2003 NFL Preview

Posted: Friday July 11, 2003 11:30 AM

   New Orleans
2002 Record: 9-7
Head Coach: Jim Haslett
26-22 overall, 1-1 postseason
  Passing Aaron Brooks
283-528, 3,572 yards, 27 TDs, 15 INTs
  Rushing Deuce McAllister
325 carries, 1,388 yards, 13 TDs
  Receiving Joe Horn
88 catches, 1,312 yards, 7 TDs
  Kicking John Carney
91-35 FGs, 37-37 PATs, 130 points
Schedule | Roster | Statistics | Stadium
By Ryan Hunt,

Why are the Bucs, Giants, Jaguars and Cowboys smiling? Oh, the joy of appearing on the Saints' schedule in December.

A bit of embellishment, perhaps, but the fact is New Orleans has cost itself a shot at a playoff berth in each of the past two seasons with inexplicable December slides. And it's not just the losing; it's who the Saints have lost to. Last season, consecutive losses to Minnesota, Cincinnati and Carolina sent the Saints from the thick of the NFC South hunt to an unwitting victim in an episode of Punk'd.

Ironically, New Orleans' 2002 downfall came on Dec. 1 - in a gutty victory over the eventual Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. Aaron Brooks injured his hand and the Saints were never the same (nor was Jake Delhomme's wallet). This year's version of the Saints won't be the same, either, if only because Kyle Turley's Have a Nice Day Tour has moved to St. Louis.

Call that addition by subtraction. And the Saints do have a lot to build on from last year. This is a team that swept Tampa Bay last season, in addition to beating Green Bay and San Francisco. It has one of the NFL's marquee running backs in Deuce McAllister. But in order to get to January, the Saints are going to have to stay afloat in December.

>> Impact Signing
LT Wayne Gandy -- Gandy, who can play both left and right tackle, will slide right into the hole vacated by Turley. The 6-foot-5, 308-pound Gandy has started 136 of 145 NFL games since being selected 15th overall in the 1994 NFL Draft. And better yet, he has yet to cost his team a game by trying to decapitate a player.

>> Impact Loss
FS Sammy Knight -- All he did was pick off a team-leading five passes and make 129 tackles. The 2001 Pro Bowler, who had 29 interceptions in his six seasons in New Orleans, will be replaced by former Patriots first-rounder Tebucky Jones.

>> Fantasy Stud
RB Deuce McAllister -- After grabbing the starting job last year after Ricky Williams' departure, McAllister exploded onto the scene by rushing for 1,388 yards with 13 TDs and added 47 catches for 352 yards and three scores. McAllister had eight 100-yard rushing games last season, and there could be more this season as his game continues to progress. He's a solid receiver out of the backfield, which makes him that much more dangerous. He is a potential first-round fantasy draft pick with the potential for 1,800-2,000 all-purpose yards and 15 overall TDs.

>> Fantasy Dud
TE Ernie Conwell -- He's been a solid fantasy tight end the past couple of years playing in the high-powered Rams offense. However, it doesn't seem likely that he'll match his modest numbers in an offense that hasn't been too kind to tight ends since Cam Cleeland left town a few years ago. David Sloan and Boo Williams combined for 270 yards and two TDs last season. That could be Conwell's numbers this year.

>> Fantasy Sleeper
WR Donte Stallworth -- He only had 594 yards receiving last year, but Stallworth proved he was a player to be reckoned with as he scored eight TDs, including one in each of his first four games of his NFL career. He's definitely on the rise as he becomes more established as the No. 2 receiver opposite Joe Horn. There are plenty of balls to go around, and Stallworth will get more in his second year in the league.

>> Saints will make the playoffs because...
Aside from the obvious offensive playmakers, the Georgia boys on the defensive line come up big. Johnathan Sullivan and Charles Grant - both first-round picks out of UGA - have the talent to make the Saints' defensive front among the NFC's elite.

>> Saints will not make the playoffs because...
The NFC South is a minefield. The Falcons beat the Saints twice -- and have improved. And the Bucs still will be a force. If either McAllister or Brooks go down, so do the Saints.

New Orleams Saints
Signed  From  Lost  To 
DT Martin Chase  Re-signed  CB Steve Israel  Released 
T Wayne Gandy  Steelers  P Toby Gowin  Cowboys 
CB Ashley Ambrose  Falcons  QB Jake Delhomme  Panthers 
LB Orlando Ruff  Chargers  CB Ken Irvin  Vikings 
K John Carney  Re-signed  T Kyle Turley  Trade w/ StL. 
P Mitch Berger  Rams  TE Lamont Hall  Falcons 
QB Todd Bouman  Trade w/ Min.  LB Charlie Clemons  Texans 
RB Fred McAfee  Re-signed  G Wally Williams  Released 
DT John Schlecht  --  S Sammy Knight  Dolphins 
S Tebucky Jones  Trade w/ N.E.     
TE Ernie Conwell  Rams     
G Scott Sanderson  Re-signed     
RB Curtis Keaton  Re-signed     
DE Willie Whitehead  Re-signed     
LB Derrick Rodgers  Trade w/ Mia.     
Unrestricted  Restricted 
G Stephen Miller  CB Michael Hawthorne 
LB Bryan Cox  FB Terrelle Smith 
WR Jake Reed   
P Toby Gowin   
2003 Draft Picks
Rd.  Pick  Player  Pos.  School 
6(6)  Johnathan Sullivan  DT  Georgia  
5(37)  Jon Stinchcomb  OT  Georgia  
22(86)  Cie Grant  OLB  Ohio St.  
5(102)  Montrae Holland  OG  Florida St.  
20(155)  Melvin Williams  DE  Kansas St.  
30(203)  Kareem Kelly  WR  Southern Cal  
17(231)  Talman Gardner  WR  Florida St.  

Related information
Stories's Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers's Preview: Carolina Panthers's Preview: Atlanta Falcons
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