NEW ORLEANS, La. -- After a few days of rest, the Saints get back to work today, preparing for the season's home opener against the Atlanta Falcons.
Last year's season opener taught a lot, with the Saints giving up 459 yards, 40 points and then unsuccessfully trying to play catch up the rest of the game.
This year, the defense has a new boss, a new scheme and several key new pieces, most notably, cornerback Keenan Lewis, safety Kenny Vaccaro and outside linebacker Parys Haralson, who the team traded for in the final week of preseason.
Maybe the most positive piece to come out of preseason is what looks like a better pass rush, led by Cam Jordan, and Glenn Foster.
Foster is one of an incredible six undrafted rookies to make the Saints' final roster. The other five include inside linebacker Kevin Reddick, guard Tim Lelito, cornerback Rod Sweeting, tight end Josh Hill and running back Khiry Robinson.
In addition, Andy Tanner, who has been on the Saints practice squad since 2010, finally made the team.
While the defense got rebuilt, the Saints offense was tweaked a bit as well.
Charles Brown earned the left tackle spot, receivers Kenny Stills and Nick Toon got attention with their play and Ben Watson gives Drew Brees a new weapon at tight end.
The Saints are healthy on offense and after a preseason with Sean Payton's return and without the distractions of the bounty and contract changes, Brees has been sharp. In last year's opener, Brees threw for 339 yards, but he also threw two interceptions.
If the 2013 version of the Saints offense can look more like 2011, and if the 2013 defense can improve enough, Payton and the Saints have a real shot to make a great season.
Heading into the opener, two stats of importance include Atlanta starter Matt Ryan's 3-6 against the Saints and Sean Payton 's10-2 record against the Falcons.
The season opener is Sunday at noon in the Mercedes Benz Superdome.