Saints' 2016 schedule features notable returns to New Orleans

Saints' 2016 schedule features notable returns to New Orleans

(WVUE) - New Orleanians are proud of their hospitality, and they'll get to welcome a few former Saints back to the Crescent City this year. The following is a breakdown of notable returners to the Dome in 2016:

Week 1 – Raiders: Coach Jack Del Rio

Del Rio spent time with the Saints as a coach and player, even meeting his wife in New Orleans. When he faced the Saints as coach of the Jaguars, he spoke of his fondness for the city and now he will get a chance to return with an Oakland team that showed improvement in a 7-19 campaign.

Week 3 – Falcons: CB Robert Alford

Atlanta has a few former Louisiana residents but it is Alford who made his presence known in his NFL debut, which just so happened to be in New Orleans, when he intercepted Drew Brees in a 23-17 Saints win in 2013. He and fellow corner Jalen Collins will be keys to whether or not the Falcons' defense can succeed in 2016.

Week 6 – Panthers: QB Cam Newton

Carolina survived a week 13 shootout in 2015 but the then-undefeated Panthers had a major scare when Newton was hit hard by linebacker Michael Mauti as he tried to stroll into the end zone. He would recover to throw a game-winning touchdown pass but after 2015's 41-38 contest and a 2014 visit that featured a benches-clearing brawl, it's safe to say the Who Dat Nation will be eager to let Newton hear their collective voice.

Week 8 – Seahawks: TE Jimmy Graham

1 year and 1 month ago, Graham was the second-most popular player on the Saints, fresh off a new four-year deal but then he was traded to Seattle, where he was slow out of the gates before a knee injury ended his season. During his five years in New Orleans, he scored 51 touchdowns, many of them being celebrated with the now-illegal dunk celebration.

Week 10 – Broncos: QB Mark Sanchez

After the retirement of Peyton Manning and free agency departure of Brock Osweiler, Sanchez is penciled in as the Super Bowl champions' starting QB meaning he will return to the site where he had one of his worst appearances as a rookie for the Jets. In a week four outing, Sanchez threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown and two more picks on the Jets' final drives to put the game on ice.

Week 12 – Rams: DC Gregg Williams

If you think the conversion from Saint Louis Rams to Los Angeles Rams is jarring, compare some pictures of Williams during his New Orleans days to his Rams tenure. Appearance aside, Williams will be coaching in New Orleans for the first time since the bounty scandal. The Rams hosted the Saints in the 2015 preseason but this will be different.

Week 13 – Lions: S Rafael Bush

As a restricted free agent in 2015, Bush was almost swooped up by the Falcons but the Saints matched the offer sheet, only to see the versatile safety injured in week one at Arizona. Bush was a valuable contributor in 2013 but his last two years in New Orleans were marred by injury.

Week 16 – Buccaneers: LB Kwon Alexander

The LSU product was on his way to contending for defensive rookie of the year before a late November suspension for violating the PED policy cut his season short and kept him away from a trip to New Orleans. Drafted in the 4th round in 2015, the Saints passed on him five times.

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