Training camp goals — New Orleans

As preparations continue for training camp across the NFC South, BucsBlitz.com is out to keep its readers abreast of what's going on in the entire division. Today's final camp goals feature is on the New Orleans Saints.



1. Identify a No. 2 wide receiver

With four-time Pro Bowler Joe Horn being granted his release just before the start of free agency, the Saints will be looking for the player or players to complement rising second-year star Marques Colston.

A seventh-round draft pick in 2006, Colston came out of nowhere and cost Donte Stallworth not only his starting job but his spot on the roster by the end of training camp. Then, Colston made Horn expendable with a solid season that included 70 catches for more than 1,000 yards.

The Saints selected Robert Meachem in the first round of the April draft with the 27th overall pick, but he struggled during the off-season workouts and eventually had arthroscopic knee surgery. He should be OK for the start of camp, but the Saints have other options if he continues to be shaky --- like speedy fourth-year pro Devery Henderson and Terrance Copper.

Henderson led the NFL at 23.3 yards per catch and had five touchdown grabs, but was inconsistent at times and had too many drops. Copper, on the other hand, averaged a healthy 16.7 yards per catch and was steady after a couple of fumbles at mid-season.

2. Create some competition at linebacker

The Saints, in fact, have already created the competition at linebacker. Now all the coaches have to do is sit back and let it play out — one year after they paraded linebacker after linebacker onto the roster during training camp.

The team finally settled on the starting unit of Scott Shanle, Mark Simoneau and Scott Fujita last season after acquiring Shanle and Simoneau in separate trades late in training camp. But nothing is guaranteed this season after the Saints brought in former NFL starters Brian Simmons and Dhani Jones.

Simmons and Jones are expected to push for starting jobs, which should only make Shanle, Simoneau and Fujita hungrier after all three enjoyed solid seasons in 2006.

New acquisitions Troy Evans and Trev Faulk further upgraded that area of the team, but they're expected to vie for backup jobs and spots on special teams while making the starters better.

3. Settle on a starting kickoff returner

The Saints released former All-Pro and NFL record-holder Michael Lewis on the day after the team concluded its off-season workouts, so his replacement will remain a mystery until camp begins.

Running back Aaron Stecker and now-retired special teams ace Fred McAfee both returned kicks in the first half of the 2006 season when Lewis was slow to return after tearing his ACL early in 2005.

Stecker would be the logical choice to fill Lewis' shoes, but there is some question as to whether he'll be around this year after the Saints chose Ohio State running back Antonio Pittman in the fourth round of this year's draft.

Want to see the other features in the series? Click here for Atlanta and Carolina.


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