On a sporting landscape where everyone is either on steroids, fixing games, or killing dogs, the Saints were a shining beacon of feel-goodness in 2006. A city that has had precious little to feel good about since it was decimated in August 2005, was represented by a team that was both exciting and very successful.
There was an air of excitement around the team when they unexpectedly had Reggie Bush fall into their laps with the second overall pick in the 06 draft after Charlie Casserly's brain fart with the first overall pick.
It soon became evident that Bush was just one reason among many to watch this team. Drew Brees came over from San Diego, and led the whole friggin league in passing yards. 7th round rookie WR Marques Colston made a ridiculous charade out of the entire NFL draft process by torching the league for 1038 yards and 8 TDs in 14 games. Deuce McAllister came back from an inactive 05 to rush for 1057 yards and 10 TDs. All of these offensive fireworks were engineered by a rookie head coach, Sean Payton.
Oh yeah, then there was Bush. After a lukewarm start, Bush was astonishing down the stretch, posting either 100 rushing or receiving yards in 3 of the last 4 games he saw full time action in (the Saints rested their starters in Week 17).
The Saints rode the league's #1 offense to an NFC South title, and treated their fans to a home playoff win, before finally bowing in the franchise's first NFC Championship game, losing 39-14 to the Bears. The fairy tale ending didn't happen, but no mistake though, the Saints had what has to be considered a landmark season in the history of pro sports.
So what do the Saints do for an encore? Well, the defense could use a little work. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't good either. You can run the ball on the Saints, and most everyone they played did just that. They ranked 23rd in the league in run defense. They also ranked 4th against the pass, but that's a little deceiving. Teams usually don't pass a whole lot against you if they can beat you on the ground, and most opponents used that strategy against the Saints.
The Saints did nothing to address that problem outside of signing former Bengals LB Brian Simmons. Simmons fits the mold of most Saints defenders in that he's painfully mediocre.
They went offense with their top draft pick, selecting Tennessee WR Robert Meachem to replace the departed Joe Horn. Meachem's hurt, and showed up to minicamp out of shape before getting hurt. He seems poised to be a bust this year.
The remaining moves were aimed at shoring up the secondary, which wasn't that bad last year. Former Bengal Kevin Kaesviharn replaces Omar Stoutmire at one safety position, and former Colt Jason David will push 34 year old Fred Thomas out of a starting corner job. Again, both David and Kaesviharn are just OK, but probably nothing that will cause a marked improvement in the defense.
There's nothing to suggest that what happened in NOLA last year was a fluke. This team is that good. The only thing that could keep them from reaching the playoffs again this year would be if Brees or McAllister go down with an injury. Short of that, there's just too much talent on the offensive side of the ball to keep the Saints from being one of the top 6 teams in the NFC. Lessez les bon temps rouler! Now you're up to speed on the Saints.