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Panthers Pre-Training Camp 2016 Opponent Preview: Saints Edition

In week 6 of the 2016 season the Panthers round out their three game run against the NFCS against the Saints. Here's an offseason summary of the Saints activity from an SBN Saints blogger.

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

This info is courtesy of Canal Street Chronicles.

First we start with the front office moves:

Notable free agent additions: TE Coby Fleener; DT Nick Fairley; LB Craig Robertson

Notable free agent departures: WR Marques Colston; G Jahri Evans; LBs David Hawthorne & Ramon Humber

Trades: Traded their 2016 3rd & 4th round picks to the Patriots to move back into the 2nd round (61st overall) and acquire S Vonn Bell; Traded their 2016 & 2017 5th round picks to the Washington Redskins to get a 4th round pick and selected DL David Onyemata

It will interesting to see what Fleener does with Drew Brees at QB. Was his inconsistency in Indy due to his QB or the offensive scheme or just the player himself? If he still looks run of the mill then we have our answer. Overall I think the Saints helped themselves a little in free agency but not near enough to challenge for the NFCS.

I will say though they had a nice draft, on paper anyway:

Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies: DT Sheldon Rankins (Round 1); S Vonn Bell Round 2); WR Michael Thomas (Round 2); DL David Onyemata (Round 4)

You always have to see them on the field to get a true sense but all four of those picks should be starters in the near future. Thomas might finally be a deep threat for Brees provided his arm isn't toast.

This next one surprises me.

Biggest offseason addition: This will be a point of contention for many Saints’ fans, but the Saints’ biggest offseason addition on the field will presumably be rookie Sheldon Rankins.  The Saints’ complete lack of interior pass rush in 2015 is what led to this pick, and he was the consensus pick for many experts once he outstripped Alabama NT A’Shawn Robinson in most workouts.  A notable mention goes to TE Coby Fleener, but with Drew Brees giving Benjamin Watson the best receiving season of his career just last season, the Saints likely see TE as a plug & play position these days.

Seems they paid a good bit for a plug and play TE. I would hope Fleener has a bigger impact than a rookie DT but then again, the Saints pass rush has been non-existent.

Biggest storyline heading into training camp: With what has consistently been one of the worst defenses in the NFL for several years (really since the departure of Gregg Williams), the Saints hope that Dennis Allen can bring them some stability at the defensive coordinator position.  Allen was the Saints’ DC for 6 games last season, in which the Saints went 3-3.  Known as a secondary coach first, Allen hopes to bring the Saints up from the depths of being one of the worst pass defenses in NFL history last year.

They have some talent at the safety position but beyond Keenan Lewis that the secondary is young and inexperienced. They will need either Damian Swann or PJ Williams to develop in a hurry. It will take Allen a couple seasons to get the right personnel.

Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp: Getting carries in a running back by committee system is always a battle, and the Saints have a few hungry players this year.  Tim Hightower’s surprising breakout towards the end of last year led to the Saints re-signing him to a one year deal.  Rookie RB Daniel Lasco is a lifelong Saints’ fan getting the opportunity to prove himself to the Saints, and sophomore Daniel Murphy is vying for carries as well after primarily serving as a return specialist in his rookie year.  CJ Spiller is heading into the second year of his 4 year deal after a massively disappointing 2015, and the Saints hope to recapture some of the excitement that he brought to the Buffalo offense.

My biggest hope is that Spiller sucks yet again because he is scary good when healthy. 'When healthy' is the key phrase. I see no mention of Mark Ingram who also caught 50 balls for 400 yards on top of running for 769. He seemed much more of a factor in the offense last season thought he still missed some games. I have to assume these guys are fighting for back-up carries.

Notable injuries heading into training camp: OLB Hau’oli Kikaha (Torn ACL); CB Kyle Wilson (Torn Labrum); S Jairus Byrd (Knee); CB Keenan Lewis (Knee/Hip); RB CJ Spiller (Knee)

So how many games do you think the Saints will win in 2016?