Saints reinforce defense (cont.)
"Each year, it starts anew," he says. "We've played free agents over draft picks and vice versa, so we're really not biased as to how we got these players. What's most important is, who's playing the best when we start the season?"
It would be tough to say anyone played well in passing situations considering opponents burned the Saints for 54 plays of 20 or more yards, a league high. New Orleans also surrendered 15 pass plays of 40 yards or longer, tying Baltimore for the league high.
A key could be whether McKenzie returns to form after tearing an ACL in December. Loomis says the medical reports have been good and McKenzie is expected to be full-go by training camp. That leaves fellow starting cornerback Jason David, who flopped last season after leaving Indianapolis as a free agent.
"We have not by any stretch of the imagination given up on Jason David," says Loomis. "Jason had a tough year, a tough transition period, going from the [Cover 2] defense that the Colts played to the defense that we played. What we asked him to do, in terms of being out on an island and covering guys man-for-man more often than he did with the Colts, it took an adjustment period for him. But he's got the ability to be a good corner for us, and that's what we expect."
There is an even higher expectation for the offense, which actually could be better than it was a year ago if running back Reggie Bush returns to his rookie form of two years ago and wide receiver Robert Meachem, their top draft choice in 2007, gives them anything after failing to suit up last year because of a knee injury.
Loomis says Bush has spent more time at the team's training facility and "wants to prove to people who have been critical of him that they're wrong." Meachem has spent the early offseason working out with veteran wide receiver David Patten. Workhorse running back Deuce McAllister remains a question mark after having knee surgery, but Payton is high on Pierre Thomas (105 yards rushing in the season finale at Chicago) and Aaron Stecker. The Saints also have talked to free-agent running back Shaun Alexander and still have an interest in trading for Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey, though Loomis says New York "has moved on."
Even if they're unable to sign those two, the Saints feel they should be back in the championship hunt provided they stay healthy.
"Those are the types of expectations that we have of ourselves," says Loomis. "But we've got to live up to them. We don't want to let last year happen again."
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