With the NFL draft behind us and a lockout raging on, the opportunities to talk about real football are becoming fewer and fewer. That being the case, I have sought out bloggers that cover teams that the Lions will play in the 2011 season to get a glimpse into what is going on with those teams.
Granted, this exercise presumes that no games will be lost due to the lockout. These Q&As aren’t meant to be any sort of game preview, it is obviously way too early for that. The subject teams may end up looking much different when the Lions play them compared to how they look now, but I anticipate this being a good introduction to each teams’ hopes, fears, needs, expectations, etc.
The Lions will have a long week to prepare for their week 13 matchup with the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome as it will be their first game after the Thanksgiving Classic. I was able to send some questions about the Saints to Keith Null, editor at Who Dat Dish, and he was kind enough to provide responses. Here we go…
Zac Snyder: What is your take on the Saints draft? Which pick do you like the most and which do you like the least?
Keith Null: Arguably the 2011 NFL draft may go down as one of Saints best in the modern era. Time will only tell if Ingram, Jordan and Wilson make the impact everyone hopes they will, but the feeling from those close to these players seems to indicate they are superbly special. In 2006, Payton’s rookie season, the Saints drafted a handful of quality players – Reggie Bush, Marques Colston, Roman Harper, Jahri Evans – and it’s hard to give the nod to the 2011 draft considering the quality talent uncovered in 2006.
As far as which pick I personally like the most, I would have to go with Mark Ingram. Some were shocked the Saints traded back up into the first round to get him, why I don’t know. He is a special running back, no one can deny that, and for the Saints to get him at 28 was an absolute steal. Let’s not forget that New Orleans ran out of healthy running backs heading into the playoffs. They staggered and fell to the lowely Seahawks,
My least favorite pick – no one!
ZS: Do Saints fans want Reggie Bush to stay around or has his time in New Orleans run its course, especially now that Mark Ingram is joining the team?
KN: Nothing divides the Saints fan base more then Reggie Bush, some hate him while others love him. Can’t we all just get along? The reality is there is a place for Bush with the Saints, regardless that they now have Ingram, re-signed Thomas and are returning last seasons leading rusher in Chris Ivory. The question really becomes if Bush wants to return to New Orleans, after all his twitter fiasco seems like a ploy to sabotage any chance at a return he may have. Lastly there is the issue of money as he is currently set to make 11.8 million. There is absolutely no way he sees those dollars as a Saint. A re-structured contract is a must, but it seems possible we may have seen Bush in the black and gold for the last time.
ZS: The NFC South may be the toughest division in the NFL next season, are Saints fans concerned?
KN: Yes the NFC South is a tough division, but the Saints are a tough team. The Buccaneers have Freeman, the Falcons Ryan, the Panthers rookie Cam Newton and the Saints Drew Brees. I’ll take Brees over any of the aforementioned quarterbacks, and as far as being concerned, when you have Brees leading the team I think you have to feel pretty good about your chances.
ZS: What is the biggest key for the Saints to return to the Super Bowl after last season’s disappointing end in the Wild Card round?
KN: There are several things that the Saints will have to do better, it starts with Drew Brees getting his interceptions down first and foremost. Last year opposing defenses were able to sit back and feast on Brees and the receivers, and why not with no threat of a real run game. The Saints fixed that problem by drafting Mark Ingram and next season the rush offense should be back to clicking on all cylinders. During the Saints Super Bowl winning season they had great balance between the run and the pass, that balance they have to get back to be successful in 2011.
Next the run defense has to improve to better than 16th in the league. At first glance it looks as if the Saints may have pulled it off, adding veteran run stuffer Shaun Rogers in free agency and drafting Cameron Jordan in the first round. The re-vamped defensive line should provide an immediate improvement that should also trickle down to the linebackers, who know should be able to get downhill and make more plays instead of fighting off blockers.
ZS: What are your expectations for the Saints in 2011?
KN: As a fan and analyst of the Saints I always expect to them to do well. I fully expect them to make the playoffs and post their third consecutive double digit win season in 2011. All the pieces are in place to do well and the Saints have done a great job improving in their areas of need. Brees interception total will plummet, a run game will once again exist and the defense should be much more able to stop the run and get to the passer.