AP NEWS

Saints Preview Capsule

September 3, 2017

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (7-9)

New faces: RB Adrian Peterson, RG Larry Warford, LB A.J. Klein, WR Ted Ginn Jr., DE Alex Okafor, CB Marshon Lattimore, OT Ryan Ramczyk, S Marcus Williams, RB Alvin Kamara, LB Manti T’eo.

Key losses: WR Brandin Cooks, DT Nick Fairley, RB Tim Hightower, S Jairus Byrd.

Strengths: Passing game led by QB Drew Brees, who has passed for 5,000 or more yards in four of past six seasons, and no fewer than 4,870 yards in that span. His top target is Michael Thomas, big receiver with strong hands coming off exceptional rookie campaign. Running game also appears improved with additions of Peterson and Kamara to incumbent starter Mark Ingram, who is coming off best season. Thomas Morstead’s booming punts and increasingly refined accuracy should provide field position advantages as well.

Weaknesses: Defense appeared much improved during preseason, but against offenses running basic schemes with mix of reserves and regulars that won’t resemble what Saints will face in regular season. So there remains much to prove for team that fielded worst defense against pass in NFL last season, and which struggled with pass rush.

Fantasy Players To Watch: Brees is always strong choice; Thomas, Ingram.

Expectations: Saints have chance to contend if they have good fortune with injuries, and if young players get up to speed quickly, particularly on defense. In each of past three seasons, they went 7-9 with number of close losses, so they weren’t that far off. Then again, NFC South looks tougher with NFC champs Atlanta at top, Carolina trying to regain Super Bowl form of two seasons ago, and Tampa Bay looking like rising team.

___

For more AP NFL coverage: http://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL