For those that read me regularly, you'll know I try to be very optimistic. While I don't consider myself a full homer, I do tend to see things through a more black and gold tinted lens, like other Saints fans. However, things aren't all always sunshine and lollipops in the NFL. So I went out and found five good reasons why the Saints 2011 season could fail to meet fan expectations.
These five reasons below could be why the Saints are sitting at home in late January, or it could just be five things I'm worrying about for absolutely no other reason than to fill a post. Obviously, let's hope it's the latter. So please make the jump to see why I think the Saints 2011 season could really be a dud. Don't worry, I will also offer five reasons to be optimistic later this week.
I don't know about you, but Hartley's inability to hit field goals from forty yards in still haunts my dreams. I've seen a few tweets from earlier this week that said Hartley was missing a few during practice. It's been seven months since he last kicked, but I'm still worried damnit!
Now don't get me wrong, I don't expect Hartley to go 30/30 and hit 85-yard field goals in 2011. However, when he steps onto the field to kick from less than forty yards, I'll be a lot more worried than when it's beyond forty. Which is the exact opposite expectation one normally would have for a kicker. All I ask is that he not have a crisis of confidence and not get replaced by John Carney...again. Is that too much to ask? Hell, I bet Carney agrees with me!
#4: The NFC South
Every team in the NFC South improved this off-season. Some more than others (I'll give you a hint: they don't call it steep decline for nothing). However, there isn't a team in the NFC South that I think the Saints can easily dismantle and roll over. The Falcons added Julio Jones and Ray Edwards and managed to keep most of their offensive line. The Bucs added Adrian Clayborn AND Da'Quan Bowers in the draft. While the Panthers added
Vince Young Cam Newton, and kept a good defense together while improving their offense.
The Saints have six of their 16 games in the NFC South, and the NFC South is looking like one of the tougher divisions in the NFL this year. This was the division that had three double digit wins teams last season and sent two of them to the playoffs (although both ended up getting knocked out early). The Saints have their work cut out for them, having two good teams and the Panthers standing in their way.
#3: The Saints Linebackers
Quick! Outside of Jonathan Vilma, who would you feel comfortable having as a starting linebacker? My guess is you either said Martez Wilson (a 3rd round rookie) or Jonathan Casillas (who's biggest highlight is getting placed on IR in record time). The Saints brought back veteran Scott Shanle, but he's over thirty and is never going to make a Pro Bowl. The Saints may be going into 2011 with another poor linebacking corps, which may lead to a poor run defense and a lack of coverage on running backs and tight ends. Last year the Saints ranked in the bottom ten according to Football Outsiders (for those that care) in this category.
The Saints have consistently shown that they believe the linebackers they have are good enough. Which is fine. But when the Saints have trouble with containment on running plays, or give up 800 billion yards to tight ends, you know what's to blame.
#2: Drew Brees' 2010 Season
Did you see his last season? He threw 22 Interceptions! Twenty-two!!! He had a TD:INT ratio of 3:2. That's no where near elite. Not just that, but he struggled to throw it downfield and would consistently under throw receivers. Just putting Brees to the eye test led most to believe that he had taken a step back. This would be nothing if Brees was a rookie or a young quarterback. However, Brees is already over thirty-two years old and had surgery on his throwing shoulder. What's to lead us to believe that things are going to get better?
#1: The Saints Running Backs
So the Saints running backs will most likely consist of Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory, and Darren Sproles. Mark Ingram is a rookie who has yet to take a single snap in the NFL. He has also had knee surgery and missed two college games in his final season before entering the draft. Pierre Thomas has never been a workhorse and has yet to play a full sixteen game season. Chris Ivory had surgery during the off-season may start the season on the PUP list. Finally, Darren Sproles is basically Reggie Bush. He won't be able to carry the load and is nothing more than a 3rd down back/PR/KR. He can't be relied upon for a full season.
The Saints did improve their backfield but all of them have to prove something this season. Scientists test experiments in labs, football coaches test them on the field. That could have serious implications during the season and it just makes me feel uneasy.
Now that you've read my reasons to be pessimistic, did they work? Did you already feel pessimistic? Do you feel optimistic despite my best attempts to bring you over to the dark side? Tell me what you think in the comment section. As well, please stay tuned for my 'Five Reasons to be Optimistic'.