What do the Super Bowl-champion New Orleans Saints need?
More than you'd think.
The Saints had a magical season, winning the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history, but that doesn't mean there aren't holes.
|The Saints have Jon Vilma in the middle but they could use some speed to his sides. (Getty Images)|
As long as Drew Brees is throwing passes and Sean Payton is calling plays, the Saints will be a factor in the playoff chase.
But the Atlanta Falcons are coming hard and they played the Saints tough twice last season.
The pass rush is one area the Saints could improve in a big way. Will Smith is good at right end, but they need help on the other side.
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams did a great job piecing together a pass rush with his exotic blitzes, but they need more from the front.
If they're to repeat, Loomis has some work to do on that side of the ball.
QB: The Saints are set with Brees, who proved in 2010 that he is among the elite passers in the game. His ability to read defenses and make pinpoint throws is what makes the offense go. He takes chances, which great ones do. This is his team. The backup situation is still up in the air, but free agent veteran Mark Brunell would like another year. Chase Daniel is the third.
RB: There was a lot of talk that Reggie Bush might not be back because of his bloated salary. But he is too valuable to the way the Saints play offense. His pass-receiving skills help open things up. Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell are restricted free agents who offer a nice inside running duo to complement Bush. However, Bell signed a one-year deal with the Eagles that the Saints can still match or else he leaves. Fullback Heath Evans is coming off an injury, but he is penciled in as the starter.
|Five possibilities: Saints|
Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida: He is a big pass rusher who could play left end.
|Draft strategy: Saints|
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Team Needs: All 32 teams
WR: The Saints have a deep group of players at this spot. Marques Colston is the best of them, but there is a lot of depth behind him. Colston is a big target who has become adept at catching the Saints' stop-fade routes. Devery Henderson is the speed player who can stretch the field. Robert Meachem and Lance Moore make up the quality foursome. Meachem should be poised for his breakout season, which could make this unit even better.
TE: Jeremy Shockey isn't as good as his reputation, but that doesn't mean he isn't a good player. When Shockey is on the field, he gives Brees a nice target in the middle of the defense. David Thomas became a Brees favorite late in the season and into the playoffs. He is a pass-catcher first, blocker second. They could use help in terms of a blocking tight end. But if that's a concern, you don't have much of one.
OL: The interior of the Saints line is as good as any. Guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks are the best pair in the league. Evans is a Pro Bowl player. Center Jonathan Goodwin played well in 2010, completing the trio. Right tackle Jon Stinchcomb was picked for the Pro Bowl last season. He's good, but not that good. Jammal Brown returns at left tackle after a season cut short by injury. Jermon Bushrod was decent in his place, but Brown will start. He is good when he is focused.
DL: The Saints let Charles Grant go, which means they need help at end. Grant was getting up in years and it was showing. Bobby McCray takes over as the starter in his spot, but he's more of a pass rusher than an every-down end. Smith is the best pass rusher on the other side. There isn't a lot behind those two. Tackle Sedrick Ellis is growing into a star inside. He will be their best lineman in 2010. Remi Ayodele is a big body next to him, but not much more. Tony Hargrove was a pleasant surprise as a backup last season, but he could leave as a free agent.
LB: Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma was the key to the defense, being named to the Pro Bowl. He's a good run-and-chase linebacker who can also play the pass. The Saints lost Scott Fujita to the Browns in free agency, so they need help there. Jo-Lonn Dunbar has the first crack at that job. He is faster than Fujita. Scott Shanle starts on the other side. The Saints could use an influx of speed on the outside.
DB: Tracy Porter, the Super Bowl hero, and Jabari Greer form a good corner tandem. Greer played especially well in 2009, allowing the Saints to blitz more. Malcolm Jenkins, a first-round pick last year, will fight for time. He could move to free safety if the team loses Sharper, who is a free agent the Saints would like back at the right price. Roman Harper is a decent player at strong safety. Usama Young and Pierson Prioleau provide depth.