The New Orleans Saints open training camp tomorrow (July 25th) with renewed optimism, and a lot of new faces. Head coach Sean Payton says he's approaching 2013 as if it were his first with a new team. He did that in 2006. The result was a trip to the NFC Championship game.

Drew Brees has repeatedly expressed his pleasure in this being the first "normal" offseason for the Saints in four years.

Payton is back, and has wasted no time addressing the issues that arose in 2012. He fired the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach the day after returning to work.

5 reasons to feel good about the 2013 New Orleans Saints


His record speaks for itself. In six seasons before his suspension he rebranded the Saints, making them one of the most exciting teams in the NFL. The offense is one of the NFL's most prolific, breaking multiple franchise and NFL records.

Payton has led the Saints to the playoffs four times, the NFC title game twice and a Super Bowl title in 2009-10. The Saints won 37 regular season games in the three years preceding his suspension. They made the playoffs in each of those seasons. Payton brings not only his bold offensive play design, but the discipline and intensity to which his players have responded in the past.


The first change Payton made upon his return was to fire 2012 defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and hire Rob Ryan. This brings a change from the 4-3 defensive alignment to the 3-4. This means several players will now change positions. There will also be new faces. The Saints went for defense in the draft, and have been aggressive  in the free agent market. Players say the adjustment has not been difficult because the Saints effectively were in a 3-4 for a number of their blitz packages under Gregg Williams from 2009-11.


Defensive captains Jonathan Vilma and Smith are entering their 10th NFL seasons. They're out to prove they can be effective in new roles. Smith played his first nine seasons at defensive end. Now he's an outside linebacker. meaning the pass rush won't be his only responsibility. Vilma has been most effective as a middle linebacker in a 4-3. Early in his career, he struggled when his previous team, the Jets switched to a 3-4. He'll be in a 3-4 again. Payton says he believes Vilma can be effective on the weak side, while Curtis Lofton will be the strong side middle linebacker.


Brees' blind side has been protected by left tackle Jermon Bushrod for four years. Bushrod left during free agency for Chicago. The Saints hope 2010 second-round draft choice Charles Brown is ready to step in. He'll have Competition from will former St. Louis first-round pick Jason Smith, and 2013 third-round pick Terron Armstead.


The Saints have several young receivers vying for playing time behind veterans Marques Colston and Lance Moore. The apparent front-runner is Joseph Morgan, who joined the club as an undrafted free agent in 2011. He didn't see action in 2012 after spending his rookie year on injured reserve. His speed, and youth have given the coaching staff the confidence to allow veteran Devery Henderson to leave in free agency.  2012 fourth-round draft pick Nick Toon and rookie Kenny Stills will  also compete for playing time.

The Saints face a difficult schedule in 2013. The TV people seem to think they'll be worth watching. The Black & Gold will be featured in 4 prime time games this season.