At age 35, Drew Brees isn't showing any signs of slowing down in his NFL career. Last fall he threw for more than 5,000 yards and 41 total touchdowns, adding several new records to an already impressive resume.
Now in his ninth season in New Orleans, Brees plans to lead the Black-and-Gold back into the playoffs in pursuit of a second Lombardi Trophy. While the Saints will go as far as number nine takes them, he won't have to do it alone.
Veteran wide out Marques Colston, nicknamed the Quiet Storm, continues to put up solid numbers without much fanfare (75 receptions, 943 yards, 5 touchdowns in 2013). Lance Moore may be gone, but second-year pro Kenny Stills will be a key cog this year and Brandin Cooks could contend for offensive rookie of the year honors.
The Saints traded up in the first round of May's NFL draft to obtain the dynamic speedster and play maker, who wowed teammates during offseason workouts. Keeping this trio of wideouts healthy during training camp will be crucial to the offense's timing and rhythm.
Fresh off his 40-million dollar deal, Jimmy Graham is ready to maintain his status as the NFL's best tight end. He hauled in a franchise-record 16 touchdowns last year, and figures to be Brees' primary target once again.
Graham's toughness won't be questioned, but his ability to make catches in close quarters will something to keep an eye on, as well as his conditioning early in training camp after missing all of the Saints' Organized Team Activities and Minicamp. Ben Watson and Josh Hill provide depth at the tight end position.
The Saints were second in the league in passing yards per game last season at 307.4 per outing, however the key to a successful offensive attack is balance. New Orleans was 25th in rushing yards per game at 92.1. We'll see how much Sean Payton talks about wanting a more balanced offense. Darren Sproles is no longer in Black-and-Gold, but a quartet of Saints will carry the load. Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, Travaris Cadet and Khiry Robinson will all contribute this season. Thomas' versatility in the passing game is key to the Saints success, and Ingram will be playing for a lucrative pay day this season after the team declined to pick up his fifth-year option. Robinson may have a chance to emerge as the team's starter if he can deliver a solid training camp and preseason.
Up front, veterans Jahri Evans, Zach Strief and Ben Grubbs anchor the Saints offensive line. Evans and Grubbs are coming off 2013 Pro Bowl selections. Second-year pro Terron Armstead looks to hold on to the starting job at left tackle. Center may be up for grabs between Tim Lelito and veteran Jonathan Goodwin, who helped the Saints win Super Bowl XLIV and returned to the franchise this summer. Center and the fourth wide receiver spot should be the most intriguing position battles during camp. Robert Meachem, Nick Toon, Andy Tanner and Joe Morgan will all try to out-perform the others day after day.
Overall, the Saints offense should not miss a beat in 2014. Coach Sean Payton will find more of a groove being more than a full year removed from his Bounty Gate suspension, and Brees knows his window of opportunity is narrowing despite his consistent play, so the pressure is on this season. The goal during training camp is to build that chemistry and timing, teach the new additions the ins and outs of this intricate offense and work toward becoming a versatile and dynamic attack, one that will be effective in week one at the Falcons throughout a long post-season run.