Following any loss, sports fans can take things personally. If that loss happens to be of the last second, heart-wrenching variety, fans can be downright inconsolable. New Orleans Saints fans felt such a loss versus the Minnesota Vikings to conclude their 2017 campaign. While the season didn’t end the way the Who Dat Nation had hoped, there are at least 10 reasons 2017 Saints should make them smile.
10 Reasons To Love the 2017 New Orleans Saints
A retrospective look at 2017 gives fans in the Big Easy and beyond a promising future for the Saints in all facets of the game. The combination of talent, both new and seasoned, in conjunction with a creative coaching staff and tireless front office have the Saints once again poised to make a run at another championship. The reasons for the optimism go a little something like this.
10 – The Core
While the 2017 season began with a talented core group of players, individuals without question marks were few and there were still many holes to fill. The off-season leading into this year brought in some promising talent both in free agency and the NFL Draft.
So, how would all the pieces fit together? A combination of scouting the right guys and coaching to best use them worked out better than most Saints fans could have hoped. Many of the newer players have cemented their place as a member of the core group of Saints and have helped shape the identity of this new look New Orleans Saints team.
9 – The Quarterback
Appropriately, the number nine slot belongs to, well, number nine. Drew Brees continued to amaze at 38 years old (now 39). While the unrealistic expectation of 5,000 passing yards per year wasn’t met, Brees had an extraordinary campaign and shows no signs of slowing down. Brees finished the season with 4,334 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and only eight interceptions (a career best). Brees also set the single-season pass completion percentage record at a whopping 72 percent pace. What’s more impressive is that Brees was able to compile these numbers while the philosophy was changing on offense to be more balanced toward rushing the ball.
Brees, a free agent following the 2017 season, has said all the right things about his hopeful future with the Saints. He has publicly expressed no interest in playing anywhere but the Crescent City and has voiced his wishes to get a deal done quickly. Most assume a two-year deal is in the works and hopeful the two sides put ink to paper in the very near future.
8 – Playoff Experience
The 2017 Saints headed into this past season following three straight 7-9 finishes. As with many businesses, poor results bring change. Rumors swirled around the organization that this may be Sean Payton‘s last year leading the Saints if the ship couldn’t be turned around. Payton would have to rely on the team’s youth to play a prominent role in his future in New Orleans.
While having so young players get extended playing time in the NFL is typically a bad thing, it worked differently for the Saints. The Saints rookies like Marshon Lattimore, Alvin Kamara, Marcus Williams, Ryan Ramczyk, Trey Hendrickson and Alex Anzalone all played significant roles in the 2017 NFC South division-winning effort. This group of talented players wasn’t interested in asking forgiveness for the sins of Saints’ teams past. Now, this group, along with the rest of the roster, has gained valuable playoff experience and will be even better prepared for the next post-season run, not to mention a big chip on their shoulders.
7 – Next Man Up
The Saints truly adopted the “next man up” mentality and persevered in 2017. The Saints finished up this past season with one of their best years ever, despite a mind-boggling 26 players on injured reserve. To put that in perspective, that’s more than the playoff-bound Atlanta Falcons (5), Pittsburgh Steelers (8) and Minnesota Vikings (9) combined, and the most of any team to make the playoffs this year.
6 – Special Teams
Not unlike the offensive and defensive units, the special teams group had its share of combining old and new in 2017. This year brought another standout performance by veteran punter Thomas Morstead. Coach Payton also enjoyed the fruits of his faith in placekicker Wil Lutz, who is seemingly a long-term solution at the position. New faces like Taysom Hill and Justin Hardee added a new excitement to the unit and made some unforgettable plays.
5 – Jeff Ireland
Rarely does an organization get so passionate talking about an assistant general manager / scouting director, but Jeff Ireland has earned the hype. In the two seasons he has been involved with the Saints drafts, Ireland has followed up his home run draft of 2016 with a grand slam in 2017.
The 2017 draft class eclipsed the impressive 2016 class in both picks and impact, bringing in Lattimore, Ramczyk, Williams, Kamara, Anzalone, Hendrickson and Al-Quadin Muhammad.
With picks in every round other than the second in the 2018 NFL draft, Saints fans have high expectations that Ireland will once again step up to the plate hit his third straight draft out of the park.
4 – Boonk Gang
If you look up the definition of “boonk” online, you’ll find several different answers, all of which have to do with stealing or thievery.
The 2017 Saints defense, nicknamed the “Boonk Gang”, was, in fact, a band of thieves. This persona brought more than a new swag to the defense, but the turnovers as well. The Boonk Gang took a defense that was minus-three in turnover ratio and brought them to a plus seven. Aside from that, the unit seemed to come up with big plays and scores at pivotal times throughout the season.
And, of course, the Who Dat Nation loved those weekly “selfies.”
3 – Boom and Zoom
The new look New Orleans Saints offense featured the rushing and receiving of running backs Mark Ingram and Kamara. After a rocky start to the season which tried to incorporate a third back in Adrian Peterson, the pair excelled in 2017. Nicknamed “Boom and Zoom,” Ingram and Kamara put together a combined rushing attack that defenses around the NFL had no way to answer. In fact, they both had over 1,500 yards from scrimmage in 2017, an NFL record. With another year on Ingram’s contract, expect more of the same plan of attack for the 2018 Saints offense.
2 – They Can’t Guard Mike
With maybe the most appropriate Twitter handle ever (@CantGuardMike), Michael Thomas became the undisputed number one wide receiver in New Orleans after the off-season trade of Brandin Cooks. For those who may have been skeptical that Thomas could handle the leading role, number 13 answered the call in a big way.
Thomas followed his outstanding rookie campaign (92 catches for 1,137 yards) with an even better performance (104 catches for 1,245 yards). With his 2017 performance, Thomas became the first player in Saints history to make 100 catches. Also, Thomas joined Odell Beckham Jr. as the only receivers to catch at least 90 balls in each of their first two seasons. Statistically, Thomas is Brees’ favorite target, ever.
1 – Cam Jordan
Cameron Jordan, the first team 2017 NFL All-Pro, 2017 Pro Bowler, and Saints sack leader was incredibly disruptive to opposing offensive game plans throughout 2017. Jordan’s career-best 13 sacks were not only an impressive total but timely. Jordan, one of seven Saints Pro Bowlers, also scored his first career touchdown on his only interception of the year against Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions. Jordan also batted passes down at a feverish pace.