Despite adding some off-season upgrades via the NFL Draft and the return of several key starters from injuries, the pass defense of the New Orleans Saints secondary isn't getting any Pre-Season 'love' from the folks that cover the NFL in the National Media.
In his column ranking the League's best pass defenses starting from #1 all the way down to #32, USA TODAY NFL Editor Nate Davis has New Orleans ranked DEAD LAST -- #32 out of 32 NFL teams -- as teams League-wide began readying to start their preparations for the upcoming 2017 season with some Training Camps opening as early as next week.
The Seattle Seahawks and their vaunted "Legion of Boom" secondary were ranked #1, with the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants ranked #2 and #3, respectively.
The Saints were the worst (#32 overall), behind #30 San Francisco and #31 Philadelphia.
Here's what Davis had to say specifically about the Saints:
#32. New Orleans Saints: After surrendering an NFL single-season record 45 TD passes in 2015, the Saints allowed the most passing yards in the league last year. Round 1 CB Marshon Lattimore is the latest sent into the breach.
Now to be fair, losing a total of 8 -- that's right, EIGHT -- defensive backs to injuries at one point or another throughout the course of last year; had a negative effect upon the unit's lack of overall success during the 2016 season.
When a NFL team is forced to literally sign players "right off the street", it can severely limit that team's chances at achieving ultimate success.
Does that mean that Davis' observation and subsequent ranking for this upcoming season is inaccurate?
That's yet to be determined, although much to the credit of the Saints front office: they've gone out and addressed the issue of upgrading the secondary this off-season with a sense of passion and urgency.
The secondary looks to be in much better shape this year now that all of last year's injured starters are returning back to action; along with the notable additions of 1st Round draft pick and former Ohio State All-American "lockdown" CB Marshon Lattimore of Ohio State, and the player that some are calling one of the biggest "steals" of the entire 2017 Draft: 2nd Round pick Marcus Williams of the University of Utah.
Therefore in a matter of months, the Saints defensive secondary -- at least "on paper" -- appears to have gone from one of the team's biggest weaknesses, to one of its true strengths.
However the team still has 2 weeks to go until Training Camp; and even though early reports have been that they've looked good during off-season OTA's and Mini-Camp, it doesn't necessarily serve as the visual proof needed to indicate that they really are improved.
Until we finally see the team in live action during the Pre-Season games and then in the first few weeks of the regular season (including a match-up at home against Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in Week #2), it's hard to gauge just how much -- if any -- they truly have gotten 'better'.
One thing that is for certain: they can't possibly be any worse than they were last year, when the team surrendered a League-high 4,380 yards to finish at the bottom of the NFL (#32) in total yards given up on pass defense --- which is legitimately the reason why Davis and USA TODAY have them ranked last still, going into the upcoming season ahead.
In the past 2 years alone (2015 and 2016), the Saints secondary has yielded nearly a whopping 9,000 yards in total passing yardage to opposing offenses (8,924).
When your defensive secondary gives up those type of numbers, it makes it hard to get any type of respect.
For the Saints, clearly the key to any success that they will have will rely mainly on staying healthy. There is no team in the NFL that can survive the level of catastrophic loss to injuries that the Saints were forced to overcome last year.
The general consensus among most people that cover the team is that if the Saints secondary is able to remain healthy, it should in turn allow their D-Line a sufficient amount of time to get pressure on the QB with the pass rush from up front.
That was something that didn't happen often enough in 2016 --- but potentially could make a very big difference heading into 2017........