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

Drew StantonDec 17 07:33p

Arizona Cardinals QB Drew Stanton (knee) said this injury is different from any other he's ever had, and he said it's too soon to know if he could return [ More ]

Carlos HydeDec 17 07:03p

San Francisco 49ers RBs Frank Gore (concussion) and Carlos Hyde (ankle) did not take part in practice Wednesday, Dec. 17.

Jay CutlerDec 17 06:43p

Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler will be benched in favor of QB Jimmy Clausen in Week 16 against the Detroit Lions, according to a source.

Jimmy ClausenDec 17 06:43p

Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler will be benched in favor of QB Jimmy Clausen in Week 16 against the Detroit Lions, according to a source.

Philip RiversDec 17 06:13p

San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers (chest, back) took part in a walkthrough Wednesday, Dec. 17, but didn't take part in practice, but he fully expects to play in [ More ]

Carlos HydeDec 17 05:43p

San Francisco 49ers RB Carlos Hyde (knee, back) received good news from his MRI results, but he said it would take a miracle for him to play in Week [ More ]

Robbie GouldDec 17 04:53p

Chicago Bears PK Robbie Gould (quadriceps) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Dec. 17.

Cam NewtonDec 17 04:13p

Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton (back) was listed as a limited participant in practice Wednesday, Dec. 17.

Frank GoreDec 17 03:13p

San Francisco 49ers RB Frank Gore (concussion) visited with a doctor at the team's facility Tuesday, Dec. 16, as part of the NFL's concussion protocol. Gore did not participate [ More ]

Ryan MathewsDec 17 02:33p

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (ankle) is not participating in practice Wednesday, Dec. 17.

C.J. SpillerDec 17 02:13p

Buffalo Bills RB C.J. Spiller (shoulder) was limited during practice Wednesday, Dec. 17.

Blake BortlesDec 17 01:53p

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles (foot) was limited during practice Wednesday, Dec. 17, and is listed as questionable for Week 16.

Julio JonesDec 17 01:43p

Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones (hip) is not participating in the portion of practice open to the media Wednesday, Dec. 17.

DeMarco MurrayDec 17 01:33p

Updating a previous report, Dallas Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray (hand) wasn't expected to do a lot at practice Wednesday, Dec. 17, but he took first-team snaps at running back [ More ]

Cam NewtonDec 17 01:23p

Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton (back) returned to practice Wednesday, Dec. 17, and he worked with the second-team offense in the portion of practice open to the media. QB [ More ]

DeMarco MurrayDec 17 12:43p

Dallas Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray (hand) is participating in individual drills during practice Wednesday, Dec. 17.

T Y HiltonDec 17 12:23p

Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) is not participating during the media-access portion of practice Wednesday, Dec. 17.

Rashad JenningsDec 17 11:23a

New York Giants RB Rashad Jennings (ankle) will not participate in practice Wednesday, Dec. 17.

Keenan AllenDec 17 11:03a

San Diego Chargers WR Keenan Allen (collarbone, ankle) said he is taking his injuries 'week to week.'

Denard RobinsonDec 17 10:13a

Jacksonville Jaguars RB Denard Robinson (foot) has a partially torn ligament in his foot, according to head coach Gus Bradley. Recovery time is six to eight weeks, but he [ More ]

Marc TrestmanDec 16 09:33p

The Chicago Bears are expected to fire head coach Marc Trestman, according to a source. The team's ownership met Tuesday, Dec. 16, after the team's Week 15 loss against [ More ]

Julio JonesDec 16 09:33p

Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones (hip) is expected to be ready to play in Week 16 against the New Orleans Saints. However, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter indicated the possibility [ More ]

Zach MettenbergerDec 16 06:43p

Tennessee Titans QB Zach Mettenberger (shoulder) missed practice for the second straight day Tuesday, Dec. 16.

DeMarco MurrayDec 16 05:53p

Dallas Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray (hand) will likely be a game-time decision against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 16, according to owner Jerry Jones. Jones said the team is [ More ]

Julius ThomasDec 16 05:33p

Denver Broncos TE Virgil Green continued to lead the team's tight ends in snaps with 50 in Week 15 against the San Diego Chargers, even with TE Julius Thomas [ More ]

Aaron RodgersDec 16 05:23p

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is 0-2 with a 35.6 total quarterback rating at Tampa Bay in his career. He threw three interceptions in each of those games.

Blake BortlesDec 16 04:23p

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles (foot) was jogging, throwing and moving around well while being limited at practice Thursday, Dec. 16. He showed no signs of being limited by [ More ]

Colt McCoyDec 16 04:23p

Updating a previous report, Washington Redskins QB Colt McCoy (neck) was told by doctors that he only needs two to three weeks for the aggravated nerve in his neck [ More ]

Keenan AllenDec 16 04:13p

Updating a previous report, San Diego Chargers WR Keenan Allen (collarbone) could be placed on Reserve/Injured if the team is eliminated from playoff contention. Allen will not play this [ More ]

Ryan MathewsDec 16 02:43p

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (ankle) did not practice Tuesday, Dec. 16.

Colt McCoyDec 16 02:33p

Washington Redskins QB Colt McCoy (neck) was placed on season-ending Reserve/Injured Tuesday, Dec. 16, according to head coach Jay Gruden.

Keenan AllenDec 16 02:33p

San Diego Chargers WR Keenan Allen (collarbone) suffered a broken collarbone in Week 15 and is not expected to play this week. Surgery is not planned at this point [ More ]

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