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Saints mailbag, Part 2: Top 3 offensive and defensive players?

5/9/2015

Thanks for submitting your New Orleans Saints questions to me on Twitter. Send ‘em anytime @MikeTriplett. And click here for Part 1 of this week’s mailbag.

@MikeTriplett: Drew Brees would be my choice for offensive MVP. But since you said "playmakers," I'll go with Brandin Cooks, Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller (with Marques Colston a close fourth, putting up his typical 900-plus yards and five TDs or so). I'm expecting big things from Cooks, who was actually leading the NFL's superb class of rookie receivers with 53 catches last year when he went down with a season-ending thumb injury in Week 10. More importantly, the Saints were just starting to hit on some deep balls to the speedy wideout in the weeks leading up to his injury, which I think will be an even bigger part of Cook's game this year.

I'm really excited to see what the Saints do with Spiller - mostly because Sean Payton sounds really excited to work with the dynamic open-field threat. Ingram's contributions might not be as explosive as those two, but he'll be just as important while leading the team in touches. Click here for the splits I'm expecting from the running backs in 2015.

Defense is harder to predict, because I expect a lot of bounce-back seasons. I wouldn't be surprised to see Keenan Lewis, Cameron Jordan, Jairus Byrd, Junior Galette, Akiem Hicks, Brandon Browner, Kenny Vaccaro or even Dannell Ellerbe wind up as defensive MVP.
Since the question is "playmakers," I expect Galette to have the most sacks and Byrd to force the most turnovers. But Lewis, Jordan and Hicks are my three best bets to be the most dependable defensive players on a consistent basis. The drop-off of Jordan and Hicks last year surprised me the most of all.

@MikeTriplett: Great question. I'll say Lewis and Browner are in for sure. And so are rookies P.J. Williams and Damian Swann since the Saints invested fairly high draft choices in them. That leaves only one or two spots for Kyle Wilson, Terrence Frederick, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Brian Dixon and Delvin Breaux.

Call me crazy, but I'm going to predict that Jean-Baptiste makes the cut. He'll be a lot more seasoned in Year 2, and if he shows growth and potential while learning alongside a fellow big man like Browner, I think the Saints will want to ride out that long-term investment.

And I'll give a slight edge to Frederick over the others since he earned a starting job late last season, though it's pretty wide open. If Dixon (or anyone else) can prove to be the top gunner on special teams like he did last season, that's another route to the active roster.

@MikeTriplett: Assuming he's healthy, I think Davis Tull can see some action as a situational pass-rush specialist even while he learns to adapt. He could be like undrafted rookie outside linebacker Kasim Edebali, who played about 10 snaps per game last season on defense. Then again, Tull could also be like drafted rookie outside linebacker Ronald Powell, who played only three defensive snaps all season last season.

@MikeTriplett: I never had any reason to believe that coach Sean Payton's or GM Mickey Loomis' days in New Orleans might be numbered before the draft. But I understand the point of this question. Both of those picks show a long-term mindset more than just trying to win in 2015. They want to win now -- and keep winning in the future. And both have enough leeway from ownership that they shouldn't feel any "2015 or bust" job-security pressure.