With less than a week until opening weekend, it's full-on NFL preview week. Kevin Held posted the first part of his NFL Preview (record predictions!!) yesterday on hakimdropstheball.com, and nola.com's extensive preview went up Sunday, too. Ralph asked me a question Saturday about the infamous history of Saints interim coaches, so I'm sure his preview Forecast column will appear on wwltv.com soon, and I imagine we'll see a "predict the Saints record" post/thread any day now on CSC (if Dave's power continues to stay out, I'll probably be writing that one).
As I was in the airport Friday morning on my way to visit my parents for my Mom's birthday this weekend, I glanced at the newsstand while walking by, and lo and behold, there was the Sports Illustrated 2012 NFL Preview with Rob Gronkowski staring me in the face. "Sweet!" I said to myself. "This will make perfect travel reading today."
So I bought it and pored over it as I went from Louisville to Atlanta to Pensacola to Perdido, and after the jump you'll get some Saints-related tidbits that I've deemed it prudent to share with you...
The first part I read was the page with the division-by-division regular season record and playoff predictions, compiled by Peter King.
He sees the Saints finishing second to the 11-5 Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South with a 10-6 record. This isn't too bad.
He also has the team making a decent playoff run, dropping the NFCCG by two points to eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, after defeating the Falcons in the wild card round, and taking revenge by toppling the 49ers in the divisional round. This would be a nice little playoff run, but it would leave me wanting more.
The next thing that happened was I tried to flip to the Saints scouting report page, but due to subscription card and other advertising inserts, the page it opened to was the one for the Rams on the second to last page of the whole magazine. As I realize where I am, my eyes and brain and heart are first shockingly faced with a picture from last October's Rams-Saints game of Stephen Jackson in the old blue and gold Rams throwback uniform, bowling over a flailing Malcolm Jenkins on the sideline, on his way to the end zone, if I remember correctly - GAAAAAAA!
Then my eyes slide over to the large number 4 to the left that indicates the team's projected finish in the NFC West, and then they drop down a bit on that side of the page to the "2011 Record: 2-14", and my stomach churns as I remember that the Rams won only two freaking games all season long, and that they were winless before meeting the Saints in Week 8. How in the hell did we end up losing to those guys? SMH, bitches, SMH.
What a double punch to the gut that moment was. I SMH one more time to clear the fog, and turned to the actual Saints scouting report next, and found not much there of note, but for what it's worth, here it is.
As you may recall, King visited the Saints right as training camp opened, so he wrote up this page, and some cute editor led the section with this large-font capsule: "They're missing some key components but still have a bounty (yeah, we went there) of talent. So they'll just go out and play." (Hopefully you're not already sick of bounty references, because this is a reminder that they're going to come hard and fast all season long.)
Rightfully so, the focus of the report was on the overhaul of the defense with the arrival of new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and linebacker Curtis Lofton.
A question we've bandied about a bit on CSC is whether Lofton will be a liability or an upgrade in pass coverage over previous MLB Jonathan Vilma. Here's an interesting statistical nugget presented in the "numbers" corner. Apparently, both Vilma and Lofton led all inside linebackers in 2011 by allowing 5 touchdowns in pass coverage. Guh.
And here's how they close the Spagnuolo "spotlight" box:
By all accounts the adjustment in camp has been smooth, though the first unit hasn't gotten the kind of pressure on the passer the new coordinator likes. "I have been through four of these [installations of a new defense] in my career," Spagnuolo said. "I think this group, Curtis Lofton included, has embraced more in a shorter period of time than anybody else." But embracing it and succeeding with it are two different things.
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That's everything that made it into my notebook. If you have any specific questions about what I left out, post them in the comment section and I'll answer them. You can also feel free to react to what SI or I wrote. That's always fun.