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Thursday, July 10, 2014
Saints' biggest key to success

By Mike Triplett

Drew Brees is 35 years old, but I see no reason to expect any significant drop-off in his performance in the next three seasons -– especially because the savvy quarterback doesn’t rely solely on a big arm. As long as Brees stays healthy, New Orleans should remain among the NFL’s elite Super Bowl contenders through 2016 and beyond.

Brees
So far, the Saints have done a remarkable job of continually replenishing the roster with new young stars around Brees. The defense is arguably in better shape now than it has ever been in the Brees-Sean Payton era –- and they don’t have a single player remaining from their 2009 Super Bowl championship roster.

The key for the Saints will be to keep reshaping their offense the same way, particularly at the line and receiver positions. The Saints need recent draft picks such as left tackle Terron Armstead and receivers Brandin Cooks and Kenny Stills pan out so they remain an elite offensive unit.

For now, veteran standouts such as receiver Marques Colston and linemen Jahri Evans, Ben Grubbs and Zach Strief are still in the tail end of their primes. But it’s possible that one or more will need to be replaced over the next three seasons due to a drop in production, a rise in salary or both.

The offensive line, in particular, is going through one of its biggest transitions right now. Armstead is taking over the vital left tackle spot, while second-year pro Tim Lelito and veteran Jonathan Goodwin are battling over the vacated center job. The Saints’ line showed more inconsistency this past season than usual before finishing strong. They need to prove they're still a strength and not a question mark going forward.