Continuing my look at our division rivals, let's look at the Saints off-season moves and see if they got better or worse?
Previously, we looked at the moves made by the Carolina Panthers this off-season here. The Saints, however, have been the more consistently difficult team to overcome for the past 8 years or so. Starting off with the basics, the Saints had the #10 offense in points scored and #4 in yards gained. What changed was their defense returned to "Bounty-Gate" form under Rob Ryan's 3-4 scheme and ended up #4 in both points and yards allowed. That's one tough combo to overcome. They protected the ball well, but didn't force many turnovers, so ended up even in the turnover differential category.
Off-season losses: New Orleans lost starting LT Charles Brown and starting C Brian De La Peunte along with starting FB Jed Collins and FS Malcolm Jenkins. The team released #3 WR Lance Moore, DE Will Smith, CB Jabari Greer, and SS Roman Harper. In addition, they traded away RB Darren Sproles to the Eagles for a 5th round draft choice. As with all teams, player turnover hits hard, but the Saints seem to have filled in pretty well as we will see next.
Off-season additions: The Saints replaced Collins by signing our own free agent FB Erik Lorig. Lorig has been a solid, if not spectacular, blocker in the run game for the Bucs the past few years with decent hands and routes out of the backfield and should replace Collins in the Saints offense fairly well. Champ Bailey was brought in at CB to replace Greer and the big addition was FS Jarius Byrd, a definite upgrade to Jenkins. So, as of now, it looks as if the O-line and WR were the biggest areas of need to address in the draft.
Draft: In the first round, the Saints moved up to get Brandin Cooks. They gave up a 3rd round pick to move up, but got their guy to step in next to Colston, Stills and Meacham. Round 2 saw the Saints add 6'3" CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste. Was this in response to the Bucs drafting Evans and ASJ, and the Panthers drafting Benjamin? It very well could be, as CB was a need, but not as big a need as OL (mainly C, as I will point out below). Beyond that, the Saints didn't have a pick until round 4 and, as with most teams, are hoping to add depth/special teams contributors.
Overview: The Saints didn't have a lot of "needs", the team was pretty well set and had minimal losses. At RB, though they lost Sproles, they still have Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram. At LT they still have Terron Armstead as the heir apparent. They added a young CB in SJB to learn from elder vet Champ Bailey. So, a team that was pretty scary last year and could have won the division with a win week 16 against the Panthers (eventual division winners), it doesn't appear they've lost much and should be just as difficult to beat this year. What say you Bucs Nation?