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New Orleans Saints Team Needs

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New Orleans Saints Team Needs
By: Michael Dutel

The Saints 2005 season will be remembered as the season to forget. Before the 2005 Saints took their first snap of the regular season, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf South hitting New Orleans almost dead on. Almost as soon as Hurricane Katrina hit, the Saints 2005 season went down the drain. Without a single home game in New Orleans the Saints staggered to a 3-13 finish. Still left with many unanswered questions and an unclear future, the Saints march on into 2006 looking to rebuild their team and their city.

The Saints benched starter Aaron Brooks for the final three games of the regular season in 2005. Brooks’ inconsistency and turnovers has plagued the Saints far too long. He will most likely be playing elsewhere in 2006, either via release or trade. That leaves the Saints with veteran Todd Bouman and 2005 fifth round pick Adrian McPherson on the roster. Bouman is no more then a career backup and McPherson is still a project at this point in his career. With the second overall pick in the draft the Saints are in a prime position to draft a potential franchise player in 2004 Heisman winner Matt Leinart of USC or 2006 Rose Bowl MVP Vince Young of Texas.

When ten year veteran Ronald McKinnon starts at middle linebacker for your team, then you know you’re in trouble. McKinnon took over for Courtney Watson when Watson had knee surgery in November. McKinnon will be a free agent in the spring. Watson is more suited to play strong side linebacker but has played middle linebacker with the lack of quality linebackers. 2004 seventh round pick Colby Bockwoldt starts at weak side linebacker and lead the team in tackles in 2005. Bockwoldt shouldn’t be starting and is a serviceable backup at best. At strong side linebacker Sedrick Hodge is no more then a career backup unless he fits into the right scheme. Also, Hodge is a free agent as well. Veteran T.J. Slaughter and James Allen, who has been injured often lately, are both free agents. 2005 second round pick Alfred Fincher isn’t ready to start but with time he could be the answer at middle linebacker. The Saints need an overhaul of their entire linebackers. They lack a true playmaker. The Saints could have new starters at all three of the linebacker positions in 2006. If the Saints trade down in the first round, they could target DeMeco Ryans of Alabama or A.J. Hawk of Ohio State. If the Saints stay put, look for them to possibly take a linebacker in the second round. Options include Thomas Howard of U.T.E.P. and D’Qwell Jackson of Maryland.

Defensive Tackle
Brian Young is an average starter at defensive tackle but struggles against the run. Former defensive end Willie Whitehead also struggles against the run and is really a defensive end not a defensive tackle. He will be a free agent. Former first round pick Johnathan Sullivan has been labeled as a bust thus far but still has time to turn it around. The Saints lack a true run stuffing defensive tackle or nose guard. The Saints need a two technique defender and could find one in the draft. Gabe Watson of Michigan or Rodrique Wright of Texas could be an option in the second round. Without a third round pick the Saints could take a look at Le Kevin Smith of Nebraska or Montavious Stanley of Louisville in the fourth round.

Offensive Tackle
Left tackle Wayne Gandy had an average year in 2005 and is turning 35 in February. He’s on the decline. 2003 second round pick Jon Stinchcomb could be the answer but he’s coming off of a season-ending knee injury he suffered in training camp and is a question mark. The Saints have 2005 first round pick Jammal Brown at right tackle but he could be moved to left tackle, depending on who’s the quarterback. Either way, they need an upgrade at offensive tackle and a possible starter. The 2006 draft is loaded with quality offensive tackles and if a player like Darryn Colledge of Boise State or Andrew Whitworth falls into the second round, the Saints could take one of them. If not, look for an offensive lineman to be taken somewhere on the second day. Mark Levoir of Notre Dame or Travis Leffew of Louisville could be one of those choices.

Tight End
The Saints have lacked a presence at the tight end position since Cameron Cleeland’s rookie season in 1998 and since Wesley Walls left. Boo Williams and Ernie Conwell are coming back from injuries. Zach Hilton is a restricted free agent and is still raw. If a player like Leonard Pope of Georgia fell to the Saints in the second round, they could swipe him up. Copper Wallace of Auburn or Jeff King of Virginia Tech could be options on the second day.

Kicker John Carney will be 42 before the start of the 2006 draft. The Saints could start looking forward to the future and draft a rookie kicker to push Carney and eventually replace him. Connor Hughes of Virginia and Ben Jones of Purdue are options on the second day. Discuss the Saints team needs in our New Orleans Saints Forum.

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