By Ed Daniels, Clarion Herald Sports
It is there on YouTube for all to see: Former Saints head coach Jim Mora and former New Orleans TV sports director Ron Swoboda debating the idea of a meaningless game.
As we waded through four quarters of preseason football at the Superdome, for the record, a 34-25 loss to Minnesota, I could understand Swoboda’s thinking. So, the mind of a reporter drifted off to another item – the notion that somehow the Saints are heading for some sort of 2019 correction.
The win “total” on the Saints this season in Vegas is 10.5. This, for a team that has won 24 regular-season games since an 0-2 start in 2017.
Maybe those rushing to bet the “under” are expecting this to finally be the year when the play of Drew Brees falls off significantly. Yet, Brees is coming off a year where he threw only five interceptions and completed a stunning 74.4% of his passes.
And, the Saints offensive line, already a very good one, added center Erik McCoy in the second round. McCoy was in the starting lineup against Minnesota and appears to be a real keeper. He could be a fixture at center for the next 10 years.
The Saints had only five picks in the 2019 draft, and at least four appear to be ready to make significant contributions. Injuries – or, more accurately, the lack of injuries – do play a huge part in a team’s success.
At the Quarterback Club early last season, guest speaker and former Saints tackle Zach Strief was asked about the Saints being a Super Bowl contender.
“Tell me what our lineup looks like in Week 15,” said Strief.
The Saints did get through the 2018 season relatively healthy. Michael Thomas, Cam Jordan, Marshon Lattimore and Demario Davis all played 16 games. Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Ryan Ramcyzk would have played 16 games, but they were held out of the season finale, a 33-14 loss at home to the Carolina Panthers.
There are question marks:
Can the Saints’ interior defense hold up as defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins rehabs an ACL tear?
Who are the Saints’ third and fourth receivers?
Was defensive end Marcus Davenport worth surrendering two first-round picks?
But, is a “crash” coming? That’s the take of one national radio host. On his program, Colin Cowherd likened the Saints coming downturn to the ones suffered last season by Jacksonville and Minnesota.
“You can see it from a mile away,” said Cowherd.
For a team that has tied the Rams and Patriots for most regular-season wins since the start of 2017, it is an interesting take. But, here’s a question to ponder as we count down to the start of the real games: How many teams in the NFL have more talented young players than the New Orleans Saints?
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.