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Potential Problems, Question Marks Linger for Saints in Preseason

Sometimes Joseph Morgan looks like a big time NFL playmaker - if his hands cooperate. The Saints would like to see consistency from him and other candidates for the fourth wide receiver spot left open by the loss of Robert Meachem in free agency (Photo: Parker Waters).Sometimes Joseph Morgan looks like a big time NFL playmaker - if his hands cooperate. The Saints would like to see consistency from him and other candidates for the fourth wide receiver spot left open by the loss of Robert Meachem in free agency (Photo: Parker Waters).

As the media interviewed newly-signed free agent wide receiver Greg Camirillo in the lockeroom Monday, I could arrive at just one conclusion.

The New Orleans Saints had a great offseason personnel-wise, but they have still been hurt by free agency.

What if Robert Meachem were still in black and gold and not in San Diego's powder blue?

The salary cap forced the Saints to choose: sign Meachem or Marques Colston, one or the other.

Even before Camirillo arrived, the fourth wide out battle was coming down to one receiver with one career reception as a Saint (Courtney Roby, a very good special teams player), another receiver who resided on the Saints practice squad last season (Andy Tanner), athird wide out who has speed but questionable hands (Joseph Morgan), and a veteran receiver who cannot seem to stay healthy (Adrian Arrington, hurt again by the way).

Fourth round draft choice Nick Toon was selected to try to fill that open spot but has been sidelined by a foot injury. The NFL can be a tricky leap for rookie receivers. Meachem and Devery Henderson were both non-contributors as first-year pros. Colston, with his 70 receptions and eight touchdowns in a stunning 2006 debut, is the exception.

Meanwhile at cornerback, the Saints chose not to sign Tracy Porter to a long term deal.

The what if? What if the Saints have injuries to their two top guys? (Patrick Robinson and Jabari Greer) has already happened. In a perfect world, the Saints could have retained Porter, who is not a very good tackler but when healthy is a quality, experienced cover corner.

Weathering injuries have always been a big part of success in the NFL. When the games start to count in September, so does the ferocity of the contact.

When Porter and Greer missed a combined 11 games in 2009, New Orleans was able to weather the storm. Malcolm Jenkins was among those providing quality depth at the cornerback spot at the time.

For much of this offseason, comparisons have been drawn between the 2012 Saints (bountygate), and the 2007 New England Patriots (spygate).

But that comparison doesn't seem to hold any water.

New England's alleged sin, the taping of the defensive signals of the division rival New York Jets, was a potential distraction and nothing else.

In the bounty penalties, the Saints lost two second round draft choices, a veteran middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the season, head coach Sean Payton for the season, general manager Mickey Loomis for eight games, interim head coach Joe Vitt for six games, and defensive end Will Smith for four games.

The Saints and Patriots are truly apples and oranges.

The preseason injury list in New Orleans has been lengthy, and when Vitt temporarily departs in two weeks, the challenges will only grow.

The replacement for the interim coach won't have a club merely on automatic pilot. He will be responsible for many in game decisions and will have to push the right buttons to get his team's attention every week.

Sean Payton was, and is, a master at managing a season.

If the organization can steer the ship into the playoffs in 2012, it will truly be a masterful stroke for the entire group.

Since March, the Saints have faced severe football headwind. Today, those winds continue unabated.

 

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