Are we having fun yet!? It's time for another audition candidate in our search for fresh new front page talent here on Canal Street Chronicles, to make the best Saints blog on the net even better.
In case you missed the introduction to our little talent search here, be sure to read it first before continuing. Remember, any and all criticism must be 100% constructive and positive in nature. Keep Da Chronic classy!
Please welcome the next contestant of Da Chronic's Got Talent! S/he is willing to contribute every other week.
Random Observations: An Early Look At 2012
Before we take a sneak peek into the future let's take a brief look at last season. In 2011, the Saints had one of the most effective offenses ever seen in NFL history. They won their division, they broke record after record, and finished 14-4. Throughout the season and post-season they went toe-to-toe with 6 out of the 12 playoff teams this year. Out of those 6 we beat 4! Four of their wins against playoff caliber teams could be considered blowouts:
NO v NYG; 49-24; NO v DET 31-17; NO v DET 45-28; NO v ATL 45-16 (Of course 2 of these were against DET)
Our losses to GB and SF were so close they came down to the last drive of the game while our losses to TB and STL seemed like total flukes. After the loss to the 49ers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, Saints players, coaches, and staff were already thinking about next year and what they can do to improve.
Looking at next year as a fan, Superbowl XLVII will be played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and it would be a historical win if we can get there because no team has even played in a Superbowl at their home stadium much less won it. Can you imagine if the Saints were to fight their way into that game? Well according to the opponents we will see next year it will be a fight! Each team we face presents a different set of challenges which could get worse depending on the final schedule. Here is the list of opponents for the Saints' 2012-2013 season:
Home: Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Washington, San Francisco, Kansas City, San Diego
Away: Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Dallas, New York Giants, Green Bay, Denver, Oakland
Another thing that is not in our favor is we don't have a first round pick in the draft. Remember when Ingram was still on the Big Board and we traded with NE? Yes boys and girls ... there went our first round pick for 2012. Oh well c'est la vie! I don't regret the move because Ingram is going to be worth it. Anyway, there is already word going around that Minnesota may be willing to give up the 3rd overall pick in the draft if a team were very needy.
We are not that needy! Since our defense could use the most work let's start there. Yes, we lost old GDub (Gregg Williams), but we gained SpagNOLA who I think will fit better as our DC than even his name implies. He prefers to get pressure from the front four while sprinkling in a healthy combination of blitz packages. He should mix it up a little better than Williams did.
While our defense allowed a lot of yards this year, they seemed to hold their own in the points allowed department averaging a little over 21 a game which isn't terrible because the lowest average was only one TD less. Luckily, most of the defensive FAs on the roster can be replaced if we can't afford to re-sign them. Guys like Jo-Lonn Dunbarand Tracy Porter who are both FAs showed glimmers of potential but haven't really broke out so it's all about price with them. I would actually prefer that we let Franklin and Rogers go because they not impress me this year since we were tied for 31st in average yards per carry. I think Mitch King earned a second look plus I still believe Ellis has potential. Along with King and Ellis, we need to add younger legs with how often SpagNOLA will be rotating our defensive front.
We have some young talent in our DEs and LB corps but we better start looking for Vilma's replacement because the position is so demanding on his body. I don't know if I fully trust any of our current players to fill his role yet. I really want to see what Martez Wilson learned in 2011 and I just want to see if Greg Romeus was worth the wait.
The secondary faired alright with GDub's blitz schemes considering their average age was 23.4 years old. My main concern here is at safety because I really don't trust Harper in deep coverage anymore. Since he already signed a new contract before last season we can still use him for playing close to the line for stopping the run and blitzing the QB. Whatever we do with Harper we have to get Jenkins some help in coverage duties.
Moving on to the offense, we do have a few key players entering free agency that are worth mentioning. First of all, we know Brees' contract is like an elephant in the room, but I'm 99.9% certain we'll make that happen. Especially since Loomis feels his job (and probably his life) would be threatened if Brees isn't re-signed. After Brees, my two main concerns are Carl Nicks and Marques Colston. If we had to lose one I'd rather see us keep Nicks because you can't pass effectively if your QB is on the ground.
I know, I know, Marques Colston is better than good, he's great. He fits so well into this offense because he understands the concept of team and is willing to sacrifice his body, he does not talk trash and keeps to himself. He's the perfect man for the job but we may not be able to afford him. Meacham may have to be the sacrificial lamb here because he's the only other FA WR on the roster and will be much easier to replace.
Remember Graham? He had a huge year and we may want to secure his future services before he becomes a FA. Behind Graham we only had Gilmore, Humphrey, and Higgins who played in place of David Thomas who pulled a Jimmy Hoffa not once but twice this season. We could offer Graham a long term contract of 6 or 7 years to spread out the cost. Then devote some serious scouting to find a receiver/tight end hybrid like Graham who doesn't mind occasional blocking duties.
Don't worry though most of our needs on either side of the ball can be addressed with some savvy free agent moves and draft picks. Until the offseason officially begins our speculations will grow into anticipation over next season! That's all for now my Black and Gold brethren.