A lot went wrong for the New Orleans Saints in 2010, but it was probably hard for the fans to complain. After all, a lot went their way in the previous year.
But these Saints aren’t that different from the Saints that won the Super Bowl 19 months ago. So, how do they return to those glory days of ’09? The key might be turnovers.
In their Super Bowl year, the Saints forced a league-high 39 turnovers on defense while protecting the ball better on offense. Last year, with the roster diminished from injuries, they registered a league-low nine interceptions and the defense as a whole managed to force only 25 turnovers. What’s more, Drew Brees saw his interception numbers double from 11 to 22. Their turnover ratio went from +11 to -6 in one year.
So, stop committing them, and force more of them. It’s as simple as that.
2010 in a nutshell: They follow up their Super season with another stellar showing, going 11-5 and getting back into the playoffs. But a banged-up roster costs them, and they fall in the wild-card playoffs to the 7-9 Seahawks.
Three predictions for 2011:
1. The offensive backfield will be a fantasy nightmare: But they’ll be effective. The running game wasn’t good in 2010, mainly because Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas were severely limited by injuries for much of the season. But Bush is gone and Thomas is healthy and they’ve added two new options. Everyone’s fully expecting Sean Payton to give work to Thomas, rookie first-round pick Mark Ingram, Bush replacement Darren Sproles and Chris Ivory, who shined before also suffering a season-ending injury last year. All four backs are friggin’ good. They’ll come together to make up a tremendous quartet. Just don’t draft any of them too high in your fantasy league.
2. The defense will be better: It was actually quite good last year (ranked No. 4 in the league thanks to stellar play from the secondary), but, as I mentioned in the introduction, they simply didn’t make enough big plays and force enough turnovers. But they were adjusting to not having Darren Sharper last year. This year, Malcolm Jenkins is set to become a superstar at Sharper’s former position. Additionally, the front seven will be better with Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin on board to help against the run and Cameron Jordan and Jonathan Casillas present to bolster a pass rush that recorded just 33 sacks in 2010.
3. Drew Brees will bounce back: Brees was trying to do too much last year. He didn’t have enough support because of injuries to running backs and, as a result, the suddenly one-dimensional Saints were forced to throw the ball a lot more than they did in their Super Bowl season. Brees’ touchdown numbers shot up from 11 to 22 and his passer rating plummeted nearly 20 points. The rejuvenated backfield should keep opposing defenses honest and give Brees and the passing game a chance to regain their 2009 form.
The final word(s): It’s still a very tough division. They’ll battle the Falcons to the end once again, and they’ll be back in the playoffs. I’m not convinced they’ll be able to slay the Eagles, Packers and Falcons, but they’ll definitely be in the Super Bowl conversation.