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Cheap Alex Anzalone Jersey has only made it through a 16 game season once in 2018. His rookie year, he played in four games before injuring his bad shoulder, and last year he only played in two games before undergoing another season-ending shoulder surgery. He’s one of the most physically talented linebackers on the roster, but that shoulder, which has hampered him since college, has remained a problem throughout his professional career.

Cheap Kaden Ellis Jersey started off strong last season, contributing heavily on special teams, and looked like another seventh round draft pick diamond in the rough, but he didn’t make it past week three and went on injured reserve with a knee injury. Same story with Colton Jumper, who didn’t make it to September before going on injured reserve.

The only other linebackers on the Saints’ current roster are Cheap Andrew Dowell Jersey, Cheap Chase Hansen Jersey, and veteran Cheap Kiko Alonso Jersey who tore his right ACL for the second time in the Saints’ first round playoff loss to the Vikings. Alonso has also torn his left ACL in the past, and even if given a generous timetable to return, that doesn’t put Alonso back on the field until August or September at the earliest.

Depth and durability are an obvious weak point and the loss of A.J. Klein in free agency only compounded that issue. In addition, because the Saints are switching from such a good run stuffing safety in Bell to one more comfortable in coverage in Jenkins, that takes away another valuable player in run defense and creates even more need for another playmaker at the linebacker position.

Luckily, this year’s draft is ripe with quality linebackers who seem ready to play at the professional level. My fellow CSC contributor Nate Williamson put together a great linebacker wishlist for the Saints if they are so lucky to see any of these players fall to the #24 draft slot.

If the Saints can address the linebacker position through the draft and somehow avoid the injury bug, this could be one of the strongest Saints rosters of the last ten years. Dare I say, this could be one of the strongest Saints rosters ever.

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The New Orleans Saints have re-signed DE Cheap Noah Spence Jersey to a one-year contract, it was announced by Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis.

Spence, 6-2, 251, returns to New Orleans after spending the final three regular season games and NFC Wild Card Playoff on the club’s roster. He was originally selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second-round (39th overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Eastern Kentucky.

Over his four-year NFL career with Tampa Bay (2016-18) and Washington (2019), he has appeared in 41 games with six starts. The Harrisburg, Pa. native has totaled 37 tackles (24 solo), 7.5 sacks, two passes defensed and four forced fumbles. He played in seven games for Washington in 2019, picking up three stops and a takedown. Spence enjoyed his most productive season in 2016, when he finished ranked sixth among NFL rookies with 5.5 sacks and third with three forced fumbles and was selected as NFC Defensive Rookie of the Month for November when he posted 2.5 takedowns and two forced fumbles.

Spence played at Eastern Kentucky as a redshirt junior in 2015 after transferring from Ohio State and totaled 63 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries as he was a consensus FCS All-American and chosen as the FCS National Defensive Performer of the Year by the College Football Performance Awards. As a sophomore at Ohio State in 2013, he posted 52 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks and one forced fumble as he was first-team All-Big Ten selected by league media after ranking second in the conference in sacks and sixth in tackles for loss.

“Just come in and try my best to get into the rotation and help the team with anything, even when it comes to special teams,” Spence said. “I’m just coming in to play wherever they want me to be.”

Spence re-signed with the New Orleans Saints earlier this week with the hopes of wearing the uniform on game days that he never got a chance to last season. The former second round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers never played a down for the Saints in 2019, and didn’t see much of the field last season in general.

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This year’s leap into NFL free agency started off with a whirlwind of moves, with one of the largest transactions involving a trade of Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs in exchange for a haul of Buffalo Bills draft picks. A few days later, the New Orleans Saints agreed to sign the best wide receiver on the free agent market, Cheap Emmanuel Sanders Jersey. But things almost went very differently.

Sanders spoke about his minor role in the Bills-Vikings trade during an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show, detailing how he was nearly the Pro Bowl-caliber weapon paired with Bills quarterback Josh Allen.

Sanders said, “I spoke with the Bills for a little bit. And I told them, ‘Let me think about the idea, give me a night.’ And 30 minutes later the Stefon Diggs deal went through and I was like, ‘Okay.’”

The implication certainly seems to be that if Sanders had accepted the offer Buffalo put on the table then and there, he’d be shopping for parkas and making the rounds as a new number-one receiving option in the Queen City. Instead, his delay meant that the Bills had to move quickly to secure Diggs before another team could beat them to the punch. It’s funny how things work out.

Sanders then turned to the rest of his experience in free agency, in which he weighed competing offers from the Green Bay Packers and a possible reunion with the San Francisco 49ers, who swapped multiple draft picks to acquire him at last season’s trade deadline.

“Then I kind of waited,” Sanders said. “I was talking to Green Bay, I was talking to the Niners. Just trying to figure out what kind of deal, what kind of money we’re talking about. And then the Saints called. And I ecstatic that they called, the opportunity to play with Drew Brees and everything, and the numbers made sense.”

Sanders pointed to other factors that helped make his decision easy — playing most of his games indoors in the NFC South was a big selling point, as was the pairing with Michael Thomas across the formation from him. And Sean Payton’s resume as a play-caller spoke for itself.

“(Payton) had texted me, and he told me to go and look at the film of what they’d been doing for the last 12 years, I think he said,” Sanders continued. “And he was like, ‘You’ll love it here.’ I didn’t even go look at the film, I texted him back within 10 seconds and told him I didn’t have to look at the film, I know what you guys have done and what your system produces.”

Sanders revealed another detail — that Drew Brees was the first person to reach out him and welcome him to the team, reacting even before members of Sanders’ family learned of the news. That meant a lot to him, reinforcing Sanders’ belief that this was the right landing spot for him to choose. The fact that he gets to enjoy the weather in sunny New Orleans rather than frigid Green Bay was just another bonus, as well as proximity to his extended family near the Texas-Louisiana state line. Maybe things worked out best for everyone after all.

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Thomas has improved his statistical output in each of his four seasons and is coming off an NFL record-breaking 149 receptions for a league-high 1,725 yards and 9 touchdowns. The 27-Yr old Thomas is an elite offensive weapon and is nearly unstoppable through the short and intermediate zones. He has underrated athleticism, but Thomas dominates even the best defensive backs with his rare combination of physicality, incredible hands, and crisp route running skills.

Veteran wideout Ted Ginn Jr. started 2019 strong, catching 7 passes for 101 yards in a season-opening win over the Texans. The 35-Yr old Ginn would catch just 23 balls for 320 yards over the remaining 15 games though, and was often a non-factor in the offense. An unrestricted free agent, the 13-Yr veteran still has elite straight line speed to threaten deep, but struggles to separate underneath and has trouble holding on to the football.

Second-year receiver Tre’Quan Smith continues to tease with potential, but has done little to make anybody believe he can be a consistent offensive threat. A 3rd round pick in the 2018 draft, the 24-Yr old Smith caught only 18 passes for 234 yards in 2019, although he did catch five touchdowns. He has the size (6’2, 210-Lbs) and speed of a prototypical wideout but struggles to separate from coverage and often seems skittish in traffic.

Undrafted rookie Deonte Harris earned All-Pro honors with his elite kick return abilities. At just 5’6 170-Lbs., Harris is lightning-fast in the open field and is a deadly weapon with the ball in his hands. Harris was used little as a receiver during the regular season, catching just six passes, but flashed his gamebreaking potential with a 50-Yd reception against Minnesota in the playoffs. We may see Saints coach Sean Payton use Harris more in the offensive game plan this coming season.

New Orleans added two more undrafted rookies at wide receiver along with Harris last offseason. Emmanuel Butler and Lil’Jordan Humphrey both have good size but lack speed. Each showed nice potential during the preseason but neither were able to make a contribution during the regular season. The Saints will also welcome back Keith Kirkwood from injury this year. Kirkwood, who was an undrafted rookie in 2018, missed his second season with a hamstring injury. Another wideout with good size (6’3, 210-Lbs) but lacking great speed, Kirkwood is a physical player who operates well in traffic. He had 13 receptions for 209 yards and 2 touchdowns in eight games of action as a rookie, and had earned the trust of quarterback Drew Brees down the stretch.

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New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has been nominated for two ESPYs, Best Record-Breaking Performance and Best NFL Player, ESPN announced Wednesday.

Voting is under way here and all categories will close at the start of the live show Wednesday, July 10, at 7 p.m. central.

Brees surpassed Peyton Manning’s mark of 71,940 career passing yards on “Monday Night Football” during a nationally televised game against the Washington Redskins in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The achievement moves Brees into first place on the NFL’s all-time passing list. The game was paused late in the second quarter after Brees completed a 62-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith to allow for recognition of the accomplishment, which came in his 18th NFL season. Brees began the evening third on the all-time list and passed Brett Favre (71,838 yards) midway through the second quarter.

For the Best Record-Breaking Performance category, Brees is joined by Oregon women’s basketball player Sabrina Ionescu, Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, and high school track phenom Matthew Boling.
Along with Brees, there are three other nominees for Best NFL Player: Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, and Rams running back Todd Gurley II.

In 2010, Brees received three ESPY trophies – Best Male Athlete, Best Championship Performance and Best NFL Player.

The interactions were, in a word, “golden.”

Alex Anzalone smiled easily, laughed genuinely and operated dutifully while he nuzzled, hugged and steered. The dogs with which he was being photographed weren’t totally attentive to all commands, and perhaps that made the session at Animal Rescue New Orleans all the more adorable.

Imagine the New Orleans Saints’ 6-foot-3, 241-pound linebacker talking baby talk, trying to convince each of six dogs (in separate photo shoots) to look toward the camera, or sit still long enough to strike a pose, or not wriggle as he cradled them or, in one instance, held one up for a Simba-style presentation.

This isn’t the Anzalone that Saints fans are accustomed to seeing.
That guy – blonde hair flowing from beneath his helmet, almost lengthy enough to cover the name across the back of his jersey – doesn’t handle opponents with any measure of delicacy.

The fumbles he forced against two elite receivers in 2018 – pounding Minnesota’s Adam Thielen in the second quarter with New Orleans trailing 13-10, and walloping Atlanta’s Julio Jones in the second quarter while the Saints led 17-3 – were indicative of the level of wrath Anzalone can unspool.

But there’s no wrath-unspooling when he’s at ARNO. There, Anzalone is, well – you knew it was coming, but it’s appropriate – a Saint.

If he’s not a lead spokesman for the organization, he likely is its most notable and recognizable.

“There are tons of different charities but it’s something that really strikes my chord,” Anzalone said. “It’s something I love to do, and I like spending time with animals and people who love animals, as well.”
It’s no act. He linked with ARNO in his rookie season, 2017, and has been a regular presence since. He takes the relationship personally, for good reason.

“It’s something that I got into in college,” he said. “I have a rescue dog myself – Sammy – and just learning throughout the process how adopting an animal works and everything like that kind of drew my interest.

“My fiancé (Lindsey Cooper) kind of introduced it to me a little bit. She grew up adopting animals. But doing it myself, and with her, kind of opened my eyes up to it. And then, kind of just researching it more and more kind of opens your eyes that there are dogs out there you can adopt, pure-bred dogs that you can find that are perfectly normal and not spend a lot of money on, either.

“When I got drafted here I came out, checked it out and met up with everyone there. I try to help out where I can. I’ve taken pictures with dogs, tried to incentivize adopting an animal – ‘You can adopt this dog and get this picture with myself.’ Just try to give back like that.”

The level nearly is immeasurable of appreciation for his work.
“He’s our only (athlete spokesperson),” said Ginnie Boumann, vice president and one of the directors of ARNO. “And we call him the biggest animal lover in the NFL. And I haven’t been challenged yet, so I’m going to keep saying it. He and his fiancé are so devoted to animals.

“Alex comes here every so many months in order to do a photo shoot. However, he tweets, he retweets pictures of the animals, he comes by to help out. When we have a call for ‘laundry angels’ because we’re trying to get enough people to help out, because it’s cold and we have all these extra blankets, he and Lindsey are angels and they help us in any way they can.”

Boumann said Anzalone’s celebrity status obviously works to their favor.

“It’s extraordinary,” she said. “There’s such a following for the New Orleans Saints, that the moment you put a dog or anything about ARNO with Alex, it’s retweeted all over the place. There’s such a following. It’s really significant, and it helps bring about more awareness to the need for rescue – not only adopting, but volunteering here or at events.

“Lindsey is incredible. Her grandmother is into rescue, so she has it in her blood. So even as they’re making all of their own (wedding) plans, they’re always checking in on us, always seeing how they can help.”
Anzalone appears to have found his sweet spot there, as much as he did on the field last year, his second in the NFL. He played all 16 regular-season games (he had a season-ending injury in his fourth game as a rookie) and totaled 59 tackles, two sacks, an interception, three forced fumbles and two passes defended.

For ARNO, he isn’t able to invest as much time as he’d like, but it’s valuable nonetheless.

“I spend time with the animals, just showing everyone that these dogs are lovable,” he said. “It’s fun to do and it’s good to give back.

“I’m able to come every once in a while per my schedule. When I do, I try to put some time into it and do some things that help out and give back. A little bit goes a long way.”

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NASHVILLE, TN (KTRE) – Erik McCoy does not show emotion. Friday night he did.

After the 47th pick in the NFL draft was made, McCoy sitting on a coach surrounded by his mom, dad and girlfriend, received a phone call.

“Hello, this is Erik…. Yes sir coach…. Thank you…. I am in Lufkin, TX with my family…,” McCoy said to the voice of Saints Head Coach Sean Peyton on the other end. After about 4 minutes, McCoy said thank you and hung up the phone. About a minute later his named was called to a ruckus crowd in Nashville.

Erik McCoy New Orleans Saints
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson New Orleans Saints

“It was overwhelming,” McCoy said. “Just to say I finally got the call was unreal. All the hard work pays off. It was a commitment I made a long time ago. Those were early mornings. All the hard work, all the years, all the sacrifices people made to get me to work outs. I didn’t have a car. To take care of me and get me to where I am today, I am grateful.”

The moment @Erik_McCoy_73 learned he would be a @Saints @KTREnews @EastTexasNow pic.twitter.com/ew4o9XKvT3

— Caleb Beames (@CalebKTRE) April 27, 2019
“It is a feeling I can’t describe right now,” McCoy said. “There was a little disappointment last night. I won’t lie. I had my hopes high but I figured I would go in the second. Honestly I am just looking forward to this opportunity.”

VIDEO: Learning more about New Orleans Saints’ Erik McCoy
Erik McCoy’s path to the NFL started at a young age
The 6 foot 4 inch tall, 315 pound offensive lineman’s path to this point began at a young age. He played multiple sports growing up.

McCoy talked to several NFL teams, including the Rams and Panthers. He told reporters tried not to look at the mock draft because he’s only worried about what he can control.
“I did not think it was going to be that emotional,” McCoy said. I am not an emotional person. It just hit me all at once. I have worked 12 years for this… My mom is super emotional. My dad is like me. My mom is whispering in my ear, ‘You made it, you finally made it.’ My dad is not saying anything. It is good I had both of them here with me. I am just happy. Dreams come true.”

INTERVIEW: Lufkin coach talks about Erik McCoy, NFL Draft
“I am just happy, just happy,” McCoy said. “I is a great feeling. There are plenty of guys that come out of Lufkin. My good friend Keke Coutee came out last year. To finally say I have finally made it and reached the highest level of play will put a bigger light on the o-line in college station and just put some East Texas pride back around here.”

McCoy will join a team with Drew Brees and an offense that made the Saints a title contender last year. There would also be the chance to play with Dez Bryant if the Saints chose to resign the veteran.

“That would be awesome,” McCoy said. “You know Dez Bryant, that is a guy that every Lufkin Kid looks up to growing up. Being an offensive lineman, I didn’t have the body of a receiver, but if I got to play with him that would be freaking awesome.”

McCoy will celebrate for a short time and then get to work to prove the pick is not a bust.

“I went to the city once on my way to Florida,” McCoy said. “I don’t know much about the city so I am excited to get there. I will go in, put my head down and work. That is something I have done my whole life. Go in, shut up, do what I am supposed to do and do the best to be the best player I can be.”

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NEW ORLEANS — It wasn’t supposed to look like this. Not again. Not with a young defense that had finally turned things around so impressively last season.

But somehow the New Orleans Saints kicked off the 2018 season with a defensive flop as dreadful as anything they posted in some of those historically bad seasons between 2012 and 2016.

They allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw for 417 yards and four touchdowns and run for a fifth Sunday in a 48-40 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Bucs had more TD passes of 50-plus yards (two) than punts (one).

It was one of the biggest Week 1 surprises in the NFL — a stunning performance from a team that was anointed as one of this season’s popular Super Bowl picks.

And it’s yet another slow start for the Saints, who haven’t won a season opener since 2013.

“We needed this, we needed to get slapped in our face one good time to see that we’re not on the level we think we’re on. But we’re gonna get better,” Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore insisted.

The second-year cornerback — the NFL’s 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year — allowed Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans to have a big day (seven catches for 147 yards and a 50-yard TD) after Lattimore had stifled Evans in both meetings last season.

It was that kind of day for the Saints’ defense.
Cornerback Ken Crawley and the the rest of the Saints’ defense spent a frustrating day chasing DeSean Jackson and the surprising Buccaneers in Week 1. Derick E. Hingle/USA Today Sports
The unit also had a breakdown in zone coverage on Tampa’s fourth play of the game that allowed DeSean Jackson to spring wide open for a 58-yard touchdown catch. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s now two 50-yard plays against a Saints defense that gave up only one play of 50-plus all season in 2017.

Fellow defensive backs such as Ken Crawley, Marcus Williams, Patrick Robinson and Vonn Bell were also victimized in what is expected to be the most talented unit on New Orleans’ defense.

But it wasn’t just the back end that failed to do its job. Coach Sean Payton lamented that Fitzpatrick was “pressure-free” for the most part Sunday.

“Take your pick,” Payton said when he was asked what didn’t work on defense. “We didn’t hurry the passer. Guys were open. Third downs were awful. They had [529] yards. We didn’t disrupt the timing of any element of the passing game. And too many penalties.

“I can’t think of any positives.”

When a reporter started asking Payton a question by saying, “Obviously anything can happen in this league at any time …” Payton cut him off.

“That’s true. And you just saw it happen. So there’s no ‘buts’ after it. You have to come ready to play in this league, period,” Payton said — though he repeatedly credited Tampa Bay and Fitzpatrick, in particular, for doing just that Sunday.

The defensive struggles wasted a dynamic performance by the offense — Drew Brees threw for 439 yards and three TDs, Alvin Kamara scored three times and Michael Thomas caught a franchise-record 16 passes for 180 yards and a TD. The offense also made two costly errors, though, with lost fumbles by Thomas and Mike Gillislee.

No one specifically suggested the Saints came out flat or lackadaisical or overconfident for their season opener: “I don’t think anybody went out there with the mindset that [the Buccaneers] were just gonna roll over because we won the division last year,” Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. “They beat us at the end of the year last year, so I’m sure they had all the confidence in the world they could beat us. And they did.”

But the result was exactly the type of “hangover” performance the Saints tried to guard against all summer.

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Payton tackled those Super Bowl expectations head-on in the first team meeting of training camp, using the message “Prove Them Right” as a way to capture the same mentality of teams who are determined to prove critics wrong. The Saints had a poster with that message hanging outside their team facility throughout training camp.

And they talked all week about avoiding the slow starts that led them to records of 0-2, 0-3, 0-3 and 0-2 over the past four seasons.

But as Lattimore acknowledged, no amount of talk can do the job that they needed to actually do on the field Sunday.

“I mean, we like to do what we say, of course. But it’s not always gonna end up like that. It takes time to be a great team,” he said. “You know, there’s a lot of new guys on the team, and we’re still trying to jell together and get right.

“It’s the first game. Don’t panic. We went 0-2 last year and went on an eight-game winning streak. … We’re still together. We’re gonna get it right.”
The good news about that trend of slow starts is that the Saints have been here before. All too many times. Last season, their defense got torched for a total of 1,025 yards in the first two games of the season against the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots, respectively, before that epic turnaround that led to an 11-5 season and the NFC South title.

“It’s not a death sentence,” Rankins said. “You take it on the chin, you learn from it and you play better next week.”

“Hopefully the Super Bowl isn’t won Week 1,” Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said. “We’ve got a lot of things we have to address, and I’m my toughest critic. And I guess my dad would be my second-toughest critic — so I’m looking forward to that phone call.

“[But] we have a 24-hour rule. We have to wipe our mind clean of this catastrophe that just happened. You can’t be proud of 41 points on the board (by the Bucs offense). But we have to push forward.”

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Plenty of talented running backs have sported the fleur de lis of the New Orleans Saints. Chuck Muncie, George Rogers, Dalton Hilliard, Ricky Williams, Deuce McAllister, Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles spent time in New Orleans. So did Jim Taylor and Earl Campbell, Hall of Famers who played out the string with the Saints. But New Orleans has never assembled a stable of backs like this one. “I’ve been a part of a lot of great rooms here in New Orleans but, just from top to bottom, this is probably the best group,” running back Mark Ingram said. Ingram is the incumbent, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner who overcame a slow start with the Saints to become a devastating all-around back, a man who will finish high on the team’s career rushing lists and is coming off his best season. Adrian Peterson is the legend, the 2012 NFL MVP and future Hall of Famer with the violent, powerful running style who believes he still has something left after nearly 2,500 carries in the NFL. And then there’s Alvin Kamara, the rookie who spent his first preseason displaying an eye-popping skill set and a silky smooth quickness that belies his surprising power. A team with those three backs seems set up to run, to pound the ball down the defense’s throat and throw only when absolutely necessary. But this is still the Saints offense, Drew Brees is still the quarterback and he still has a talented group of receivers at his disposal, led by Michael Thomas and Willie Snead. The 38-year-old is coming off his third straight season — and his fifth in the past six — of leading the NFL in passing yards. Brees has always been able to carve teams up through the air under coach Sean Payton, but the ground game hasn’t often been able to match that dominance. New Orleans is hoping it has built an offense that can beat teams both ways. “There are some weeks where, if a team’s stacking up and playing the run better, then we have to be smart enough to understand how to handle that team, versus a team where we might feel like it’d be more difficult throwing the football,” Payton said. “Week to week, we really try to study who we’re playing and what’s the best way to score.” New Orleans has only finished higher than 19th in the NFL in rushing attempts twice during the Brees era: The Saints were 12th during the magical 2006 season and ranked seventh in 2009, the year the franchise won its only Super Bowl. During that time, the Saints’ efficiency in the running game has fluctuated, finishing in the top six three times (in 2009, 2011 and 2014) and adding a few other top-15 finishes. This offense might be capable of giving the Saints the kind of balance and flexibility that has marked its best versions. “We’ve got the guys to do it,” Ingram said. “I ain’t going to take the ball out of (Brees’) hands too much, but we need to run that thing, for sure.” A better running game makes life easier on Brees, who faces far fewer third-and-longs, reaps the benefit of play action and largely gets to avoid the pass rush. “I’ve been feeling the energy,” Peterson said. “You look on social media, and you see how people feel about me getting out there and being the two-headed monster with Mark Ingram and being behind Drew Brees.” If this Saints’ backfield lives up to its billing, the possibilities seem endless.