- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Today's question: With Jimmy Graham gone, the New Orleans Saints will rely on Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller, Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston to provide most of their playmaking. Is this a sigh of relief for the rest of the division? Or can this offense still cause matchup issues for your teams?
Vaughn McClure, Atlanta Falcons: Nothing really scares me about Ingram and Spiller, individually. However, anytime you have a capable running back tandem with essentially two starters, it should be a concern for opposing defenses. Ingram runs with power, while Spiller is known for his blazing speed, so I think they could be potent if they remain healthy. Last season, I liked what I saw at wideout from Cooks in his rookie year despite a short season because of a broken thumb. Of the four offensive players discussed here, Colston is the one I'm least concerned about. He turned 32 in June and isn't the same player who put together four-consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons from 2009 to 2012.
David Newton, Carolina Panthers: Relief, primarily because Graham is gone. Graham had 56 catches for 700 yards and eight touchdowns in his last nine games against Carolina. He forced the Panthers to commit one of their best players, often middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, to defend him. Graham's presence opened up the rest of the offense. Of the playmakers left, Cooks is the most dangerous because of his speed and route-running. But he's only 5-foot-10 and 189 pounds, so he doesn't force teams to build their game plans around him. I don't see Ingram, Spiller or Colston doing that. Graham did. I'm not saying the Saints are deficient in weapons, but they can't create matchup issues as Carolina has done by adding 6-foot-4 receiver Devin Funchess into the mix with 6-5 receiver Kelvin Benjamin and 6-5 tight end Greg Olsen.
Pat Yasinskas, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Saints shocked just about everyone by trading Graham. That move subtracted 85 catches for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns from the offense. That's a ton of production, and the Saints aren't going to get nearly that much out of another tight end. But coach Sean Payton didn't make this trade blindly. He knew he would have to alter his offense, and I have no doubt he will. Colston and Cooks almost certainly will get more targets. But one underrated part of the Saints' offense is the running game, and I think it will be very important this season. Ingram had a six-game stretch in the middle of last season when he rushed for more than 100 yards in four games. That finally showed Ingram can be the feature back the Saints thought they were getting when they drafted him. Spiller is coming off a down season in Buffalo, but he rushed for more than 1,200 yards in 2012. He can be a nice complement to Ingram.