The difference this year is that they are planning on not having Graham, so will create a scheme that is not so heavily reliant on the TE. I also think they are going to highlight their running game more than they ever have, which will make them less predictive and harder to gameplan for. Other than Brees (and Cooks may have the potential), they really don't have any star level playmakers on offense. So, while they should be more complete, I think we have the components to have a better offense (our defense is already the best in the division). So barring injury, I really don't see them beating us out in the division, but they will be good enough that we can't sleep on them.
Chris Paul would have loved playing for Michael Jordan...if Jordan owned a championship caliber team and had the money to pay him. He didn't, so Paul went elsewhere. Dreams are nice, they just need substance to mean anything.
The ironic thing is that most think the NFCS sucks because nobody had a winning record last year, but I actually think we still can have one of the best divisions in football. As you say, homerism blinds people to the truth. So it's easy to say NO or Atlanta sucks because they are our rivals. But the truth is that both teams have a lot of talent and are real threats. I believe we are better than both, but we cannot take either lightly. Every team in our division had issues last year that caused them to play down from their talent level. NO got healthy and should be more well-rounded, and Atlanta added some quality talent and fixed their biggest problem which was coaching. TB won't be horrible either, but I think they still have too many holes to be considered a serious threat to the division. Barring injury, I expect us to win the division again, but it won't be a cake walk.
If Funchess had played on an elite team and was in an explosive offensive system with a quality QB, I think he would have been a top half of the first round pick. I believe that's what the team thought when they drafted him too, and I think that's what he showed in OTA's. So, the team looks at Funchess as another 1st round talent and are exposing him as such. But I do think once camp starts, Thompson will start to become big news for us. His athleticism and play making ability will likely stand out and get people excited. All these people that wonder about him because they haven't heard much just need to be patient. I truly think we will be hearing enough in a couple of weeks to make everyone happy.
If Brown emerges as we expect/hope, there won't be enough balls to keep Wayne happy. We're looking to the future, and I don't see Rivera sacrificing either Funchess or Brown just to squeeze the last bit productivity out of Wayne. If they weren't ready, sure, but I believe both are ready to have very good years for us, and I honestly don't think Wayne would bring enough to beat them out...making him our #4 receiver (at best), which he would never accept.
The Saints are not going to be a bad team. They won't be great either, but anyone hoping for an easy win from them will be disappointed. There are two reasons that most pundits think they will win the division...Sean Payton and Drew Brees. In no other measure does anyone think they are elite, but most believe the rest of the team is good enough to win with those two leading it. I think the reason we aren't getting more respect is because nobody really knows what to expect from us. They know we have a good defense and that our receiving corps should be better, but they're not sure about our OL and don't know which Cam will show up. Once the OL shows they are legit (which I think they will) and Cam shows that he can be consistent with good protection (which I have no doubt he will), I honestly believe people will start jumping on our bandwagon. After all, it's about the QB. Look at every trendy pick, and every one of them has a QB that is considered elite. And because of Cam's inconsistencies, he's not seen as elite...close, but not quite elite, yet.
Actually, I think it was last year that reeked of desperation. They thought signing Hayward would fix the offense (a desperation move in itself, IMO), but when that didn't work out, they panicked and brought in Lance. However, I think they recognized their mistakes last year and went into this offseason with a very distinct plan, and have followed that plan to a T. They wanted shooters, not just scorers, but guys that can legitimately shoot with range. They also wanted to give themselves as much size and flexibility as possible. So they traded an unknown asset and role player for a known player that can shoot, play defense, and has the versatility to play either wing position. Then they went and brought in another shooter in Lamb, and took a shooting big man in Frank. Not to mention trading last year's mistake for another big shooter. I'm sure with all the moves they knew they would have to sacrifice some defense, but likely felt the offensive improvements would overcome any losses on defense. And while we lost some interior defense, we still have some solid defensive players on the team. So, the tradeoff shouldn't decimate Cliffs desire for a solid defensive team...just makes us more balanced.
Overall, the moves the team made this year should make us a very well rounded team that will be a dangerous matchup for anyone. We now have the ability to go big or small, and have players that can compete if we get into a shootout. The only things we are lacking that may keep us from being a legitimate title contender is a solid interior defensive force that can get us 10-12 rebounds a night and star who can take over the game and carry the team when needed. As for next year and beyond, we should have the ability to keep everyone we want as long as they perform as expected, and still be able to bring in some interior help. Other than whether or not our new players play up to expectations, the only question is if they will want to stay here. Batum, for example, has the chance to be really good for us for a long time, and, IMO, is a perfect partner for MKG on the wings. But, he will be a FA next year, so hopefully he'll be happy here and want to stick around. If not, then we'll be headed back to the drawing board. But I have a feeling if he breaks out like I think he will, he will not be in a hurry to go anywhere.
I don't think Al fits the direction they are taking this team anymore. Cliff and Cho seem to want a more athletic, versatile team that has the flexibility to match up with anyone. I don't see a one dimensional, lane-clogger being their ideal franchise guy. So, I believe his time here is about to run out (maybe even by the trade deadline if Frank shows early that he is ready for meaningful minutes).
Absolutely! Two things stand out to me about this offseason: first is that we were determined to improve our 3 point shooting, the second is that we wanted to get bigger and have a versatile team. Most of our pickups have been guys with size that can play competently at multiple positions and can also shoot the three. This will allow us the flexibility to match up well whether teams go big or small. The only thing we really lack is a tough interior defender. Should be a fun year.
I've read that Batum was the SG for the French National team, so has a lot of experience at that spot. As others have said, I think the only reason he played SF at Portland was because of his size and their roster. But it sounds like he has the skillset to be a quality SG for the Hornets.
No, he doesn't play as mean as Lambert did. Nobody questions level of play, toughness, or athleticism. But as far as scaring the hell out of your opponent, Luke doesn't match up with Lambert there. And that's not a slight against Luke, but more an indictment of the changes in rules and the way the game is officiated now. If Luke tried to play that style, he'd be labeled a dirty player, and draw all kinds of flags and fines. So while you could reasonably compare them in terms of impact on the field, you can't reasonable compare their style of play.
Luke's most intimidating feature is his ability to recognize the play and always be around the ball, not his ability to knock people out of the game. Yes, he does play with a mean streak, and he most certainly will knock the snot out of you if given the chance. But in no way does he play with the viciousness that Jack Lambert did.
Luke's not as vicious as Lambert. I think level of play is comparable, as is competitiveness and toughness. But Jack Lambert was a mean SOB whose style of play would draw lots of flags in today's NFL. To me, not a good comparison.
It's not just the number of injuries, it's the significance of who got injured. Back end of roster guys that get injured don't have near the effect of players at key positions...and we have had a large number of key players with injuries. Also, your depth impacts the effect of your team's injuries, and until recently, we probably had some of the weakest depth in the NFL, so couldn't overcome our injuries. These stats also don't fully take into account players that play with injuries. For instance, while Cam was on the field for most of the year, his injuries seriously impacted his ability to play at a high level. So, while we may have technically had fewer injuries that forced players out of the game, they did play a huge role in our bad middle part of the season last year.