The defending NFC South champions have Super Bowl LIII aspirations. So what five players for the New Orleans Saints must be better in 2018?
The stage is set for a potential big year from a franchise that has been somewhat quiet in recent seasons. Entering 2017, the New Orleans Saints has finished 7-9 four of the previous five years. There was a wild-card appearance in ’13 and a playoff victory that same year. But more times than not, Sean Payton’s squad had put up impressive offensive numbers only to see the New Orleans’ defense rank amongst the worst units in the league.
That appeared to change this past season as the Saints overcame a 0-2 start to finish 11-5 and capture the NFC South for the first time since 2011. The catalyst was a well-balanced attack and a defense that played its best football in years. This offseason, the club fortified some of its weak spots by bringing back a number of players very familiar with the club.
That’s all well and good. But the team’s 11 wins in ’17 wasn’t good enough to secure a first-round playoff bye. Payton’s team has loftier goals this year as he and prolific passer Drew Brees enter their 13th season with the franchise. So which five players on the roster need to improve for the club to be better in 2018?
5. Larry Warford
More times than not, the No. 5 spot on the list in this series revolves around a player that comes off a solid season but may need a little tweaking when it comes to one aspect of their game. In his first year in the Big Easy, guard Larry Warford made it look just that. He played and started 14 regular-season games for Sean Payton’s club. In his first NFL season, he was named to his first Pro Bowl.
While the one-time member of the Detroit Lions was an asset to an offensive line that had its share of injuries to deal with even before the start of the season, the 6’3”, 317-pound performer could be a bit better when it comes to run blocking – as indicated by the numbers provided by Pro Football Focus. It may sound like a little nit-picking here, but this is a club that wants to stress the ground game these days.
Make no mistake. Warford comes off a career year. But a little improvement in this one key area and he could wind up garnering All-Pro status down the line.