2006 Saints, version 1.0--Part I (Offense)
The NFL free agent signing period has all but played out. The draft is a few weeks away. Minicamps have begun. So I figure now is as good a time as any to talk Saints football. Since there have been a lot of changes lately, and many of us weren't really paying attention to the team last year anyway, I figured I'd help out with what I see:
QUARTERBACK: Aaron Brooks is out. Drew Brees is in. You already knew that. This has been scrutinized to death. What Brees lacks in arm strength and athleticism, he makes up for in leadership and intensity. He is the anti-A.B.. Todd Bowman and Aaron McPherson are still on the roster. You have to think that the Saints will bring somebody in later to challenge them for the #2 job. Obviously, the Saints are no longer interested in picking a quarterback in the first round.
RUNNING BACK: Saints fans are praying that Deuce McAllister comes back from last year's season-ending injury. If not, the Saints have two decent backups. Former Viking Micheal Bennett is unbelievably fast and dangerous, but he is inconsistent and injury prone. Aaron Stecker will stick around because he is a good receiver and special teams contributor. Antowain Smith is not on the roster. Fred McAfee is 94 years old, but still has a chance to make the team on special teams only.
FULLBACK: Mike Karney is the starter, and he's pretty good. That's about all you need to know.
WIDE RECEIVER: The big three receivers are back. Donte' Stallworth is gradually replacing Joe Horn as the #1 receiver, but he is still inconsistent. Devery Henderson still needs to improve if he wants the third-receiver position. Former Chief Chris Horn will probably replace Az Hakim as a backup receiver and kick returner (at least on kickoffs). Nate Poole is still here. Chase Lyman is still an intriguing prospect, but his knees keep exploding.
TIGHT END: I hope Drew Brees isn't expecting to find an Antonio Gates on this roster. He will be sorely disappointed. Zach Hilton has a lot of promise, and could be the opening day starter. I don't know if he's a Pro Bowl-caliber player though. Ernie Conwell is okay (when healthy). They also have veterans Shad Meier and Mark Campbell fighting for roster spots, but they're backups at best. Boo Williams is gone.
OFFENSIVE LINE: This part of the team scares the hell out of me. Maybe even more than the linebackers. LeCharles Bentley signed with Cleveland. Wayne Gandy was traded. Kendyl Jacox was cut. So this is probably how things will shake out: Jammal Brown moves to left tackle, Montrae Holland and Jamar Nesbit will be the guards, and former Jet Jonathan Goodwin may be the new center. That leaves free agent bust (up to now) Jermane Mayberry, draft bust (up to now) Jon Stinchcomb, and a bunch of people you never heard of trying to get the final tackle position. You have to hope that the Saints aren't through bringing in new talent to compete for the jobs. You'd also think the Saints were interested in selecting tackle D'Brickshaw Ferguson in the draft, but the national "experts" are under the impression that they are looking at other players and other positions.
Defensive positions to come in a later post....