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NFL New Orleans Saints

New Orleans Saints: 5 Players Facing Make-or-Break Seasons in 2013

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5 Players Looking to Break Out This Season

New Orleans
John David Mercer - USA TODAY Sports

Last offseason, the New Orleans Saints were in the midst of one of the greatest scandals in NFL history. Bounty-Gate was under investigation from league offices. Eventually, fines and suspensions would be handed out. Head coach Sean Payton missed the entire 2012 season because of the penalties handed down. The Saints started out slow, but had a nice finish to the season as they had a 7-9 record.

With Payton back on the sidelines for the Saints and Drew Brees still running the offense to precision, they are looking to bounce back this season and challenge the Atlanta Falcons for the division. Of course, the Saints would really like to get back to the Super Bowl form they showed several seasons back. They have the pieces in place and the Payton-to-Brees combination is one of the best quarterback/coach combinations in the league. Rob Ryan is the new defensive coordinator and in order for the Saints to return to the elite status, they are going to need some people to step up and be the players they can potentially be.

Whether offensively or defensively, it's important that that each player gives everything they possibly can. This is what Payton expects and is what he will be looking for as he returns from the suspension. Here is a list of players for the Saints that are facing make-or-break seasons.

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Mark Ingram - Running Back

New Orleans
Matthew Emmons - USA TODAY Sports

The former Heisman Trophy winner was a first-round draft pick of the Saints. Averaging just 3.9 yards a carry, the Saints need Ingram to step up and take some of the burden off of Drew Brees. Ingram, in his two seasons in the NFL, has only scored 10 touchdowns. Ingram is only averaging 10.6 caries per game in his young career.

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Pierre Thomas - Running Back

New Orleans
Anthony Gruppuso - USA TODAY Sports

Like Ingram, the Saints have been waiting for Thomas to emerge as a star running back to help shoulder some of the load off of Brees and the passing game. One of the running backs needs to take initiative and become the featured back in this offense.

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Jonathan Vilma - Linebacker

New Orleans
Derick E. Hingle - USA TODAY Sports

After his alleged involvement with the Bounty-gate scandal, Vilma missed five games last season due to a suspension. When the suspension was lifted, Vilma played in 11 games but had one of his worst statistical seasons of his career. The Saints need Vilma to step up and return to his pre-bounty days.

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Will Smith - Defensive End

New Orleans
Derick E. Hingle - USA TODAY Sports

The nine-year veteran defensive end has constantly been on the field for the Saints. Having only missed five games during his career, Smith is a force on the Saints defensive line. The problem is that he's only averaging 2.35 tackles a game in his career. The Saints organization and Saints' fans have to expect better from the veteran.

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Malcolm Jenkins - Safety

New Orleans
Kelley L. Cox - USA TODAY Sports

Saints fans are ready for this former first-round pick to finally emerge as the star they hoped for when he was drafted. Jenkins dropped to the Saints at the 14th pick when he ran a slower 40-yard dash at the combine. The Saints were happy with the Ohio State draft pick, but he hasn't quite lived up to the billing in his first four years. This is the year where he has to bust out, or the Saints may need to look at moving in a different direction at safety.