Know Your Opponent: New Orleans Saints

Posted Aug 7, 2014

Get the latest on the New Orleans Saints heading into Friday's preseason game at the Edward Jones Dome.

The Saints come to town Friday for the first preseason action of 2014. The Rams won’t be doing much game planning for the matchup, but here are some of the biggest storylines from New Orleans to get you caught up on their offseason.
Tight end Jimmy Graham and the Saints went through a long arbitration process to determine whether or not Graham should be a tight end not only in name, but also in how much he gets paid. He’s not only been one of quarterback Drew Brees’ favorite targets, but also one of the best receivers in the league for the last three seasons, leading the league with 16 receiving touchdowns in 2013.
The arbitration process determined Graham would receive the franchise tag as a tight end, and the two sides came to a reported our-year, $40 million agreement in July, making him the highest-paid player at his position.
Despite being one of their most productive players for the past three seasons, the Saints traded running back Darren Sproles to the Eagles for a fifth-round pick in mid-March. Sproles led the Saints in all-purpose yards the three seasons he played in New Orleans, with a league-leading mark of 2,696 in 2011.
One of the players who will help replace Sproles’ production is Pierre Thomas. Brees said last week that the veteran back, who turns 30 in December, excels in the screen game.
“He’s one of the best screen runners there is, ever,” Brees told assembled media, saying Thomas has the ability to be effective rushing, receiving, and in pass protection. “He’s the best all-purpose back in the league in my opinion.”
Perhaps more important to the Saints in replacing Sproles, though, is rookie Brandin Cooks. The first-round pick out of Oregon State won the Biletnikoff Award last season after tallying 128 receptions for 1730 yards and 16 touchdowns. He stands at just 5-foot-10 and 189 pounds, but he’s got dangerous speed. Just check out this Vine.
Rob Ryan took New Orleans from dead last to fourth in the league in total defense in his first season as coordinator. Despite that success, the Saints were only 29th in takeaways. The solution? Sign free agent Jarius Byrd, a free safety who has 22 interceptions in his first five years in the league.
Byrd comes to New Orleans from Buffalo and should help increase those takeaways. He missed the first five games of last season with plantar fasciitis, but still ranked just outside the top 10 in picks last year by tallying four.