Which five Saints have the most to gain — and the most to lose — at training camp? Saintsinsider.com has the scoop for you in this exclusive analysis. Just click here to check it out.
QUARTERBACK: Starter -- Drew Brees. Backups -- Mark Brunell, Tyler Palko, Travis Lulay.
Brees is coming off two big seasons, helping the Saints lead the NFL in total offense in 2006 and ranking fourth in '07. The Saints are expecting more of the same after he set club records for passing yards (4,423), TDs (28), pass attempts (652), completions (440) and completion percentage (67.5). In addition, he set an NFL record with his 440 completions. Brees has a new backup as Brunell has replaced Jamie Martin, giving the Saints a better option should Brees suffer an injury. Palko, a second-year pro, will likely be the third-stringer if the Saints decide to keep three on the roster.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB Reggie Bush, FB Mike Karney. Backups: RB Deuce McAllister, RB Aaron Stecker, RB Pierre Thomas, RB Chris Barclay, RB Lynell Hamilton, FB Kevin Dudley, FB Olaniyi Sobomehin.
Bush struggled in his second season, but part of that was because of a season-ending knee injury to McAllister in Week 3 and leg injuries of his own. Bush is determined to prove that he's not a bust and dedicated himself more this off-season than last after rushing for just 581 yards. He was still a big threat in the passing game. McAllister will likely be limited in training camp, but his rehab from two knee surgeries is on schedule. That's good news for the Saints, who ranked 28th in rushing last season at 91.6 yards a game. Stecker and Thomas filled in nicely when Bush missed the final four games with a knee injury. Thomas had 226 total yards in the season finale and opened some eyes. Karney remains a solid lead blocker.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Mark Campbell. Backups -- Eric Johnson, Billy Miller, Ronnie Ghent, Buck Ortega.
Campbell injured his back late in the preseason and subsequent surgery put him on injured reserve for the entire season. The Saints believe his absence was one of the reasons for the running game's struggles as he solid as a run blocker. Johnson was a solid receiving threat and finished fourth on the team with 48 receptions and two TDs despite some injury problems and Miller, who is also valued for his blocking, had another productive year with 27 catches for 328 yards and a pair of TDs.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Marques Colston, David Patten. Backups -- Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson, Terrance Copper, Lance Moore, Adrian Arrington, Skyler Green, Todd Blythe, Carlos Robinson.
Colston is poised for another big season after becoming one of the league's elite receivers last year. He piled up 1,202 receiving yards and 11 TDs and was second in the NFC with 98 receptions. The former seventh-round draft pick now has 168 catches in just two seasons, the most in league history for a player in his first two years. Patten worked his way into the starting lineup and had a nice season with 54 catches for 792 yards and three TDs. Moore and Henderson struggled with their consistency, which is why the Saints are hoping Meachem, a first-round pick in 2007, steps up after he was inactive for all 16 games last season. Meachem's season was wrecked when he was injured in a June minicamp and he never caught up.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Jammal Brown, LG Jamar Nesbit, C Jonathan Goodwin, RG Jahri Evans, RT Jon Stinchcomb. Backups -- G/C Matt Lehr, T Zach Strief, T Jermon Bushrod, G Andy Alleman, G Tim Duckworth, T/G Carl Nicks, T Brian Stamper, C Rob Hunt, G Isaiah Ross.
The Saints didn't have a lot of success running the ball last season, but it wasn't all the fault of the offensive line. They were solid in protecting Brees, allowing a league-low 16 sacks after giving up just 23 in 2006. Center Jeff Faine left in free agency, but two-year backup Jonathan Goodwin, who was a solid fill-in for two games last season, is expected to join Brown, Nesbit, Evans and Stinchcomb -- who will be starting in the same spots for the third consecutive season. Lehr provides experienced depth at guard and center, while the Saints continue to groom youngsters like Strief, Bushrod and Alleman for the future.
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