QUARTERBACK: Starter -- Drew Brees. Backups -- Jamie Martin.
Brees hasn't had the MVP type of season up to this point that many were predicting, but he's played much better during the Saints three game winning streak.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters --HB Reggie Bush, FB Mike Karney. Backups:, HB Aaron Stecker, HB Pierre Thomas.
Bush has handled much of the workload since Deuce McCallister went down with his torn ACL. Bush is explosive in space, but struggles running between the tackles. Stecker will likely be a third-down back and kick returner. Karney has proven to be a valuable asset to the Saints running backs with his blocking skills.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Eric Johnson. Backups -- Billy Miller, John Owens, Ronnie Ghent.
Johnson has the ability to catch some passes, and look for him to expose the middle of the field against the Jacksonville defense. Miller turned out to be a solid acquisition late last season as a receiver and extra blocker.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Marques Colston, Lance Moore. Backups -- David Patten, Terrance Copper, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem.
Colston has been coming on of late after a tough start to the year. Moore and Henderson have taken over for Joe Horn. Henderson is the Saints best deep threat. Patten and Copper battled throughout the exhibition season for the third receiving spot, but all six of these receivers have had a chance to showcase their talents in this offense.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Jammal Brown, LG Jamar Nesbit, C Jeff Faine, RG Jahri Evans, RT Jon Stinchcomb. Backups -- G/C Jonathan Goodwin, T Zach Strief, T Jermon Bushrod, G Andy Alleman.
A solid group that gave up just 18 sacks in the first 15 games of 2006 returns intact, much to Brees' delight. Brown earned All-Pro honors after switching to left tackle to protect Brees' blind side, but Nesbit, Faine and Stinchcomb were solid as well. Evans stepped in as a rookie and performed like a 10-year veteran. Goodwin and Strief are solid backups.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LE Charles Grant, DT Brian Young, DT Hollis Thomas,, RE Will Smith. Backups -- DT Antwan Lake DE Rob Ninkovich, DE Josh Cooper RT Kendrick Clancy.
The Saints' defensive front is a formidable group when Grant and Smith, who combined for 16 1/2 sacks a year ago, are at the top of their game. They bring a lot of speed and power off the edge, but are keys to the run defense as well. Lake will likely start at the beginning of the season while Young continues to come back from a fractured foot and Clancy won the starting nose tackle spot because of Thomas' weight issues, but all are important in their weekly rotation.
LINEBACKERS: Starters -- SLB Scott Fujita, MLB Mark Simoneau, WLB Scott Shanle. Backups -- MLB Brian Simmons, MLB Alfred Fincher,WLB Troy Evans, Marvin Mitchell.
This group is expecting a lot more after learning to play together on the run last season following the late-preseason additions of Simoneau and Shanle. But they're much more comfortable with each other now. The depth of the unit is vastly improved with the addition of Simmons, who could not unseat Simoneau in the middle, Jones and Evans, who is a special-teams demon.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Mike McKenzie, FS Josh Bullocks, SS Roman Harper, RCB Jason David. Backups -- S Kevin Kaesviharn, CB Fred Thomas, CB Jason Craft, S Jay Bellamy, CB Usama Young.
This unit ranked third against the pass last season but have struggled in 2007. Currently the Saints rank 25th against the pass. Even though they may not start, Kaesviharn, Thomas, Craft and Bellamy give them plenty of options in the nickel and dime packages. Young has shown lots of ability in the preseason.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Starters -- PK Olindo Mare, P Steve Weatherford, LS Kevin Houser, KOR Lance Moore, Aaron Stecker, PR Reggie Bush.
Mare, a strong-legged former Miami Dolphins star, takes over for the dependable and accurate John Carney. But the punter remains the same as Weatherford won a close duel with former Pro Bowl punter Chris Hanson in training camp and the exhibition season. Houser has developed into one of the leagues' better long snappers over the years. Moore and Bush give the Saints two of the speedier return men in the game.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Jagnation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.
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