The Saints finish organized team activities on Wednesday, though they officially end Thursday with a team-building golf scramble at an undisclosed course.
The next time we see the team, training camp will be underway on July 27 (players report the day before).
Here are five questions and answers that you might be wondering about heading into the quiet period between OTAs and training camp.
Dear WWLTV.com, Drew Brees is a 10 in our book but we’re worried he might not be around come July. On a scale of 1 to 10, (with 10 being the highest level of concern) how concerned should Saints fans be about Brees signing? –Concerned about Brees, New Orleans
Concerned, we love scales and this one certainly can change depending on who you ask. But you chose us. Right now, we’ll still go with a 3 as far as concern. The two sides are close. Right now, however, there’s nothing pushing either side to blink in this Cold War-style showdown. Yeah, there’s the arbitration hearing that discusses whether Brees is a first-year or second-year franchise-tagged player. Let’s be honest, though – if the two sides wanted to, they’d get this done in the amount of time it takes you to order and eat a meal at Parkway.
The period to pay attention to is July 10-16. The final day in that period marks the last day the two sides can come to terms on a long-term contract. That’s when zero hour occurs. And we still expect that by the close of business July 16, Brees will have a shiny new long-term contract.
It looks like we’ve added a plethora of linebackers and defensive linemen. Will any of them make an impact? Or are we left to watch those units play like the Keystone Cops? –Defense First, Westbank
DF, you sound like a guy who wants Scott Shanle out of the lineup and hopes that Sedrick Ellis will live up to his top 10 draft pick status.
First the good news. The revamped linebacker corps appears, at least on paper and in OTAs without pads, to be upgraded. Curtis Lofton, in our minds, is an upgrade over Jonathan Vilma at this point. He’s younger, faster and doesn’t have the wear and tear on his body that Vilma has begun to show.
David Hawthorne has impressed acting head coach and linebacker coach Joe Vitt almost from his first day on campus. He has shown more speed and knowledge of the game than the coaching staff even expected.
Chris Chamberlain will help, too. He has worked with the first-team defense at strongside linebacker, but his background is at weakside. In other words, he’s versatile. He also came from St. Louis, where he played under Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, so he knows the system well.
And there’s still Shanle (whom Vitt says has had a wonderful offseason) and Jonathan Casillas, who if he can stay healthy, can be a game-changing type of linebacker.
Now the news that’s not bad but not necessarily good: Along the defensive line, we’re not positive how much it will change. Spagnuolo has a history of making defensive lines play above their punching weight.
Ellis is a holdover who hasn’t produced to his potential. But this could be the year that changes. Spagnuolo’s defense puts more of a focus on putting linemen in position to make plays. He’ll also be working with Brodrick Bunkley, a new acquisition who is expected to be a boost for the Saints’ beleaguered line. Bunkley could be the answer that Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin were not last season.
Will the team miss Robert Meachem or will Nick Toon or Joe Morgan or others step in nicely? –Receivers Rule, Bogalusa
Certainly Meachem played a critical role in the offense the past three seasons. But he largely had a role that Devery Henderson can fill – a speedy player who can run go routes and lengthen the field. Morgan also can do that and has a chance to make a final impression during training camp.
But while Toon won’t fill Meachem’s role, per se, he might be an upgrade. He has a big body, runs crisp routes and catches nearly everything thrown his way.
Though hard to imagine, he could be the piece missing from an already unstoppable offense. It’s hard to cover two big-bodied receivers who can catch; just look at what the Saints did with Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham last season or the Patriots with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
We personally see Toon as being an upgrade.
Defense may win championships, but offense wins fans. Can Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham replicate their monster seasons? –Graham for President, Port Fouchon
GFP, they can only replicate their monster seasons if Drew Brees comes back (see question No. 1 for our thoughts on that). But the simple answer is this: yes. Both have the talent and the offense lends itself to more special seasons.
We saw towards the end of the season last year teams try to find ways to slow down Graham and it never really happened. Defensive coordinators have had an entire offseason to game plan for him now. I’m not sure that will make a difference. Because as long as Sproles is running routes out of the backfield and Marques Colston is catching balls over the middle, Graham will remain open. And vice versa.
I can see them repeating their impressive seasons.
Will the team miss Carl Nicks? –Big guys rule, Harahan
Yes, but not as much as you might think. Nicks is the game’s best guard. When motivated, he could open up a hole through the Berlin Wall when it was intact. Nicks was a physically-imposing and physically-gifted guard, as athletic as anyone on the field in the trenches.
But Ben Grubbs, whom the Saints signed to replace Nicks, isn’t a huge downgrade. He was the second-best guard on the market behind Nicks this offseason. He’s a Pro Bowler and he, too, is physically-gifted. His veteran savvy will help a young center like Brian de la Puente and even a veteran tackle like Jermon Bushrod. What the Saints lost in athleticism they gained back in experience and knowledge of the game.