Deke: After the draft - a look at the past, present and future of the Saints

Deke Bellavia
May 03, 2016 - 3:45 am
I like to kind of give like a PSA as I start out each feature that I write; I have no inside information, so I, like you all, just try to follow what goes on.  I read, listen, look and pay close attention to the things that the Black and Gold do.  So here’s what I’m feeling currently.

The Past

Sean Payton’s past has produced a Super Bowl win, and in my book that carries a lot of weight.  And because of that Super Bowl win, I feel like I’m more lenient than most. It’s not being a suck up or taking it light. I always have felt like winning a title carries a lot of stroke.

With that out of the way, the statute of limitations is over! February 2010 was six years ago.  And you can only coast so long on one title.  Now, if the Saints had won two titles in three seasons like they should have when they lost to the 49ers in the post-season, then I wouldn't be typing what I am now. 

Sean Payton has gotten two contract extensions since the Saints won the Super Bowl and he is currently the highest paid coach in the NFL.  What does that mean?  Well if you go by record then Sean is paid handsomely, and guys like Pete Carroll and the hooded one in New England are underpaid.  Just saying!

I have the utmost confidence that Payton can bring another title to New Orleans.  But in order to get bang for the buck, anything less than a title is unacceptable! 

The Present

The present state of the New Orleans Saints ( from what the organization says) is good!  The Saints feel like they are closer to having the right mix of players to compete and be a winner than they have had in a while.  The Saints are 14-18 in their last two seasons.  The Saints have missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, and keep in mind - two years ago eight wins would have won the NFC South and allowed the Saints to host a playoff game.  But nada! 

New Orleans is an offensively-built team that consistently features the league’s best offense in more years than not.  But like in every phase of life if there is no balance, then the end results will not be as good as those teams that are more balanced.

The Saints defense has been deplorable, dismal, embarrassing, awful, terrible, horrible.. you get the point.  And what’s so sad is the Saints seemingly are OK with having an OK defense. Hey look, the Saints won a Super Bowl with an OK defense that created a lot of turnovers. 

To be fair, Dennis Allen did have the defense looking better the last half of the season.  But what will happen in 2016?  Folks the Saints will score, we know this.  But until New Orleans makes bigger strides in improving their defense this team and all their fans will continue to hold their breath at the end of games unless the offense is on the field with the game on the line.  We’ve seen what happens when the defense is out there!

Presently the Saints have had a run of great luck at the game’s most crucial position and that of course is quarterback.  Drew Brees has been beat up, battered and called on to carry this franchise on his back for too long.  Brees has a good three to five years left up putting up good numbers.  It’s going to be a damn shame if the Saints don’t win another Super Bowl with a Hall of Fame QB under center.

According to Sean Payton’s strongest mentor, Bill Parcells, you are what your record says you are.  And until proven otherwise the Saints are 7-9 the last two seasons.  We shall see!

The Program

Around draft time, we hear words like character, quality, committed, dedicated, improvement and program.  So does that mean the Saints want these type of players only?  And do these type players give them the best chance to win?

The Saints have six players left from Draft classes 2010-2014.  New Orleans made nine picks in 2015 and five in 2016.  Of those 14 picks, nine have been picks for defense and five for offense.  And the #1 pick in 2015 has to step up (Andrus Peat) this year or he will be the next high profiled O-Lineman (Charles Brown) that does not pan out for the Saints. 

As we follow what the Saints have done as of late, we see that some moves allude to other moves that didn't work out.  For example - the Saints have brought in umpteen safeties the last few years via the draft and free agency.  And of the moves that have been made at that position the decision to let Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins go was the wrong move!

Kenny Vaccaro is still here and has not played well other than his rookie year, and the Saints damn sure aren’t getting what they paid for in Jairus Byrd.  And now New Orleans has spent another high draft pick (2nd round) on - you guessed it - another safety.

Folks, you don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar from Oxford to know that Rob Ryan did not like Harper and Jenkins. Dennis Allen must feel like he needs more help back there with the team drafting Vonn Bell last weekend. 

In addition to drafting Sheldon Rankins (which most give high marks on), the Saints took a WR early in the second round, a safety late in the second round and a up and coming defensive lineman from North of the Border.

Folks, I hope that DL David Onyemata is the next Jim Burt, Leonard Marshall, Decon Jones, Clyde Simmons, Michael Dean Perry...  I hope David turns out great.  But according to his college coach up in Canada who we had the pleasure of interviewing after David was drafted, he says that Onyemata is a year or two away.  David’s coach told us that he just picked up a football four years ago after leaving Nigeria. I’m not making this stuff up, this is real!

So now, the Saints feel good about their program in the form of the new players that they have brought in the last two drafts and during the off season.  Maybe DL Nick Fairley will play like he did back in 2010 when he was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year for the National Champ War Eagle/Tigers of Auburn.  Maybe James Laurinaitis will become the 2016 version of former Saints great Jonathan Vilma.  And maybe Vaccaro can play as good as he sounds in those 5-Minute Oil Change ads.  And maybe Byrd will finally give the Saints fans what he gave Bills Fans for years in upstate NY.  And that is good play!

I’m a believer!  I have faith and I’m upbeat but I’m also a realist of sorts.  The Saints need a lot of things to come together and a lot of players to play their best yet for the defense to get to the middle of the pack.  Has it happened here before?  Absolutely!  Can it happen again?  Hell Yes!  Will it happen this season?  I don’t know.

The Saints are clearly (at best) the second best team in the NFC South behind three-time champ Carolina.  And with sound, strong and solid offensive and defensive lines, the Cats from North Carolina are the favorite again. 

Now as the OTAs, Mini-Camps and training camp begins to take place, what the Saints do as far as finding the right mix of players on defense to climb out of the bottom tier ranked teams in the NFL and their offense continues to be one of the best, the Saints have to find some sort of balance between the two.  Being ranked in the top three in one phase of the game and being rankled in the bottom three in the other phase don’t work.  So I guess it’s time to do something different. 
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