This article is part of our Team Previews series.
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
Maybe it was the infamous "Super Bowl Hangover" after a few too many Hurricanes at Pat O'Brien's, but the Saints became the latest team to fail to repeat as champions after falling to Seattle in last year's NFC Divisional Round. The Saints again coupled their trademark explosive offense with an opportunistic defense, but were unable to recapture the magic that led to the franchise's first Super Bowl trophy in 2009. Specifically, the team's shortcomings can be blamed on an inconsistent run game, an inability to stop opposing ball carriers and fluster opposing quarterbacks, and Drew Brees' knee troubles.
In 2009, the Saints' three-headed monster of Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell and Reggie Bush combined to finish in the top ten in the NFL in rushing yards. With Bell no longer in the fold and Thomas and Bush missing significant time with injuries, head coach Sean Payton essentially abandoned the run, leaving quarterback Drew Brees to do most of the heavy lifting. This year, only Thomas returns as the Saints added former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram in the first round of the NFL Draft and replaced Bush with the elusive Darren Sproles via free agency in an effort to restore the flame in the run game. A healthy ground attack should do wonders for Brees, who competed last year with a sprained MCL. Although Brees did not miss any games and still posted a whopping 33 touchdowns, he struggled to the tune of a career-high