Never mind the overwhelmingly obvious issues. How the Saints fare without suspended coach Sean Payton is the No. 1 story of the season and won't be answered in training camp. The signing of Drew Brees was so huge, little needs to be written. The Saints are formidable with him and a four-win team without him.
The answers to the following questions could bridge the difference between Super Bowl contention and a full-fledged fight just to make the playoffs.
1)Is Ben Grubbs the perfect replacement for Carl Nicks?
The Saints lost Nicks, one of their two All-Pro guards along with Jahri Evans, to Tampa Bay because they had to slap the franchise tag on Brees. Otherwise, they would have franchised Nicks. They alleviated the sting of his departure by getting Grubbs, who played in his first Pro Bowl last year despite missing six games for the Baltimore Ravens with a toe injury.
Grubbs, 28, is a year older than Nicks. If he matches Nicks’ production, the Saints should have a dominant offensive line again.
2)Can new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo bring back the sacks and interceptions?
Spagnuolo has to develop a better pass rush (New Orleans was 19th in sacks with 33) and a ball-hawking secondary. New Orleans was 30th with nine interceptions, including zero, count ‘em, zero from safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper. The exotic blitz-heavy schemes with man-to-man coverage of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams were no longer working in those departments.
Spagnuolo will look for better results with a more conventional 4-3 approach and by playing more zone, giving the safeties a better opportunity to see the ball.
3)Will anyone emerge at wide receiver other than Marques Colston and Lance Moore?
For a team that set multiple NFL offensive records a year ago, the Saints are thin on proven wideouts. Speedster Devery Henderson, the No. 3 guy with the departure of Robert Meachem, caught 32 passes and had only two touchdowns a year ago. He’s 30 and can’t afford to lose even a half step.
Other guys in the mix are Adrian Arrington, who caught two passes last year and has nine in his career, Courtney Roby, who had zero receptions in the past two years, Joe Morgan, an undrafted free agent who excelled in the 2011 preseason before suffering a season-ending knee injury, and rookie Nick Toon, a fourth-round draft pick from Wisconsin.
One of them needs to become a significant factor for the first time.
4)Is cornerback Patrick Robinson ready for a breakout year?
The Saints were confident enough in Robinson, a third-year pro, to let 2010 Super Bowl hero Tracy Porter go to Denver as a free agent. Robinson had four interceptions in 2011, four times as many as any of his teammates.
His anointment as a surefire quality starter may have been premature, though. He started only seven games. He has the raw skills to excel, but he needs to prove it with an outstanding training camp.

Follow Saints reporter Guerry Smith on Twitter @CBSSportsNFLNO.