It's too early for '09 season previews, and too late for '08 season reviews. What's an NFL blog to do in the never-ending quest to overcover the bejeezus out of the NFL? Offseason progress reports. Let's go in alphabetical order. Today, the New Orleans Saints.
Free agents lost: S Josh Bullocks(notes), WR Terrance Copper(notes), S Kevin Kaesviharn(notes), FB Mike Karney(notes), RB Deuce McAllister(notes), CB Mike McKenzie(notes), WR David Patten(notes), DE Josh Savage(notes), DT Hollis Thomas(notes), DT Brian Young(notes)
Free agents gained: TE Dan Campbell(notes), DT Rod Coleman(notes), TE Darnell Dinkins(notes), FB Heath Evans(notes), CB Jabari Greer(notes), DE Anthony Hargrove(notes), C Nick Leckey(notes), S Pierson Prioleau(notes), S Darren Sharper(notes), DE Paul Spicer(notes), WR Paris Warren(notes), LB Anthony Waters(notes), WR D'Juan Woods(notes)
The average score of a Saints game in 2008 was Saints 28.9, Opponents 24.6. That's the best scoring offense in the league, and the 26th-best scoring defense. My extensive experience in watching football tells me that the Saints need to get better at ... any guesses? Anyone? Anyone? Defense.
Unfortunately, we're unable to narrow it down to rushing defense or passing defense, because neither one was very good.
It'll be a whole new secondary, though, with first-round draft pick Michael Jenkins(notes) hopefully taking over at one corner spot while free-agent addition Jabari Greer takes over the other. Darren Sharper is a nice veteran addition at safety, too. It might not end up being a great secondary, but it will at least be different. And when you're awful, different is good.
Show me a bad secondary, though, and chances are, it's accompanied by a weak pass rush. The improvement there is going to have to come not from personnel so much, but from the new defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams. Additions like Paul Spicer and Anthony Hargrove provide some depth, but if opposing quarterbacks feel any real pain, it's going to be because of scheme and the coaching up of Saints such as Will Smith and Charles Grant(notes). That gets harder to imagine when you consider that both of those guys will likely miss the first four games of the season due to a suspension.
Progress: The Saints don't need their defense to turn into the 1970s Steelers. The Saints don't need to win games 6-3. As long as Drew Brees(notes) is there, he has some weapons around him, and and the Saints keep turning him loose on opposing secondaries, the offense is going to be a force. If Gregg Williams wants to make everyone on defense wear T-shirts that read, "LET'S BE AVERAGE," and they can live up to that, the Saints will be in the playoffs.
Plus two games. 8-8 last year, 10-6 this year.
(Note: I didn't forget the Patriots. They're coming later today. Sometimes, I just need to mess with alphabetical order, so the alphabet remembers who's boss.)