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2011 Team Report: New Orleans Saints

Quarterbacks

Starter: Drew Brees
Backup(s): Chase Daniel

Starting QB: Drew Brees is a veteran leader, a proven fantasy football superstar and a Super Bowl Champion. He has put together a Hall of Fame career and at 32-years old should have another few good seasons in his pocket. However last year Brees had his worst season in awhile despite throwing for 4620 yards and 33 touchdowns because of his 22 interceptions thrown. The reasons for this dip in production was due to an enigmatic rushing attack and a sprained finger on his throwing hand. He's a stone cold lock for 4000 passing yards and 30+ touchdowns when healthy.

Backup QB: Chase Daniel is the backup and while the team likes his skill set he brings to the table, his inexperience could prove disastrous if pressed into duty.

Running Backs

Starter: Mark Ingram [R]
Backup(s): Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Chris Ivory
Fullback(s): Heath Evans

Starting RB: The Saints rushing attack was very pedestrian last year. So much so that the team made it a priority to fix it in the draft this season. When Alabama Crimson Tide's excellent RB Mark Ingram was available with the 28th overall pick, the Saints were ecstatic to scoop him up there. Ingram has a great mix of power, tenacity and quickness. In fact, he has had multiple comparisons to Emmitt Smith in regards to how he plays the game. He likely won't be asked to carry the entire load for the team because of the presence of the other backs, but he will have a huge impact on improving the tepid rushing attack from last year and should approach on the 1000-yard mark and 10 touchdowns this season.

Backup RBs: Pierre Thomas has put up good statistics when called upon. He has nice size at 5'10 and 205 pounds, good elusiveness, sound vision and can catch the football. The Saints picked up veteran Darren Sproles, a quick, talented and diminutive half back to replace Reggie Bush. He is unlikely to get a lot of carries but should have an opportunity to catch a good deal of passes this year and return kicks. He is a difficult player to bring down in open space. Second-year running back, Chris Ivory was a nice surprise for the team last year. The 222-pound bruiser was very effective, led the team in rushing and scored 5 rushing touchdowns. However he struggled to stay healthy and was a non-threat in the passing game. He is unlikely to see much action behind three talented players.

Fullback: Heath Evans is a proven vet who does everything the team asks of him. He gets very few carries and receptions and is a fantasy non-factor.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore
Backups: Devery Henderson, Adrian Arrington, Courtney Roby

Starting WRs: The Saints are going to throw for 4000+ yards and 30+ touchdowns. That means there will be plenty of opportunities for the Saints receivers to shine. Leading the way is veteran WR Marques Colston who has caught 369 passes over five seasons. His great size is a matchup nightmare for opposing defensive backs. He should finish with 1000 yards and 7+ touchdowns again this season. Robert Meachem and Lance Moore are both capable receivers who between them caught 110 passes for 1401 yards and 13 touchdowns last year. Meachem has a nice blend of size and quickness while Lance Moore is a smaller, faster receiver who runs nice routes. Both players should have 50+ receptions in 2011.

Backup WRs: Devery Henderson is blessed with tons of talent but rarely has that talent equated to big statistics. He has had good moments as a pro but has only 9 touchdowns in the last four seasons. He will get 30+ receptions and be a good 4th option but don't expect more more than that. Arrington and Roby provide depth, but each will need significant injuries to make a fantasy impact.

Tight Ends

Starters: Jimmy Graham
Backups: David Thomas, Tory Humphrey

Jimmy Graham came on like gangbusters in his rookie season last year. A former basketball player with Miami Fla. He caught 26 passes and 5 touchdowns over the final eight games last year. At 6-6 and 260 pounds with speed and soft hands, he is poised to become an elite fantasy weapon at the tight end position. He is too quick for linebackers, too big for safeties and will Drew Brees throwing the ball, don't be shocked to see 55+ receptions this year. He is very good. David Thomas is a dependable veteran capable of lining up at tight end or full back. He has nice size and quickness and caught 65 passes over two seasons with the Saints. He'll get some work in for the team but has minimal fantasy value.

Place Kicker

Garrett Hartley : Two of 2009's playoff heroes are secure in their specialist roles as the Saints enter training camp. Garrett Hartley will handle the placekicking while Thomas Morstead will again handle the punting, kickoffs and holding. Hartley was 21 of 24 on FGs during the first three days of camp. The long snapping position has been less stable. Last year they went through Kevin Houser, Jason Kyle, Jake Ingram, and ended with Justin Drescher. Kyle was cut from the team this July after failing a physical. That leaves Drescher with the starting job, unless undrafted rookie Kyle Nelson out of New Mexico State can unseat him. The Saints ranked 11th, 4th, and 14th in attempted kicking points the past three years.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Darren Sproles, Courtney Roby

Punt Returners: Darren Sproles, Lance Moore

Head coach Sean Payton discussed whether recently acquired RB Darren Sproles would handle returns this year, "I don't know. I certainly value him as a returner though. We are going to look to improve our return game, whether or not that is our returner or the guy playing hold-up or the guy playing over the guard, or blocking the linebacker, all those aspects that we feel like we have to improve... But I think [his signing] started with his offensive abilities, and it doesn't hurt that he is a returner." Sproles has been practicing on returns, especially kickoffs. A few others have also been working on returns: WR Lance Moore, WR Courtney Roby, RB Joique Bell, safety Jonathon Amaya, WR Montez Billings, WR Andy Tanner, WR Jarred Fayson, WR Michael Galatas and WR Joseph Morgan.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Jermon Bushrod, LG Carl Nicks, C Olin Kreutz, RG Jahri Evans, RT Jon Stinchcomb
Key Backups: Charles Brown, Zach Strief, Matt Tennant

Team Defense

Behind their defense, the Saints have one of the most cunning defensive minds in the game in Gregg Williams. First round pick Cameron Jordan will be a fine weapon to add to Williams' arsenal. Shaun Rogers and Sedrick Ellis will be a terror to run against. Jonathan Vilma should continue to perform at middle linebacker, and the linebackers in general will get plenty of opportunities for big plays like sacks and turnovers thanks to Williams' aggressive blitz packages. Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper are one of the finest safety tandems in the league.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Will Smith, DT Sedrick Ellis, DT Aubrayo Franklin, DE Cameron Jordan
Backups: DE Alex Brown, DE Turk McBride, DT Shaun Rogers

Starting DL: Veterans Smith and Ellis will again anchor the New Orleans' line. Smith's pass rush presence hasn't always resulted in sacks, but he's consistently pressured the pocket. Ellis had his best season in 2010 after struggling with injuries earlier in his career. Both are also solid in run support. The Saints worked to improve their defensive line rotation in both the draft and free agency. Jordan was expected to be a first round draft pick, but slipped into the second and is another flexible talent that fits Gregg Williams' hybrid scheme well. He'll likely start at LDE in both 3-4 and 4-3 fronts and move inside as a nickel pass rusher in time. Franklin had been a very strong interior defender for San Francisco in recent seasons and was a surprise signing late in the frenzied first week. This line should be one of the better groups in the league. Smith should see enough snaps to be a high floor DL2 and could have additional upside if he can convert more of his pass rush opportunities into sacks. Jordan may start slowly, but is skill set is a good fit for the scheme. Consider him a DL4+ with upside. Ellis has the pass rush ability to be an elite DT1.

Backup DL: Brown proved unable to handle an every-down role last year, but should fit better as a rotational body on base downs and could add some burst off the edge as a situational rusher at times. McBride will also provide flexibility and depth. Rogers was signed very early in the offseason and complements Ellis and Franklin well as both a penetrating force against the run and bull rushing presence in passing situations.

Linebackers

Starters: OLB Scott Shanle, MLB Jonathan Vilma, OLB Martez Wilson
Backups: OLB Jonathan Casillas, OLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, OLB Danny Clark, OLB Will Herring

Starting LBs: Vilma is the only Saints' linebacker guaranteed a job entering camp. The outside linebacker spots are an open competition, with Shanle and Wilson possibly holding a slight edge as the stable veteran and promising rookie. Vilma struggles at the point of attack at times, but provides a rangy presence who can get depth in coverage and be effective as an extra pass rusher. Shanle will have to fight to keep his job, but would again provide a stabilizing and versatile presence for Gregg Williams. Wilson has lots of all-around upside as a big, athletic outside backer that can run and cover. Vilma is the primary fantasy target in the group. His tackle upside isn't great, but he'll be a consistent LB2 with some big play value. Whichever OLB gets the bulk of the subpackage snaps could also have fantasy value, but likely as no better than a matchup LB5.

Backup LBs: Casillas showed promise last season before a torn Achilles tendon in camp cost him the entire season. He's back healthy and will compete for snaps at WLB. Clark has taken snaps with the first team at SLB, but will have trouble holding off Wilson. Herring was a valuable coverage player in Seattle last year and brings another versatile option as an ILB in the 3-4 and OLB in 4-3 packages. Dunbar projects as a special teams player and reserve inside linebacker.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Jabari Greer, CB Tracy Porter, SS Roman Harper, FS Malcolm Jenkins
Backups: CB Patrick Robinson, CB Fabian Washington, CB Johnny Patrick, S Pierson Prioleau

Starting DBs: Roman Harper will again anchor the Saints' secondary after re-signing with the team during the free agent period. Harper can be inconsistent in coverage, but fits well as a roving in-the-box safety with pass rush and big capability alongside a deep group of corners. He should again top 80 solos with a handful a big plays and remains one of the safest elite DBs. Jenkins should finally settle in as the full time free safety this year. He's more than capable in run support, but will primarily play a deep safety role this year. He's likely to be an inconsistent DB3 with lots of weekly upside. Greer has had durability issues, as has Porter, but both have been solid in both man and zone coverage. They will be pushed by a good group of backup corners, but should see the majority of the team's snaps at corner.

Backup DBs: Robinson and Patrick are up-and-coming talents. Robinson will push for nickel snaps and could challenge the veterans for regular duty this year. Patrick isn't likely to see much time this year, but projects as a starter long term. Washington was signed away from Baltimore and will compete with Robinson for nickel snaps.

Last modified: 2011-08-20 06:22:45

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