I Promise You Won't Learn A Thing From This Blog

The official blog for author Ashley Chappell. Check back every week for a few laughs at my expense or, if you know the love-hate process that is writing, commiseration.

Friday, February 16, 2007

New Orleans Saints 2006 Season Summary

So they didn’t bring home the prize, and they didn’t play up to their full potential on the snowy Soldier Field.  But the fact remains that Sean Payton, Drew Brees, and a full cast of talented and versatile players took the New Orleans Saints to the NFC Championships for the first time since the ball club went pro in 1966 under the coaching hand of Tom Fears.  Most notable about this triumphant season is that they burst forth from the low expectations established by their previous season’s record of 3-13 and their mixture of fresh and untested faces.

Drew Brees captained the top-ranked offense in the NFL to a regular season record of 10-6 to win the NFC South Divisional Championship and the #2 spot in the NFC for a 1st week bye during the play-offs which allowed them to meet the Eagles fresh in their first play-off attempt since 2000.  This team began the 2006 season with an unimpressive pre-season and with all eyes on Reggie Bush, the #2 draft pick of 2006, to be the star of their season.  Bush didn’t fail to please and impress his supporters despite a slow start and a learning curve.  He even dazzled Saints and Bears fans alike when his fancy footwork set the record for the longest touchdown ever in a Championship game at 88 yards.  However, the true rookie surprise in New Orleans was the 7th round pick for wide receiver in Marques Colston.  He solidified his position in the Rookie of the Year discussions early in the season with his Week 3 trumping of Atlanta with 97 receiving yards and went on to finish the regular season with an impressive 1038 receiving yards. 

Among the impressive fresh faces was rookie Head Coach Sean Payton whose uber-understanding of the science of football lead to owner Tom Benson placing a great deal of faith in Payton when they shook up the roster beginning early in 2006.  During his experience as an offensive coordinator and quarterback coach he refined the games of players such as Drew Bledsoe, Vinny Testaverde, and Quincy Carter.  He has an eye for talent, which was evidenced by the Saints’ aggressive move for Drew Brees even as he was coming off of an intensive shoulder surgery, but he also has an innate ability to foster development in both young and experienced players.  Serving as Assistant Head Coach under Bill Parcells in Dallas before he made his New Orleans Debut gave him the opportunity to learn from an experienced and talented Head Coach.  He brought with him Gary Gibbs, former Dallas linebacker coach as his Defensive Coordinator in hopes to start building a defense threat in New Orleans which the club hasn’t been able to boast since the days of defensive madman Jim Mora Sr..  While the Saints were still largely dependent on an outscoring race with their opponents this season they still allowed the fewest points since 1992.

Now enough trumpeting the new faces, what about some of the seasoned veterans?  34-year old veteran Joe Horn was injured for the last 3 game of the regular season and was still unable to make a post season appearance.  But don’t discount his contributions based on that – in his 10 active games he garnered 679 receiving yards and averaged 18.4 yards per carry.  That’s a career high as a starter for Horn, whose stand-out game this year was his 110 yard game against the Eagles in Week 6.  3 year veteran Devery Henderson showed everyone he wasn’t afraid to step up to the plate this season with 6 total touchdowns, 745 receiving yards, and an average carry of 23.3 yards for only starting in 7 of his 13 total games.  Last, but not least, Deuce McAllister showed that he was still a big part of the heart and soul of New Orleans offense with a stellar return this year after missing most of last season with an injury.  In his 6th season with the Saints Deuce had a total of 1255 yards; not a career best, but an striking way to hush those who doubted his post-injury ability.

Now that they’ve stunned the NFL, what lies ahead for this team?  Look for the Saints to continue to hone their offensive power in 2007, but expect their personnel choices to focus on beefing up their defense to help support Scott Shanle and Scott Fujita while they head into a consecutive play-off season for only the second time since the ball club was formed.  The city of New Orleans still has a lot to celebrate; the Saints were contenders for Super Bowl XLI for the first time ever.  In Super Bowl XLII, they may well be competitors.