Passing: 8 Though the Saints finished in the top 10 in passing defense this was partially done with smoke and mirrors. Coach Haslett and his defensive staff deserve a great deal of credit for their defensive scheme which hides the Saints questionable talent in the defensive backfield. New Orleans finished tied for 20th in interceptions with 14 and tied for 21st in sacks with 32. Both of those numbers must be improved.
Rushing: 27 The off season trade of Norman Hand and mid season cutting of Grady Jackson will probably be good in the long run, but this season it left the Saints short handed at DT. While Jonathan Sullivan played well for most of the year, injuries to the Saints defensive linemen made it difficult for the Saints to start the same unit each week and their effectiveness was compromised.
Scoring: 14 The Saints finished a respectable 14th in scoring, the injuries to some of their key players probably hurt them here but an infusion of youth throughout their defense would help them.
Rushing: 11 Deuce McAlister was the teams MVP of the 2003 season. McAlister established himself as one of the finest backs in the league when he topped 100 yards 9 straight weeks. The blocking of Terrelle Smith and the Saints offensive line make the rushing offense the strength of their team.
Passing: 8 Aaron Brooks closed out the season strong. Joe Horn continues to remain among the best WR's in the league. Unfortunately Donte Stallworth was an injury concern for most of the year and Ernie Conwell battled a case of the drops and was thusly rendered ineffective. The Saints issue here is not related to talent, rather the consistency of that talent. Look for Talman Gardner to push someone for some playing time next year. The Saints might want to add a TE but their defensive needs are much greater so TE will likely not be a high priority this off season.
Scoring: 14 Like their defensive teammates the Saints offense also finished 14th overall in the league in scoring. A healthy Donte Stallworth, offensive line, and anything remotely similar to the Ernie Conwell of pre-2003 should help them improve next year.
The Saints have the 18th pick in the first round and the 17th pick (49 overall) in the second round. They should be able to bring in two solid players that can contribute immediately with these two picks. The Saints 4 primary needs in our eyes are
The top 3 needs are almost interchangeable and the Saints would be wise to address whichever one has the best player available. Next week Saintsinsider will focus on the DT's available in the draft and who might be available to the Saints in rounds 1, 2, and 3, as well as their second day options.