5 New Orleans Saints Facing Make-or-Break Seasons in 2014

5 New Orleans Saints Facing Make-or-Break Seasons in 2014

Patrick Robinson
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Much of the discussion surrounding the New Orleans Saints these days pertains to the club's plans for the 2014 NFL Draft. But it's never too early to begin previewing the upcoming season for some of the Saints' current players. Here are five Saints who are set to enter a make-or-break campaign in 2014.

5. Brodrick Bunkley, Nose Tackle

Brodrick Bunkley
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

5. Brodrick Bunkley, Nose Tackle

Brodrick Bunkley
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Brodrick Bunkley, a 30-year-old veteran nose tackle, is on shaky ground. His play has been declining -- ranked as Pro Football Focus' 41st-most efficient interior defensive lineman in 2013 -- and the future of the position, John Jenkins, was nabbed in the third round of last April's draft. Bunkley needs a big year to hang on to his starting role and roster spot.

4. David Hawthorne, Inside Linebacker

David Hawthorne
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

4. David Hawthorne, Inside Linebacker

David Hawthorne
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

David Hawthorne struggled in coverage and against the run after kicking inside in the Saints' 3-4 base defense. His starting role isn't thought to be in immediate jeopardy, but he should strive for improvement in 2014 if he hopes to remain apart of the club's long-term plans.

3. Victor Butler, Outside Linebacker

Victor Butler
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

3. Victor Butler, Outside Linebacker

Victor Butler
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

After signing with New Orleans last offseason, Victor Butler missed the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL. At full strength, Butler is expected to be a key addition to Rob Ryan's defense. He's entering a contract season, though, where he'll need to prove more than his ability to successfully return from injury.

2. Patrick Robinson, Cornerback

Patrick Robinson
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

2. Patrick Robinson, Cornerback

Patrick Robinson
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The former first-round pick has been a big disappointment through four years with the team. With only one year remaining on his deal, Patrick Robinson essentially has one last chance to show he wasn't a bust. He'll have to do much better than his showing in 2012 -- his last healthy season -- when he ranked as Pro Football Focus' 89th-most efficient cornerback. A similar effort would be his final straw with the Saints.

1. Mark Ingram, Running Back

Mark Ingram
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

1. Mark Ingram, Running Back

Mark Ingram
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Like Robinson, running back Mark Ingram is a former first-round pick looking to prove his worth in 2014. Ingram is also a former Heisman Trophy winner, which certainly intensifies the pressure to produce in the NFL. Free agency awaits Ingram in 2015. In order to command a sizable market, he'll need to finally live up to his draft status this coming season.


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