The New Orleans Saints’ 5 Biggest Red Flags Heading into 2014

New Orleans Saints: The 5 Biggest Red Flags Heading into 2014

Drew Brees
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints, when significant-suspension free, are a perennial Super Bowl contender. Led by one of the most prolific quarterbacks in NFL history, Drew Brees, that isn't expected to change in 2014. However, here are five red flags that should concern Saints fans.

5. Jairus Byrd's Back Surgery

Jairus Byrd
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

5. Jairus Byrd's Back Surgery

Jairus Byrd
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

I'm guessing the Saints were unaware of Jairus Byrd's need for offseason back surgery when they made him one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL. From all accounts, it was a minor procedure, but the Saints broke the bank to reel in Byrd, so any issue is a cause for concern.

4. Jimmy Graham's Contract Situation

Jimmy Graham
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

4. Jimmy Graham's Contract Situation

Jimmy Graham
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Star tight end (or should I say "wide receiver"?) Jimmy Graham has been away from the team this offseason after filling a grievance to prevent being compensated like a tight end under the Saints' franchise tag. The situation has obviously created some tension between Graham and the organization. If any of that tension spills over to the season, the Saints might not be quite as dangerous offensively.

3. Ineffective Running Game

Pierre Thomas
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

3. Ineffective Running Game

Pierre Thomas
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

As explosive as the Saints are on offense, their rushing attack remains a work in progress. Pierre Thomas, who only averaged 3.7 yards per carry in 2013, will likely enter the year as the starter. If former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram ever lives up to his potential, New Orleans will be much more effective on the ground. Ingram only produced 386 rushing yards last season, though, offering little to suggest improvement is on the horizon.

2. Loss of Darren Sproles

Darren Sproles
Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

2. Loss of Darren Sproles

Darren Sproles
Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of running backs, Darren Sproles, one of the most dynamic playmakers in the league, left the Saints for the Eagles this offseason. During Sproles' three years in New Orleans, he averaged 77 receptions and 660 receiving yards per season. Brandin Cooks, a speedy receiver from Oregon State, was nabbed in the first round of May's draft to fill the void, but it will be difficult to replicate the impact Sproles had.

1. Road Woes

Drew Brees
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

1. Road Woes

Drew Brees
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints' finesse style of offense hasn't boded well on the road in recent seasons, particularly in December and January when the weather can limit Drew Brees' effectiveness. New Orleans is only 1-4 under Sean Payton on the road in postseason play. To get back to the Super Bowl, the Saints may need to earn home-field advantage in the playoffs -- a seemingly unlikely feat at this juncture.


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