The 2012 NFL season was quite uncharactersitic for the New Orleans Saints, but the bounty suspensions played a large role in their poor performance. Now, 2013 is a new year and the organization had an outsanding draft in April while also acquiring several key players in the offseason. Look for some of these New Orleans newbies to really step it up this season.
Even with a limited amount of cap space, the Black and Gold managed to make some great acquisitions that could really make an impact throughout the year. Whether that impact is big or small, the team could always use an extra hand. There are six players who I believe can make an immediate contribution.
6. John Jenkins
The big bodied rookie out of the Univerity of Georgia could fit well into this fresh 3-4 scheme ran by newly acquired defensive cooordinator, Rob Ryan. After finishing dead last at stopping the run last year, the New Orleans Saints could really use a man that size up front.
A community college tansfer, Jenkins made a pretty big impact after relocating to Bulldog country. During his two year stint under Coach Mark Richt, he racked up 78 total tackles and 4 sacks. You might think 4 sacks is nothing, but rushing the passer is not his specialty. He was there to stop the run and helped that strong SEC defense do just that. The guy will most likely never be a star, but look for him to make his name known while coming off the bench for the Who Dat Nation.
5. Kenny Stills
I have high hopes for Kenny Stills. I have said it before and I will say it again: The speedy receiver out of the University of Oklahoma was a steal in this year's NFL draft.
The guy certainly possesses the talent to strive in the Saints' high-powered offense. He put up phenomenal numbers in the course of his three years under Bob Stoops racking up almost 2,600 yards with 24 touchdowns. With Saints deep threat Joe Morgan out for the year, look for Stills to play a substantial role in the offense this season.
4. Nick Toon
Toon was drafted last year in the fourth round by the Saints. However, he missed his entire rookie season with a foot injury so I still consider him a new face.
The former Wisoncin Bagder was one of Russell Wilson's favorite targets in college and can really add height to the Saints' receiving core. He has played well in camp so far and seems like he could fit right in opposite of Marques Colston. Lance Moore is the number two guy, but he fits better in the slot.
Toon's time at the University of Wisconsin was quite productive and during his senior season he caught 64 passes for over 900 yards and 10 scores. If Nick stays healthy, I do believe he could assemble some decent numbers for the Saints in 2013 with the help of Drew Brees.
3. Benjamin Watson
Watson is not a superstar, but the 32-year-old tight end adds experience and leadership to the Saints offense. He is also an excellent blocker and after losing a couple of key linemen over the last few years, the Black and Gold could always use another guy to protect their star quarterback.
During his assignments in New England and Cleveland, the veteran has accumulated over 3,700 yards and 28 touchdowns. Benjamin is a nice addition to the New Orleans offense and should see the endzone for several scores this season. We all know Drew Brees loves targeting his tight ends.
2. Kenny Vaccaro
This stud safety out of the Univeristy of Texas could be the real deal. He is fast. He is strong. He is physical. And he is fearless. He can cover one-on-one and has good sideline-to-sideline range. I am incredibly optimistic about this young kid and really fired up to see how he performs this year.
This man is capable of doing a considerable amount of damage to opposing offenses. The 2012 First-team All American had a memorable run as a Longhorn and his time in Texas will never be forgotten. His senior season showed it all as he racked up 92 total tackles with 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles.
This truly talented, dynamic safety has got the goods. He will be fighting for that starting spot, so opposing offenses better beware. Kenny Vaccaro could make an immediate impact for the New Orleans Saints.
1. Keenan Lewis
The former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback will be looking to make his name known in his hometown of New Orleans. He is a big, physical back and was outstanding last season at defending the pass. The Saints defense was at its all-time worst in 2012.
Adding a teammate like Keenan Lewis will indeed benefit that struggling secondary. He played in all 16 games last year with the Steelers and finished second in the league in passes defended with 23, only behind Seahawk standout Richard Sherman. Lewis will fit in well opposite of Jabari Greer and if he can perform like he did during the previous season, he could be one of those missing pieces the organization has been lacking in their secondary.
Losing newly acquired linebacker, Victor Butler to injury is a bit exasperating. Rob Ryan brought him in from Dallas and the Saints had high hopes for him. He would have defintely made this list, but I am confident that with the strong draft and offseason, New Orleans will have a remarkable year. Look for these new faces to really step it up in 2013.