The New Orleans Saints have been resting on their bye week for the past week. There are many aspects that they are concentrating on. The most important story line is probably Jimmy Graham’s foot he injured during the New England Patriots’ game. Any time missed by Graham would severely hurt the Saints’ offense. Aside from Graham’s ailment, here are three things to watch for coming out of the bye week for the rest of the season.
1) Return of Jonathan Vilma
Long time Saint and fan favorite Jonathan Vilma is practicing again after nursing a knee injury for the first half of the season. There is a chance that he will come back in a couple games, adding depth to the Saints’ linebacking corps. The question is where does Vilma play? Vilma has great leadership and a high IQ, but physically he isn’t the same and that can keep him off the field.
There is no way he supplants Curtis Lofton, and David Hawthorne has been playing very well in the other linebacker spot. The only alternative is taking away one more defensive back which is unlikely because Rob Ryan loves Kenny Vaccaro and Malcolm Jenkins too much to take them off the field.
Though Vilma’s return would be welcomed, it may be in the best interest of the team to keep him on the sidelines. One way or another, Ryan has showed that he knows how to put players in positions to succeed, so if there is a chance Vilma can improve the defense, he will be on the field.
2) Production from the Saints’ wide receivers
The Saints’ wide receiver have not been very good in the weeks going into the bye week, which is unacceptable considering the attention given to Graham and Darren Sproles by defenses. Expect Sean Payton to emphasize wide receiver production, especially from Marques Colston.
Also, Kenny Stills has shown some ability the past few weeks and should be more involved in the offense going forward because of his top end speed. The Saints will need some help from the outside guys whether it be Colston, Stills, or Nick Toon, especially with the Graham’s foot injury possibly slowing him down. The Saints should also be helped by the eventual return of Lance Moore.
3) Stability in The Running Game
The Saints’ running game hasn’t been very good this season, but saw some improvement against the New England Patriots. The Saints, though they have gone without big number thus far, will need the running game to be successful going forward as the rest of the schedule features teams like the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, and Dallas Cowboys.
Expect the Saints to use more Khiry Robinson, who showed some explosiveness and a physical presence that isn’t there with Sproles and Pierre Thomas. If Robinson can become that guy who can convert short yardage situations into touchdowns and first downs, the Saints offense will run more smoothly. There is no reason they can’t succeed as defense won’t stack the box with as many players with Drew Brees at the helm.
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