The New Orleans Saints are once again considered a major contender for the Lombardi in 2014. Following a huge turnaround on the defensive side of the ball last season combined with what is still a potent offense led by Drew Brees, optimism for this team might be the highest it has been since the magical season that was 2009.
Just ask Cameron Jordan how he feels about this season. Recently, the pro bowl defensive lineman was interviewed by Lindsay Rhodes of the NFL Network, where Cam predicts that the Saints will be in Glendale, Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX. His confidence is understood because this is a very talented football team led by a very good coaching staff.
What can we possibly learn about the Saints in the next few weeks that we do not know now? We know that this team was the only team in the NFL that was top 5 in total offensive yards gained and least total yards allowed on defense. But if you have watched the NFL for a decent amount of time, you should know by now that what happened last year is not a comfortable measuring stick for what to expect the following season. So what are we hoping to learn more about in the next few weeks?
1) Will Tim Lelito or Jonathan Goodwin help make this offensive line better?
The offensive line allowed Drew Brees to be hit more in 2013 than he has in any other season as a Saint. The fingers were pointed in many directions as to why this happened. While Goodwin brings a veteran presence to this offensive line, the Saints coaching staff seem to be high on Lelito's ability. We shall soon see how well he gels with the other starters along the line.
2) Who will step up and take the #4 spot at wide receiver?
Joseph Morgan returns from another ACL injury, but will his recovery allow him to still have the break away speed necessary to contend for this spot? While he did show off some big play making ability in 2012, the fact of the matter is that he is still a raw wide receiver with 10 career catches. He is hardly a lock for even a roster spot. Veteran Robert Meachem looks like the most logical person for this spot on paper, but it is possible that the disappointing Nick Toon, camp favorite Andy Tanner, or an undrafted rookie free agent like Brandon Coleman could make a push.
3) Will Victor Butler have a solid role in Rob Ryan's defense?
Following the arrival of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and his 3-4 style defense, the addition of pass rusher Victor Butler created some excitement among Saints fans mostly because of his familiarity with Ryan's system in Dallas. An ACL tear ended Butler's season before it could even really start, so where does Butler stand now considering the success that this defensive unit had as a whole last season? Will he become a major contributor, a role player, or will he even make the team?
4) Who will be the 2nd cornerback opposite Keenan Lewis?
The Saints seem to be in a different situation this year. Realistically, there could be four possibilities for this spot with no real favorite for the position. Future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey has lost a step or two, Stanley Jean-Baptiste is a rookie, Patrick Robinson doesn't exactly have the best resume and is coming off of injury, and Corey White has been up and down. Someone is sure to step up and take the spot, but I think we would only be guessing if we were to mention who that would be right now.
5) Who will be returning kicks?
Incumbent Travaris Cadet did not impress in 2013. The Saints have to find a better answer in a return game that ranked last in kick return attempts, 17th in yards per kick return, and 30th in yards per punt return. Will the Saints try rookie speedster Brandin Cooks or will this be a spot that Joseph Morgan could earn? Maybe the Saints give Cadet another shot, who could be on the roster bubble if he doesn't impress on special teams.
What will you guys be watching for in training camp? This team is loaded with talent, so the competition for some of the positions on the roster will be very interesting. Let's hope for a healthy training camp as the Saints get ready for Atlanta on opening day!