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Here’s why Saints fans should be excited about the 2014-15 season.
After returning to the playoffs in 2013, the New Orleans Saints are ready to challenge the Carolina Panthers for the NFC South title in 2014. The team has built its success on the back of the offense, but head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees took major steps in the 2014 NFL draft and free-agent market to strengthen its defensive secondary.
Focus on Defense
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan joined the Saints in 2013. He took a defense that was the NFL's worst in 2012, and he transformed it into the league's fourth-best in 2013.
In 2014, Ryan's defense will get even more help. Three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd brings his 22 career interceptions to the Crescent City after spending six years with the Buffalo Bills. Future Hall-of-Famer and 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey begins his 16th season in New Orleans, after playing five years in Washington and 10 years in Denver.
The draft also brought in 6-foot 6-inch, 218-pound cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste to the Superdome. NFL Network's Mike Mayock calls Jean-Baptiste "a future All-Pro." Outside linebacker Ronald Powell and safety Vinnie Sunseri were later-round picks whose development into solid professionals will be fun to observe. Watch for Sunseri on special teams.
Still Sharp on Offense
The Saints aren't coasting with their strong office. Even though they averaged nearly 400 yards per game in 2013 the team continues to grow. Brees, one of two NFL quarterbacks to surpass 5,000 passing yards in 2013, will be returning to the team. Two of his favorite targets, tight end Jimmy Graham and running back Pierre Thomas, will be joining him. Graham's 86 catches, 1,215 receiving yards, and 16 touchdowns led the team. Thomas, who caught 77 passes, gained 1,062 yards from scrimmage, and scored five touchdowns, also is a credible dual threat.
Graham and Thomas aren't Brees's only returning weapons, though. Wide receivers Marques Colston and Kenny Stills combined for 107 catches, 1,584 yards, and 10 touchdowns in 2013.
The team used its first-round draft pick to replace Darren Sproles with speedster Brandin Cooks, whose 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine led all wide receivers.
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