Hey, Saints fans! In light of the unfortunate news that Keenan Lewis will miss 4-6 weeks after hip surgery, together with marginal participation from CB2 Brandon Browner and starting SS Kenny Vaccaro, and purported sightings of this guy called "Jairus Byrd", it’s easy to come into 2015 with somewhat low expectations…
All is not lost though, folks. We have as good an offense as any and we have BREES. Be ready for some high flying, electrifying, high fiving action this season with #9 healthy and at the helm! The very same #9 who will move into #3 in all-time passing yards and passing TDs this season. Observe.
Coming into his 15th NFL season and barring some injury doomsday scenario (*knocks on wood*), 36 year old Drew Brees (9 x Pro Bowl, 1 x FT All Pro, 2 x ST All Pro) WILL surpass 2005 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Dan Marino (9 x Pro Bowl, 3 x FT All Pro, 3 x ST All Pro) for #3 on the NFL career passing yards leader list. Marino amassed 61,361 career passing yards over 17 seasons in Miami, while Brees, at #4, has 56,033 yards – 5,329 yards behind.
Yes, 5,329 yards - just over 3 miles which is a lot of distance to cover in a season. And, yes, Brees has done it just once, in that bodacious 2011 season where he reached 5,476. That year, the Saints fielded a WR corps comprised of Marques Colston (1,143 yards), Lance Moore (627 yards), Robert Meachem (620 yards), Devery Henderson (503 yards), Adrian Arrington (31 yards), and Courtney Roby (0 yards) – combined 2,924 yards.
Of course, in 2011 Brees also had the backfield of Darren Sproles (710 yards), Pierre Thomas (425 yards), Mark Ingram (46) and Chris Ivory. Ivory only appeared in 6 games in 2011 and accounted for 0 receptions over that time so, through the air the 2011 Saints RBs tallied 1,181 yards.
Oh, and yeah, there was also that former basketball player from Miami who had 1,310 yards (and 11 TDs) that season, bringing the total to 5,415 yards – already 86 yards over the projected amount needed to pass Marino. Pepper in some Jed Collins, John Gilmore, and David Thomas action and you get your season total of 5,476.
So, how will Brees reach the requisite 5,329 passing yards needed to pass Dan the Man? I’m glad I asked.
Despite his age and talk that the less, ahem, vertically endowed, QB is at the twilight of his HoF career, Brees is still crushing fools. He tied Big Ben with a league high 4,952 yards last season on 69.2% completions. Sure, he threw a 2:1 TD to interception ratio in 2014, but I think it’s objectively reasonable to ascribe at least some of his errant passes to a documented oblique strain last year.
You know. One of those muscles that is engaged in the throwing motion.
Brees recently addressed the impact this strain had on his throwing mechanics and how he spent two months during the offseason rectifying "bad habits", per Mike Triplett of ESPN. For what little we have seen from Brees this offseason, he has looked sharp. Like, really, really sharp. I would try and come up with a clever simile here to convey this to you, but suffice to say - Brees is going to own this season.
Max Unger is excellent and he brings that championship pedigree and veteran savvy to the middle of an offensive line bookended by budding stud Terron Armstead and veteran Zach Strief. Jahri Evans and Tim Lelito are his flanks, forming what has looked like a formidable front thus far in the preseason.
The final receiving corps for the season is TBA this coming Saturday with final roster cuts. Though, if you will permit, I posit the following three guys will account for the brunt of Brees’ wide receiver passing yards in 2015.
- Brandin Cooks: Entering his sophomore season after accounting for 53-550-3 in his rookie campaign over 10 games, Cooks is set to take the league by storm. Having worked and/or consulted with each of Steve Smith, Randy Moss, and his prototype Antonio Brown in the offseason, and having gotten extra reps with Brees, further solidifying their chemistry, I am predicting 1,400 yards and at least 8 TDs from Cooks this year.
- Marques Colston: Colston got off to a rough start last season when he fumbled in overtime, effectively gifting Atlanta the game. The 9-year veteran and greatest WR in Saints franchise history has not gained less than 900 receiving yards in a season since 2008 - in which he missed 5 games due to a broken thumb. Colston has reliably racked up an average of 1,040 yards a season since that time and, with the absence of Jimmy Graham as a target, I expect Colston to garner no less than 1,100 yards this year (something he’s already done thrice in his career).
- Willie Snead: K. Don’t laugh at this one. Snead has looked really good so far and we all know Brees has the capacity to significantly elevate his receivers. Snead, as some have observed, is Lance Moore 2.0. Moore missed 2 games in 2011 yet accounted for 627 yards. With limited playing time to showcase his abilities in the preseason, Snead has done nothing but impress. I expect he’ll be the #3 WR when all is said and done, having supplanted Brandon Coleman. Snead, in my estimation, is liable for approximately 729 yards this season (more on this below).
3,229 yards alone between those three guys. Cognizant of Brees’ socialistic tendencies as a passer however, I think we can reasonably lump Joe Morgan, Seantavius Jones, Brandon Coleman, Josh Hill, and Ben Watson in together to account for a collective (and conservative) 1,000 yards.
That brings our running total to 4,229 yards – 1,100 yards shy of our benchmark. Speaking of running, however –
- C.J. Spiller: We haven’t seen him at all this preseason due to some sort of covert arthroscopic knee surgery deal, but we hear rumors that he will be back and ready by week 1. He looked real sharp in minicamp, as expected, and figures to be a huge part of Brees’ outlet in the backfield. Spiller will likely assume much the same role as Darren Sproles when he was in New Orleans. While Spiller only had 125 receiving yards in 2014 through 9 games played, his role (and QB) in the Big Easy will be different. I have Spiller gaining 650 yards through the air.
- Mark Ingram: More of a pounder than a receiving RB, or at least as he’s been used, Mark Ingram came on strong in a contract year and showed his value to this Saints squad (for which he received a shiny new contract). He also demonstrated some pass catching abilities with a few nice receptions from Brees this preseason. Ingram had career high 964 yards rushing and 145 yards receiving last season through 13 games on the year, but I think he’ll do even better this year with an improved o line and the threat of Spiller in 2-back sets. Ingram will have no less than 200 receiving yards.
- Khiry Robinson/Marcus Murphy: I’m just going to slot these guys together since I’ve resolved I love them both the same and would feel bad putting one over the other. Murphy will likely be used primarily on special teams, but it’s not unreasonable to put him down for 100 yards this year in some capacity. KRob, well, what can’t be said about the man. He’s a back of all trades. He only had 63 yards through 10 games last season, but he’s good for 150. Write that down.
Our total to this point is Brees with a convenient 5,300 passing yards on the season. Against the Jaguars in week 15, Brees will hit Snead on a skinny post for, you guessed it, 29 yards, and the team will rejoice in the glorious moment as he reaches the magic number! Confetti will rain and Brees will point skyward as if to say ‘it was literally through you, the sky, that this moment was possible’. Incidentally, Brees will proceed to throw for an additional 400 yards and 7 TDs the last game of the season in Atlanta, shattering Peyton Manning's single season passing yard mark of 5,477.
Speaking of which, around this time Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, #s 1 and 2 respectively, will shift uncomfortably in their chairs or whatever they’ll be sitting upon at that time, as they realize Drew Brees is coming for them next. At only 10,000 yards behind (at that point), Brees will eclipse the career total in 2017 and earn his frequent flyer, all-time passing yards leader card.
Oh, yea. The Dan Marino passing TDs thing. Almost forgot. Well, Marino has 420, Brees has 396 and therefore needs 25 to pass. Brees has never thrown for less than 26 TDs as a Saint, so no worries there.
Last thing. The defense will maybe be decent. Top-half. But they will generate lots of turnovers!