Saints look to rely on offense
This is the second of a three-part series previewing the New Orleans Saints' 2003 football season.
By Richard Dark / EMG staff writer
Sept. 5, 2003
NEW ORLEANS Of all the questions surrounding the New Orleans Saints heading into the season opener this Sunday in Seattle, few of them revolve around the offensive side of the football.
But to be sure, there are a few areas of concern, even for a unit that is returning almost all of its starters from a spectacular outing in 2002 that saw them average nearly 30 points per game last season.
The centerpiece to the unit? That's easy.
Even more so than quarterback Aaron Brooks, former Ole Miss standout Deuce McAllister is the player that fuels the offense. Last season, he pounded his way to nearly 1,400 yards rushing and the NFC rushing title, making every member of the Black and Gold faithful forget all about Ricky Williams.
But an ankle injury late in the season hobbled him and subsequently the Saints' Gulf Coast Offense, largely dependent on Deuce's ability to establish the run, before airing it out, went south. The Saints proceeded to lose four of their final six games.
McAllister told his coaches before the start of this training camp that if he plays in all 16 games this season, he will gain at or above 2,000 yards combined rushing and receiving.
Through training camp and preseason, he has shown that he has worked on areas of needed improvement, such as picking up the pass rush and catching the ball.
The problem is, with one week to go before their first game, Haslett and offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy were without a viable backup for McAllister.
In the tough and gritty NFC South where defenses such as Tampa Bay and Carolina prove to be the toughest of obstacles, a 16-game slate is brutal on any ball carrier. That said, the Saints have to keep searching for a solution to the quandary of backup running back.
Injuries on the defensive side of the football in the last preseason game against Miami forced them to cut Ki-Jana Carter, who had racked up nearly120 all-purpose yards in that game.
So for the time being, they will have to rely on James Fenderson and fullback Terrelle Smith if something does happen. But a couple of McAllister's fellow Mississippians aren't looking for that at all.
Another benefactor of Deuce's explosive ability is Joe Horn. McAllister's success adds another dimension to the stellar offensive attack and usually ends up with Horn doing some damage of his own to a defense.
O-Line certainly helps
This is definitely a strong suit on this team, provided it can stay healthy. The malcontent Kyle Turley is gone, thus drastically improving the locker room chemistry, which seems to be at an all-time high since the Haslett regime began.
Guard LeCharles Bentley is coming off an impressive rookie campaign and veteran Wayne Gandy came over from Pittsburgh to replace Turley.
Gandy has delighted Haslett thus far.
Couple that with Kendyl Jacox and the battle that Spencer Folau and Victor Riley engaged in for the right tackle position during camp, and Brooks has one of the best safety nets in all of football. Draft picks Jon Stinchcomb and Montrae Holland will provide depth.
With Brooks at the controls and nine returnees, this unit has continuity.
Brooks' accuracy is the same as a season ago prior to the shoulder injury and his velocity is noticeably better. He is eager to atone for the late season boo birds he heard then and during the offseason.
If he stays healthy and has a breakout year that means the weapons at his disposal are putting up gaudy numbers also. If that happens, this unit could just simply outscore all its opponents.