You'd hardly recognize the '09 New Orleans Saints-same uniforms, different attitude. Last year the Saints were a disappointing 8-8 and finished in last place in their division. Quarter back Drew Brees and the NFL's number one ranked offense held up their end averaging 28.9 points and over 400 yards a game. But their defense was a joke that seemed to invariably crumble at crunch time. Now, with a restocked secondary and a proven tactician, in defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the Saints appear poised for shot at the Lombardi trophy.
Sure its technically still the off-season, but this off-season has been very revealing for the Saints. Brees and head Coach Sean Payton see hunger in the team's workouts-especially from his new and Improved defense.
In '08 the Saints gave up 24.6 yards a game and ranked thirteenth in the NFC in pass defense-right above Detroit. Since then the Saints have undergone some significant upgrades. On top of their highly publicized acquisitions (Jabari Greer, Malclom Jenkins, and Darren Sharper) the Saints have some more than capable backups.
Usama Young has been garnering praise at his new position-free safety. Corner back Tracey Porter is coming off a wrist injury that sidelined him for the better part of his rookie year but not before he proved that he could compete against some of the league's best. The Saints also drafted safety Chip Vaughn from Wake Forrest in addition to signing 10 year vet Pierson Prioleau, who followed Williams from Jacksonville.
Payton says that attendance to OTA's has had a huge affect on Williams' ability to implement different schemes and sophisticated blitz packages. New Orleans had 90 percent of its players participate in the voluntary workouts-a big indication that this year's Saints won't be satisfied with another mediocre season.
"You can say the last two years we've not gotten exactly what we set out to get," Brees said. "I feel like we've learned a lot along the way. I feel we've assembled a great group of veteran free-agent guys who have been a part of good teams and know what it takes to win and be professional and fight through adversity. . . . We're much better prepared for the journey this year than we ever have been."