We've hit the home stretch of the offseason with precious little time remaining for players and coaches to get their non-football lives in order. The first practice for the 2013 season is today. will take a look at 10 questions for New Orleans entering training camp and the season. They're in no particular order, just numbered.

We've love to get your thoughts on each day's topic. Leave your comment below or on the station's Facebook page to further the discussion

Which is the critical game on the '13 schedule?
Can Will Smith make the transition from DE to OLB?
Can Jonathan Vilma return to form?
Who will step at WR behind Colston, Moore, Morgan?
Who has the best shot of being this year's breakout star?
What happens at left tackle?
Will the Drew Brees of '09/'11 return or the '10/'12 Brees?
How much will having no offseason distractions help?
What impact will Sean Payton's return have?

No. 1: Will the defense return to respectability?
With apologies to Steve Spagnuolo, a nice man and a good coach, his scheme didn't work in New Orleans and that was the single-biggest issue the Saints had in 2012.

Enter Rob Ryan and enter a good chance for the defense to earn its way back to respectability.

Spagnuolo never was able to get the players on the same page and that showed; it has been written about ad nauseam that the Saints gave up an NFL record 7,042 yards last season.

It's hard to believe that'll happen again this year.

More than 10 players remain on the roster from the Gregg Williams days, which while not always great, were better than in 2012.

From 2009-11, Williams' defenses ranked 25th, 4th and 24th and were ranked 14th and then 5th in back-to-back seasons on third downs. And in each of those seasons, the Saints went 13-3, 11-5 and 13-3.

Ryan is coming and bringing the same type of aggressive defensive swagger that was with the unit in the Williams seasons and missing in 2012 under Spagnuolo. They coach from the same system, both bred defensively on Buddy Ryan's style.

Further, Ryan is bringing back some of what was successful under Williams, even using some of the same terminology to help the defense flow more quickly.

As witnessed in 2009 and again in 2011, the defense doesn't have to be great. With New Orleans' offense being as dynamic and explosive as it is, the defense needs to be average at best. It just can't be historically bad.

We see 2012 as an anomaly, not a trend. The defense should return to respectability in 2013.

Read or Share this story: