Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
In the words of Jim Mora, last season's team "played like diddly poo."
There are plenty of words that I could use to describe the New Orleans Saints' year that was 2012. Most of those consist of expletives that would get me run out of a confessional faster than a drunk Bobby Hebert in a press box. So I shouldn't divulge those here, but you could imagine.
If there are any fans of "The League" out there, you will like this comparison. I chalk up 2012 as the year that never happened, as was the deal when Ruxton was conspired against in the third season of "The League." To me, there was no Big Poppa Pump leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl, or any blackout caused by Beyonce, either.
The only blackouts that would have happened in early March 2012 in New Orleans would've been caused by Mardi Gras and not by the city's outstanding energy supplier.
That being said, I do take into account that the absence of Sean Payton caused a lot of deficiencies to be brought to the surface. Not just on the defensive side, but on offense and special teams as well.
On the offensive side of things, it seems like this is a well-oiled machine but, if you look closer, there are definite questions in regard to depth and talent at a few primary positions.
Offensive tackle is the major concern, even more so now that Aaron Kromer has left. If you don't think the combination of Drew Brees and Kromer mask tackle and center deficiencies then you probably should stop reading here.
Linemen who have protected Brees in New Orleans have often left and regressed without the aid of Kromer or Brees' quick decision making. Let's go down the list of players who have gotten rich on Brees' arm shall we: Jeff Faine, Jamaal Brown, Jonathan Goodwin, Carl Nicks, and you can add Jermon Bushrod to that list.
Bushrod, like Roman Harper, should have never been given a new deal when his rookie deal was up. He had peaked in his first year as a starter in 2009 and regressed ever so slowly to the point that one expert has him as the 25th ranked LT in the NFL after this past year.
The other side isn't any better, but at least Zach Strief makes backup money. Charles Brown made strides last year under Kromer, but you never know when another injury will strike him. Marcel Jones is an intriguing prospect, but I doubt he is ready to play any amount of significant time in 2013.
The center position is another area of concern for New Orleans. I have no idea what people see in Brian de la Puente, but he was not the same player he was from 2011 in 2012. I'm not saying he can't get back to that level, but there at least should be some competition brought in, via the draft or free agency, to light a fire under him and keep him from sulking into complacency.
Besides those two glaring holes, depth is the problem in the wide receiver and tight end department. Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Joe Morgan and Jimmy Graham aside, is there anybody that you truly can say that you depend on?
Behind those guys, there is an endless array of talented yet injury-prone players who have done nothing to warrant any type of roster security heading into the 2013 season. A few guys that could surprise this offseason in these units are Saalim Hakim, Jarred Fayson and Michael Higgins.
Heading over to the defensive side, there are not enough words in the world to describe how bad the Saints were. Firing Steve Spagnuolo and replacing him with Rob Ryan's 3-4 defense is a move in the right direction, if you ask me. (I'll elaborate on that in another article later).
The argument that, "The Saints can't get any worse on defense" is valid if you are looking at rankings, but if New Orleans can't get playmakers on defense then the numbers that compile those rankings will get worse and harder to overcome for the Saints offense.
The best fits in this new 3-4 defense are Cameron Jordan, Akiem Hicks, Curtis Lofton and Martez Wilson. The jury is still out on Junior Galette. Not suggesting that he can't excel in this scheme, but it remains to be seen. The other guys I mentioned are scheme-versatile. Doesn't matter what defense you throw them in, they will excel.
The biggest problem with changing schemes is dealing with those 'tweeners who don't have a defined position yet. Brodrick Bunkley immediately comes to mind. His outrageous contract will cause the team to, at the very least, try him out at nose tackle. There's no way he is an end in this defense. He has the strength to succeed as an undersized nose a la Jay Ratliff, but he's relatively new to the system.
This brings me to the special teams side of things. We all know about the greatness that is "The Leg." Thomas Morstead, and the inconsistent, overpaid headache that is Garrett Hartley. But the major problem with this unit is their coverage teams.
There's just not enough quality depth on the Saints to field a proper punt or kickoff coverage team. That's maddening when you consider that this a championship-caliber team. The Will Herrings and Johnny Patricks of this unit need to be taken off and upgraded immediately. How do you expect to give an already porous defense a shot when they are starting on the wrong side of the 50?
The state of Who Dat Nation is strong as long as Drew Brees continues playing at a top notch level, but he needs help fast. And until they procure more talent around him, this will be an empty, one-and-done playoff team.
No one wants that because then we couldn't laugh at the Atlanta Falcons anymore. Wait, my bad, it's always okay to laugh at the Falcons.
But let's stack the talent cupboard a bit more, Mickey.