New Orleans Saints: 7 building blocks for 2016
The New Orleans Saints may have had a bit of an up-and-down 2015 season, but that doesn't mean the future isn't bright for Drew Brees and company. While we checked out the positions New Orleans must address this offseason last week, it's time to take a look at things from the other side of the spectrum.
Let's check out the seven building blocks for the Saints looking toward the 2016 NFL season.
1. Drew Brees
Brees is still playing like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and his ability to play through injuries in 2015 was pretty much amazing. He finished up the year with the 2015 passing title, throwing for 4,870 yards with 32 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions. He's the definition of a building block when looking at a single season, and he'll once again be the leader of the Saints this year.
2. Brandin Cooks
Cooks and Brees really grew their connection as the 2015 season rolled on. After a bit of a mediocre start to the season, Cooks caught eight touchdowns over the last nine games of the season. When all was said and done, he finished up the year with 84 receptions for 1,138 yards and nine touchdowns. He led the team in receptions, yardage and touchdowns. When the third-year wide receiver for the Saints takes the field next year, he immediately becomes one of the most dangerous players out there.
Brandin Cooks really came into his own during his second season in the NFL.
3. Delvin Breaux
Breaux was the definition of a lockdown cornerback in 2015. In his first year in the NFL after being signed out of the Canadian Football League, Breaux shined in the brightest of ways. Not only did he have 45 combined tackles, 19 passes defensed, three interceptions and a fumble recovery, but he was constantly tasked with guarding the best wide receiver on the opposing team. That's a tall task for anyone, but especially for a player who was getting his first taste of NFL football.
Breaux is not only one of the best defensive players on the Saints, but he's massively underrated still and has the potential to be one of the most talented cornerbacks in the NFL in 2016. Can he continue his impressive start and grow in his second year with the team? You'd be crazy to bet against it.
4. Stephone Anthony
Anthony immediately stepped in as a defensive leader for this group, leading the team in combined tackles with 112, while adding five passes defensed, two forced fumbles, a sack, an interception, a fumble recovery and a touchdown. The linebacker is simply a jack of all trades, and it looks like New Orleans got a steal with the No. 31 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft.
5. Mark Ingram
If Ingram hadn't been placed on the injured reserve for the final four games of the 2015 season, there's a good chance that he would have joined the other three NFC South running backs in the Pro Bowl. Through just 12 games, Ingram totaled 769 rushing yards, 405 receiving yards (with 50 receptions), and six touchdowns. Ingram's talent can't be overlooked, and while a ton of praise deserves to go to Tim Hightower for how he stepped up to fill in for Ingram and Khiry Robinson, this will still be Ingram's backfield in 2016 and beyond.
Mark Ingram may have missed the final four games of 2015, but still proved that he's one of the stronger running backs in the NFL today.
6. Cameron Jordan
The 26-year-old defensive end for the Saints was a bright spot in 2015. Jordan was far and away the leader in sacks on the team with 10, while also totaling 45 combined tackles, five passes defensed, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. There's not much to dislike about Jordan's game, and this means that over the previous four seasons, he's totaled 38 sacks. Let's not forget, Jordan and the Saints also agreed to a five-year extension with $33.8 million in guaranteed money last offseason, so Jordan will be a building block far beyond 2016.
7. Terron Armstead
While Willie Snead is very deserving of this spot, we have to give the nod to Armstead. When your head coach says he wouldn't trade you for any other left tackle in the entire league, that's really saying something about how important you are to the team. Armstead is just 24 years old but is one of the most important pieces of the offense for New Orleans. While they have weapons in the passing game with Brees, Cooks and Snead, as well as a strong running game with Ingram and likely Hightower, having Armstead in front of them is massively important.
Jeff Smith writes about the NFL for FOX Sports. You can find him on Twitter @JSM8ith.