Could this year be the one where the “Greatest Show on Turf” returns to the Big Easy?
Now that the New Orleans Saints have their head coach, Sean Payton, back on the sidelines, it could be a record-setting season for the offense that lost a few steps last season.
All hail the black and gold in Louisiana.
The NFC South may be the most competitive division in the NFL this season with rival Atlanta still one of the best in the league and improvements to both Carolina and Tampa Bay.
Can the Saints, who started the 2012 season with four straight losses, come out of the gate firing on all cylinders?
So far this off season, it would appear the team is headed toward another playoff run. With Drew Brees thrilled that his head coach/wing man is back with the club, a Super Bowl win is not out of the realm of possibility. But first, they have to get through training camp and the regular season.
Here is what we have learned so far from this team with its OTAs and minicamp already completed.
* Mark Ingram is third on the depth chart -- Excuse me, but isn’t he a former Heisman Trophy winner? The Saints traded Chris Ivory to the Jets to free up some room on the depth chart. Ingram has not shown he can shoulder the running load. Hopefully this year he can take the next step.
* Drew Brees is a very happy man -- If there is anyone who has been singing the praises of Sean Payton’s return, it is Brees. You could see at times how he was affected by the loss of his head coach last season. Brees will be better in the offense this season.
* Carr signed to solidify secondary -- Carr played last season in San Diego. With Kenny Vaccaro drafted in the first round and Rob Ryan brought in to hone the defense, Carr could be a real find this season.
* Payton happy with off season so far -- Payton said on neworleanssaints.com that this one of the better offseasons he has been involved with since coming to New Orleans. There may be a new culture with this team following a year of turmoil and “Spygate.” If that is the reason, then other teams in the NFC had better be aware of them.
* Jimmy Graham wants to do more, earn a ring -- Graham will again be a huge part of the Saints’ offense. Can Graham take a higher place among the best tight ends in the league? He is a basketball players catching footballs and his offensive talent is a much needed as any receiver in the passing game.
* The defense will be improved -- Rob Ryan is surprised how quickly the defensive starters and reserves took to his game plan. This bodes well for the team and the regular season. If the Saints can become a pass rushing threat every time they move off the line, this will keep offenses on its toes.
* Vilma makes most of new defense -- Even the best players have to make changes in their game plan for a new defensive coordinator. Vilma, who is the leader of this unit, is adapting to the new scheme with relative ease.
* Sproles will still be a threat in all facets -- I am interested to see how the offense uses Darren Sproles this season with Payton calling the shots. Sproles was a fantasy league dream last year running, catching and helping out in the return game.
* Vaccaro is a quick study -- Vaccaro is a perfect fit for the team’s secondary and Rob Ryan’s scheme. Vaccaro was a tackling machine at Texas and will be counted on to handle top-flight receivers.
* No pressure from the NFL -- This season, the slate is wiped clean. No hassles, no threats of suspensions. The Saints are a complete team. Now, the team can focus on winning the NFC South and hopefully, a Super Bowl.