Friday, March 14, 2008
In this Don Banks' Inside the NFL column this week, he lists the Top 5 most improved teams of the off season (meaning talent signed and gained), listing the New Orleans Saints at #3 and predicting a rise from 7-9 to 11-5 next season.
Bank's notes how many top-notch Saints are returning to action and points to the signing of Mark Brunell as backup for Drew Brees. The key to his assessment, however, is improvements to the defense:
The Saints obviously didn't get it done on defense in 2007, and that's why they went out and made an early move at each line of defense, adding middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, cornerback Randall Gay and defensive end Bobby McCray. McCray's signing could be pivotal. The former 2004 final-round selection had 10 sacks as recently as 2006, and his addition allows the Saints to shift Charles Grant inside to tackle, from where he can apply some much-needed up-the-gut pressure. With Will Smith at the other end, the Saints will put a pretty athletic front four on the field, reminiscent of the three-defensive-end approach that produced such great results for the Super Bowl-winning Giants last season.
Banks' notes that the Saints still need help in the secondary and might do well to use their 10th pick in the first round to grab a cornerback.
[Shameless ping follows] Other teams on the list include the Browns, Eagles, Falcons and Lions.
- Todd Stauffer