After winning Super Bowl 44, the New Orleans Saints used the 2010 NFL Draft on two developmental draft picks on the best player available with Florida State cornerback Patrick Robinson and USC offensive tackle Charles Brown who started at left tackle for 2 seasons.
In round 1 with the 32nd overall pick the Saints took Robinson and used him as a reserve nickel cornerback behind Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter. In the NFL Playoffs, Patrick Robinson has struggled against slot receivers on the outside. Now Robinson will be facing much tougher wide receivers in coverage on the inside. 2011 5th round pick Johnny Patrick is moving to the nickel. Jabari Greer, who happens to be the Saints primary field cornerback, has been slowly declining each season since the Saints won Super Bowl 44. Greer even had some difficulty covering Reggie Wayne in the first half of that Super Bowl.
I think this is the season where Greer finally gets abused by wide receivers in the NFC South. If Robinson cannot step up then the Saints will have one of the leagues worst cornerback tandems in a time when the NFC South has young quarterbacks beginning to emerge into borderline pro bowl candidates.
In round 2 with the 64th overall pick the Saints took offensive tackle Charles Brown. The Saints let Brown develop as a reserve offensive tackle as a rookie. Brown was used as a rotational right tackle in year 2. Brown will start across from Bushrod in 2012. The Saints like what they see from Charles Brown which is a good thing because the Saints will need good offensive tackle play on the right side of the offensive line with Sean Payton being suspended for bounty gate.
New Orleans does not pick until pick 89 on day 2 of the 2012 NFL Draft. The Saints need to put faith in there first two selections from the 2010 NFL draft to see if either is a long term option. 2012, already feels sort of like a lost season without Sean Payton at head coach for the Saints.
Free Agency Recap
The Saints brought in Broderick Bunkley as a defensive tackle for depth in free agency. The Saints also added Ben Grubbs to replace Carl Nicks at left guard.
New Orleans found some quality linebackers despite Jonathan Vilma being suspended. The Saints picked up Curtis Lofton off the division rival Atlanta Falcons. Adding David Hawthrone as a replacement to Jo Lon Dunbar at left outside linebacker on the strong side helps. Chris Chamberlain will be a serviceable depth player at right outside linebacker behind Scott Schanle. Both Chamberlain and Shanle are temporary fill ins until Jonathan Vilma returns from his suspension due to bounty gate. Vilma will likely move to right outside linebacker on the weak side once he returns from his suspension due to bounty gate.
The Saints franchised quarterback Drew Brees. Brees was unhappy about this initially before Bree’s favorite target Marques Colston got a 5 year extension.
2012 NFL Draft Needs
Center The Saints need a starter at center. Neither Brian De La Puente or Matt Tennant is equipped to start at center. Teams with 3-4 nose tackles and 2 4-3 defensive tackles will be able to weaken the Saints interior offensive line.
Dime Cornerback Part of me feels like the Saints need to obtain a #1 field cornerback. Jabari Greer tends to struggle against teams with #1 wide receivers. The only reason I have been objective about Greer for so many years is because he managed to remain the Saints top cornerback while helping young players on secondary like Tracy Porter, Roman Harper, Malcolm Jenkins, Patrick Robinson, and Johnny Patrick develop. Having a underrated presence on the Saints secondary.
I really feel like the Saints pass defense will collapse this year now that Tracy Porter is gone. Patrick Robinson has struggled in the playoffs as a nickel cornerback against slot receivers. I want to give Robinson a fair chance to prove me wrong since he was a 2010 1st round pick, which is why I’m trying to reserve my judgement about Robinson at this point. Robinson did not leave Saints fans with a good impression over his first two seasons if you watched the Saints in the postseason.
Even if Greer and Robinson are the starting cornerbacks there is no question that cornerback depth is needed. 2011 5th round pick Johnny Patrick is the current nickel cornerback and will be expected to step into a starting role if either Greer or Robinson gets injured.
If you watched the NFL Playoff videos for Rant Sports, our director of content Dan Parzych mentions how the Saints pass defense is suspect. I thought the Saints would have a chance to make a Super Bowl run with the current depth of players on secondary last season.
When the 2012 NFL playoffs started I saw the Saints pass defense get picked apart with ease courtesy of the Detroit Lions and the San Francisco 49ers. Watching the Saints secondary play in the playoffs was just like watching the Saints pass defense in their playoff loss to a 7-9 Seattle Seahawks team. Tracy Porter is hoping to win a 2nd Super Bowl with Peyton Manning after robbing Peyton Manning of a second Super Bowl Title in Super Bowl 44.
Without Tracy Porter, the Saints suspect pass defense could be worse in 2012. This only hurts the Saints with bounty gate plus the rest of the NFC South quarterbacks on the cusp of becoming borderline perennial pro bowlers with another season of development.
New Orleans will be have difficulty covering on pass defense. The secondary needs to compensate for this by being one of the leagues best teams in turnovers. The Saints want to put a higher emphasis on covering receivers rather than forcing turnovers so it will be interesting to see how the Saints cornerback situation plays out.
Defensive Tackle Depth The Saints need a defensive tackle for depth behind Sedrick Ellis and Broderick Bunkley.
Safety Depth The Saints need safety depth behind both Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins.
2012 NFL Draft Strategy
The Saints should try to find a starting center in round 3. The Saints can use the other day 3 picks to find depth players hoping to add more depth at defensive tackle and secondary.
Playoffs or No Playoffs? No Playoffs. I never pick Super Bowl hosts to make the playoffs. While I was foolish for picking McNabb to reach the playoffs in 2010, I looked smart for ignoring the Cowboys Super Bowl prediction that Skip Bayless made a few years ago when Dallas first opened the new Cowboys stadium.
Before the Peyton Manning injury, I had the Colts picking 10th overall in my initial 2012 NFL Mock Draft back in June because I never count on Super Bowl hosts to make the playoffs. I had no idea that the Colts would hit the jackpot with Andrew Luck due to the absence of Peyton Manning.
The Super Bowl is in New Orleans this year. The Saints got busted for Bounty Gate. The fact that Matt Ryan, Josh Freeman, and Cam Newton can all play at a high level if you build an offense around them. These 3 quarterbacks could all take that next step and exploit an horrid Saints secondary. I could see Drew Brees having an off year without head coach Sean Payton.