Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
Getting old stinks. I had to run to catch a bus at work on Tuesday for an off site function and I was so winded I thought I might drop dead. For the record, I'm not fat and thought of myself in pretty good shape for 37. My body disagrees strongly with that last sentence. Since the alternative to getting old is death I'm not really complaining as much as I'm pointing out unpleasant facts.
What does me getting old have to do with the Saints? The brilliant 2006 New Orleans Saints draft class is starting to show its age.
The Saints 2006 draft is arguably the best in team history, and it was the foundation of the 2009 Super Bowl team. Four members -- Roman Harper, Jahri Evans, Zach Strief and Marques Colston -- from that class remain with the Saints. The Saints 2006 draft was so good two other players -- Reggie Bush and Rob Ninkovich -- are still starters in the league.
Mickey Loomis and company drafted six quality NFL players. That last sentence should blow your mind. One draft like that a decade gets your about 50 percent of the way to a Super Bowl.
In case you’ve forgotten, here is a career recap of the four current Saints players from that 2006 draft:
Marques Colston, 7707 receiving yards, 555 catches, 59 touchdowns, and a sweet hyperbolic chamber;
Jahri Evans, first team All-Pro four times, four Pro Bowls, and started every game his first 7 years in New Orleans; Roman Harper, two Pro Bowls, 7 interceptions, and 101career starts; Zach Strief, 35 career starts and the greatest celebration hug ever post Super Bowl win.
Unfortunately father time is showing us again why he is undefeated.
Jahri Evans missed a start for the first time as Saints player in 2013, Roman Harper has been inactive the last few weeks with a foot injury, Marques Colston missed nearly the entire preseason, and Zach Strief missed practice Wednesday with an ankle injury.
Hopefully they all get and stay healthy, but I'm pretty sure their best years are behind them. The 2006 Saints draft is one of those things in life that the farther in the past it gets the better and better it looks.
It makes me sad that the Saints and me are both getting old. When is someone going to invent an anti-aging drug so our favorite guys can play forever? It's not too much to ask for Jahri Evans to be a Pro Bowl guard in 2021 is it? At the very least we should have the ability to clone people by now.
Come on nerds, get on it.
Rob Ryan's Big Chart of Fun: All year long I’ll be charting how the Saints defense does under Rob Ryan in certain situations. For a full explanation of how it works read this.
The Saints aren't really playing a 3-4. It's more like a 4-2-5 hybrid. Ryan is truly working with what he has and making the best of it. It seems like that defense would be vulnerable to the run, but linemen like Akiem Hicks and John Jenkins have helped the Saints rank 18th in rushing yards allowed per game and even that stat is a bit misleading. The Saints still rank last in yards per rush at 5.4 yards, but they have also had the third fewest rushing attempts against them. Teams have hit the Saints for some big runs, but they can't jam the ball down their throat because the Saints have been two scores ahead during every second half since playing Tampa. By our chart, the Saints are allowing only three yards per rush on 1st down. We include sacks in that total, but the Saints have yet to give a bunch of five-yard runs on 1st down. The real test for this run defense is if the Saints trail in the second half of a game for an extended period.
Last Week: 1-4
New Orleans (+2.5) at New England: Are the Patriots a really good team? Their only convincing win is against the Florida disaster known as Tampa Bay.
Tom Brady may finally have both Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski back in the lineup. He needs them because a monsoon in Cincinnati wasn’t the main reason his consecutive game with a touchdown pass ended. The main reason was the Bengals sacked him four times and totally dominated the Patriots offensive line.
The Saints pass rush should be able to do some business against a less than stellar group.
I actually think the Saints will have their best rushing game of the year so far in New England. The reason is no Vince Wilfork for the Pats and I think Bill Belichick is going to dare Sean Payton to run by playing five, six and seven defensive backs all the time. Jimmy Graham can’t look like Superman every week.
Everyone keeps talking about how good New England is at home, but the Saints are the best team in the NFL away from home since 2009.
When the Saints win we get to enjoy two weeks of the Saints being unbeaten and one week of ESPN spending 24 hours a day trying to figure out what’s wrong with Tom Brady.
Philadelphia (-1.5) at Tampa Bay: This seems like the perfect spot for Tampa to get their first win, but I fully expect Buccaneer fans to leave the stadium wishing they’d hired Chip Kelly instead of Greg Schiano like everyone thought they did for like 10 minutes in 2012.
Minnesota (-2.5) vs. Carolina: This might be the final week Ron Rivera is coaching the Panthers. I can’t describe how bad Cam Newton looked in Arizona, but I will say he is murdering my fantasy team every week. If Tampa and Carolina both lose do you realize the NFC South’s record without the Saints will be 2-13? The Saints might clinch by Halloween.
Denver (-27.5) vs. Jacksonville: If you have Sunday Ticket and can watch every game, I beg you to watch the Jaguars. They are the Haley’s Comet of awful football and we may not live to see this again. The Jags make the winless 2008 Detroit Lions look like the 1972 Miami Dolphins. At least the Lions can blame it on Matt Millen.
LSU (-7) vs. Florida: Eventually Zach Mettenberger won’t be perfect and then the Tigers could be in trouble but it won’t be this week because that new Gator quarterback is due to play terrible. It’s that time of year where Les Miles does something that only seems like a good idea to a toddler. There is a 70 percent chance it works out fine and he seal claps to celebrate. I love you Les Miles.
BONUS TULANE PICK!
Tulane (+10.5) vs. East Carolina: The Green Wave is 4-2 for the first time since Ronald Reagan was president. Just kidding, but it has been a long time. If Curtis Johnson gets Tulane to a bowl game in year two I declare him COACH OF THE CENTURY OF THE WEEK!
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on facebook, follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes.