Offseason Playbook: Saints

A look at New Orleans' philosophy, team needs and a key free-agent move

Originally Published: March 2, 2013
By Gary Horton and Field Yates | ESPN Insider
 New Orleans Saints Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesWill Smith and Jonathan Vilma will have to transition to Rob Ryan's 3-4 defensive scheme.

In a new offseason series, Insider takes an in-depth look at NFL teams before free agency begins March 12. What is each team's philosophy on offense and defense, what are its biggest needs, and which one player could make for an ideal signing in free agency?

Team philosophies

Offense -- The Saints want to have balance and be more physical with the run, but even though they have a quality stable of running backs, they took a big step backwards last season. One reason was because the run game was negatively affected by Drew Brees' play-action package. The Saints will use zone and man blocking schemes up front and like to run between the tackles and use a fullback as a lead blocker. New Orleans could even use an extra offensive lineman in short yardage and goal line situations.

When they go to the passing game, Brees does a great job of spreading the field with multi-receiver sets, and he uses an extensive variety of personnel packages. It is a West Coast system with precise routes, but he is terrific on the seam route, especially off play-action. Brees uses his eyes to maneuver defenders, will use the pump fake, reads progressions and -- if the big play is not there -- will dump it off to his backs and use the screen play. Head coach Sean Payton is a terrific playcaller and has a great relationship with Brees.

Gary Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.
Field Yates has previous experience interning with the New England Patriots on both their coaching and scouting staffs. A graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), he is a regular contributor to ESPN Boston's Patriots coverage and ESPN Insider.