2014 DRAFT GUIDE
With Payton back, Saints head to camp with hope

By BRETT MARTEL - AP Sports Writer
    2013-07-23 13:11

METAIRIE, La. (AP) - Since Sean Payton returned from his bounty ban in January, the Saints have steered clear of scandal or contract holdouts in a blissfully uneventful offseason. With the focus back on football, optimism abounds in the Big Easy.

``Here we are, really for the first time in four years, where you feel like this is a normal offseason,'' quarterback Drew Brees said recently. ``You come to work every day with no distractions other than just focusing on football and getting better.''

The 2010 offseason was unusual in that the Saints were defending champs. In 2011, there was a lockout. Then 2012 was overshadowed by the NFL's probe of the Saints' cash-for-hits bounty system, which resulted in suspensions, fines and lost draft picks. Further complicating matters was Brees' contract holdout, which ended a couple weeks before 2012 training camp.

Brees still passed for 5,177 yards last season while leading a unit ranked second in yards per game, but such production wasn't enough to get the Saints back to the playoffs for a fourth-straight season because New Orleans' defense sank to historically low depths, yielding a single-season record 7,042 yards.

Now that Payton is back, he is refining the prolific offense he created and he's brought in new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

Five things to know about the Saints as training camp arrives:

1. PAYTON'S PRESENCE: Payton's record speaks for itself. He coached six seasons before his suspension and in that time rebranded the once-floundering Saints as one of the most exciting teams in the NFL. With his offenses regularly at the top of the league and breaking both franchise and NFL records, he led New Orleans to the playoffs four times, to the NFC title game twice and to the franchise's first Super Bowl title in 2009-10. In his last three seasons before his suspension, the Saints made the playoffs each time, twice racking up 13 regular season wins. In his return, Payton has brought not only his ability to create mismatches with his offensive play design, but also the discipline and intensity to which his players have responded well in the past.

2. DIFFERENT DEFENSE: One of the first changes Payton made upon his return from suspension was to fire 2012 defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and hire Ryan. That meant a change from the 4-3 defensive alignment to the 3-4 preferred by Ryan. The change in scheme has meant a switch in position for several players who once were considered defensive ends and now will play outside linebacker, such as Will Smith and Junior Galette. Players say the adjustment has not been all that difficult because the Saints effectively were in a 3-4 for a number of their blitz packages when Gregg Williams was the coordinator from 2009-11.

3. VETERAN ADJUSTMENTS: As defensive captains Jonathan Vilma and Smith enter their 10th NFL seasons, they are out to prove they can be effective in altered roles. Smith played his first nine seasons at right defensive end. Now he is an outside linebacker, meaning he may have to drop into pass coverage at times. Vilma has been most effective as a middle linebacker in a 4-3. While with the Jets early in his career, he struggled when that club switched to a 3-4. Now he'll be in a 3-4 again, though Payton has said he believes Vilma can be effective on the weak side, while Curtis Lofton will be the strong side middle linebacker.

4. BREES' BLINDSIDE: For the past four seasons, Brees' blind side has been protected by left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who left during free agency for Chicago. The Saints hope 2010 second-round draft choice Charles Brown is ready to step in as a starter. Brown has been injury plagued early in his career, leaving coaches anxious about his reliability. Competing with Brown will be former St. Louis first-round pick Jason Smith, who is hoping to reinvigorate his disappointing career in New Orleans, and 2013 third-round pick Terron Armstead.

5. YOUNG RECEIVERS: The Saints have several young, inexperienced receivers vying for regular playing time behind veterans Marques Colston and Lance Moore. The front-runner appears to be Joe Morgan, who joined the club as an undrafted free agent in 2011 but did not see action in 2012 after spending his rookie year on injured reserve. Nick Toon, a 2012 fourth-round draft pick who also spent his rookie year on injured reserve, and rookie Kenny Stills, a fifth-round pick, also are looking to break into the lineup.

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Thaddeus LewisJul 22 10:33a

Buffalo Bills QBs Jeff Tuel and Thaddeus Lewis are alternating series with the second unit in team drills Tuesday, July 22.

Tyler BrayJul 22 09:13a

Kansas City Chiefs QBs Tyler Bray and Chase Daniel are likely to compete for one roster spot with QB Aaron Murray likely to make the team behind starting QB Alex Smith.

Navorro BowmanJul 22 12:13a

San Francisco 49ers LB NaVorro Bowman (knee) will likely return to action in Week 9 after the team's Week 8 bye, according to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee.

Jacques McClendonJul 21 11:03p

Jacksonville Jaguars OG Jacques McClendon is the frontrunner to start at right guard heading into training camp, according to Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com. OG Brandon Linder is the other candidate for the starting job.

Aaron ColvinJul 21 10:53p

Jacksonville Jaguars CB Aaron Colvin (knee) will begin training camp and the regular season on the Physically Unable to Perform list as he recovers from a torn anterior cruciate [ More ]

Jeromy MilesJul 21 10:03p

Baltimore Ravens S Jeromy Miles has seen some reps with the first-team defense this offseason and is a dark horse candidate to win the starting free safety job, according to ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley.

Brandon MosleyJul 21 09:43p

New York Giants OT Brandon Mosley will be given the first chance to start in place of OG Chris Snee when the first-team offensive line takes the field Tuesday, [ More ]

T.J. GrahamJul 21 09:23p

Buffalo Bills WR T.J. Graham had a pass fall through his hands after beating his defender on a deep route in camp Monday, July 21.ESPN.com's Mike Rodak believes Graham [ More ]

Sammy WatkinsJul 21 09:02p

Buffalo Bills WR Sammy Watkins made several big plays in practice Monday, July 21, according to ESPN.com's Mike Rodak. Watkins beat CB Leodis McKelvin deep, hauled in a pass [ More ]

Marvin JonesJul 21 07:03p

Cincinnati Bengals QB A.J. McCarron (shoulder), WR Marvin Jones (ankle) and CB Onterio McCalebb (knee) have been placed on the Non-Football Injury list.

Devon StillJul 21 07:03p

Cincinnati Bengals OG Clint Boling (knee), LB Marquis Flowers (hamstring), P Kevin Huber (neck), WR Colin Lockett (hamstring), DT Zach Minter (back), DT Devon Still (back) and WR Ryan [ More ]

Cordy GlennJul 21 06:53p

Buffalo Bills OT Cordy Glenn (illness) does not have a timetable for his return at this point, according to head coach Doug Marrone. 'I don't know that. It's a [ More ]

Mike CaussinJul 21 06:43p

The Washington Redskins have signed free-agent TE Mike Caussin (Bills). Terms of the contract were not disclosed. The team also waived LS Kyle Nelson.

Cheta OzougwuJul 21 06:32p

New Orleans Saints DE Cheta Ozougwu (undisclosed) and DT John Jenkins (pectoral) have been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Brennan WilliamsJul 21 06:22p

Houston Texans OT Brennan Williams (undisclosed) has been waived with a failed physical designation.

Brian CushingJul 21 06:22p

Houston Texans DT Louis Nix (undisclosed), LB Brian Cushing (undisclosed) and LB Trevardo Williams (undisclosed) have been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Eric HaggJul 21 06:13p

Denver Broncos SS Eric Hagg has informed the team that he has decided to retire from professional football.

Dominique EasleyJul 21 05:23p

New England Patriots DT Dominique Easley, RB Roy Finch, LB Deontae Skinner and OT Chris Martin have been placed on the team's non-football injury list.

Alfonzo DennardJul 21 05:23p

New England Patriots CB Alfonzo Dennard (shoulder), WR Aaron Dobson (foot), WR Jeremy Gallon (undisclosed), DT Tommy Kelly (knee) and WR Matthew Slater (undisclosed) will begin training camp on [ More ]

Leon HallJul 21 05:12p

Cincinnati Bengals DT Geno Atkins (knee) and CB Leon Hall (Achilles') will begin training camp on the team's physically unable to perform list.

Jon BeasonJul 21 05:12p

New York Giants LB Jon Beason (foot) will begin training camp on the team's physically unable to perform list.

John JerryJul 21 05:02p

New York Giants OT William Beatty (leg), OG John Jerry (knee) and WR Mario Manningham (knee) will be limited when training camp starts.

Kraig UrbikJul 21 04:33p

Buffalo Bills OT Chris Hairston and OG Kraig Urbik saw first-team repetitions at right guard Monday, July 21.

Dezmon BriscoeJul 21 04:03p

The Dallas Cowboys signed free-agent WR Dezmon Briscoe (Redskins), according to his agent. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Phillip HuntJul 21 03:12p

Former Philadelphia Eagles DE Phillip Hunt (knee) has recovered from anterior cruciate ligament surgery and should begin workouts with teams in the near future.

Chris ConteJul 21 02:12p

Chicago Bears FS Chris Conte said he feels good as he recovers from shoulder surgery, but is unsure of his availability for the start of training camp. He could [ More ]

Alameda Ta'amuJul 21 01:53p

Arizona Cardinals DT Alameda Ta'amu (knee) and FS Tyrann Mathieu (knee) are candidates to be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list at the start of training camp.

David WilsonJul 21 01:42p

New York Giants RB David Wilson (neck) should be able to help the offense if he is able to stay healthy this upcoming season, according to former offensive coordinator [ More ]

Chris SneeJul 21 01:42p

Updating a previous report, New York Giants OG Chris Snee has officially announced his retirement from professional football.

Garrett CelekJul 21 01:22p

San Francisco 49ers TEs Derek Carrier and Garrett Celek will compete for the No. 3 tight end spot during training camp.

De'Anthony ThomasJul 21 01:22p

Kansas City Chiefs RB De'Anthony Thomas spent most of his time with the running backs during practice Monday, July 21. Thomas run a lot of passing routes out of [ More ]

Christopher OwensJul 21 01:13p

Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (knee), WR Kyle Williams (knee), WR A.J. Jenkins (hamstring) and CB Christopher Owens (hamstring) participated in practice Monday, July 21.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group