The New Orleans Saints were the second-to-last team to win a game in the 2015 season (we don’t need to talk about who was the last team). Last year had all the makings of a rebuilding year; they traded away Jimmy Graham (though they got a starting center and a first-round pick in return) and salary cap issues forced them to move Kenny Stills. Despite the turbulent off season and the slow start, the Saints managed to claw their way to a 7-9 record last year.
There hasn’t been a lot of buzz in New Orleans this offseason — it’s hard to be heard when you’re in the same division as the raucous Carolina Panthers — but they’ve slowly built themselves up from a hellish cap situation to, perhaps, a place of decency again. With the help of Canal Street Chronicles, let’s look at the 2016 New Orleans Saints.
2015 record: 7-9
Matchup with Lions: Week 13 in New Orleans
Line: Saints by 2
Last meeting: Lions 35, Saints 27 (2015)
Notable free agent additions: TE Coby Fleener; DT Nick Fairley; LB Craig Robertson
Notable free agent departures: WR Marques Colston; G Jahri Evans; LBs David Hawthorne & Ramon Humber
Trades: Traded their 2016 third & fourth-round picks to the Patriots to move back into the second round (61st overall) and acquire S Vonn Bell; Traded their 2016 & 2017 fifth-round picks to the Washington Redskins to get a fourth-round pick and selected DL David Onyemata
Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies: DT Sheldon Rankins (Round 1); S Vonn Bell Round 2); WR Michael Thomas (Round 2); DL David Onyemata (Round 4)
Biggest offseason addition: This will be a point of contention for many Saints fans, but the Saints’ biggest offseason addition on the field will presumably be rookie Sheldon Rankins. The Saints’ complete lack of interior pass rush in 2015 is what led to this pick and he was the consensus pick for many experts once he outstripped Alabama NT A’Shawn Robinson in most workouts. A notable mention goes to TE Coby Fleener, but with Drew Brees giving Benjamin Watson the best receiving season of his career just last season, the Saints likely see TE as a plug & play position these days.
Biggest storyline heading into training camp: With what has consistently been one of the worst defenses in the NFL for several years (really since the departure of Gregg Williams), the Saints hope that Dennis Allen can bring them some stability at the defensive coordinator position. Allen was the Saints’ DC for six games last season, in which the Saints went 3-3. Known as a secondary coach first, Allen hopes to bring the Saints up from the depths of being one of the worst pass defenses in NFL history last year.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp: Getting carries in a running back by committee system is always a battle, and the Saints have a few hungry players this year. Tim Hightower’s surprising breakout towards the end of last year led to the Saints re-signing him to a one year deal. Rookie RB Daniel Lasco is a lifelong Saints’ fan getting the opportunity to prove himself to the Saints, and sophomore Daniel Murphy is vying for carries as well after primarily serving as a return specialist in his rookie year. CJ Spiller is heading into the second year of his four-year deal after a massively disappointing 2015, and the Saints hope to recapture some of the excitement that he brought to the Buffalo offense.
Notable injuries heading into training camp: OLB Hau’oli Kikaha (Torn ACL); CB Kyle Wilson (Torn Labrum); S Jairus Byrd (Knee); CB Keenan Lewis (Knee/Hip); RB CJ Spiller (Knee)