee injury.
The Saints must now spend a host of their free agent salary cap budget on a veteran blue-chip starting cornerback and use a very high draft choice on another cornerback because of their lack of depth.
And it doesn’t end there.
The Saints also need quality starters at middle linebacker, a defensive tackle that can push the inside pocket as a pass rusher and a speedy outside linebacker who can rush the passer.
It is very obvious also that the Saints need a quality punt/kickoff return man because they sorely missed the big-play element Michael Lewis brought to this club for years.
Great disappointment is the only words to use to describe the 2007 season for the New Orleans Saints.
Hopefully next Monday the LSU Tigers can make us forget just how disappointing the Saints season was.
Happy New Year!