Originally Published: September 2, 2010
John David Mercer/US Presswire JOHN CLAYTON QB RANKING (3): Drew Brees capped a sensational 2009 season (4,388 yards, 34 touchdowns) by earning Super Bowl MVP honors. What will he do for an encore in 2010?

Expert Picks (Consensus: 2nd)

Intelligence Report

Five things you need to know about the Saints:

1. Core still intact: This is the same team that won the Super Bowl. Aside from letting linebacker Scott Fujita and running back Mike Bell walk and showing defensive end Charles Grant the door, the Saints have pretty much everyone back from last year's magical season. It's fair to say they've upgraded on Grant by bringing in Alex Brown and Jimmy Wilkerson, and they're confident they have some talented young linebackers to take over Fujita's spot. This is a team that knows how to win, and there's a lot to be said for continuity, especially if it doesn't cross the line into complacency.

2. Secondary is solid: The secondary just might be the most talented in the NFL. Yes, what was considered a major weakness just two seasons ago might be the team's biggest strength (besides Drew Brees). The world hasn't realized how good cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter are yet, but scouts and coaches around the league will tell you there aren't many better duos in the NFL. Greer and Porter each missed significant time with injuries last season. But when they were healthy, they were close to dominant. Backup Randall Gay could start for a lot of teams, and first-round pick Patrick Robinson will work his way gradually into the rotation. The Saints feel good about second-year pro Malcolm Jenkins taking over for Darren Sharper at free safety, and strong safety Roman Harper is underrated. If Sharper can get healthy as the season goes on, the Saints will have incredible depth in the secondary.

3. Bush in top form: Reggie Bush is healthier than he's been in a long time. Think back to the way Bush ran in the preseason. At times, he put his shoulder down and ran straight at defenders, and it worked nicely. That could be a sign of things to come. Bush is never going to be a 25-carry-a-game power runner, and his biggest strength is in the open field. For the moment at least, Bush has put his history of nagging injuries behind him, and you might see a little more from him this season than in the past. He'll share carries with Pierre Thomas, and that's not a bad combination, but Bush is the one guy on this offense who's a home run threat every time he touches the ball.

4. Ellis poised to emerge: Sedrick Ellis might be ready for a breakout season. The defensive tackle has been pretty good when he's been on the field in his first two seasons. The run defense is noticeably better when Ellis is on the field. The problem, however, is Ellis has been slowed by a series of nagging injuries and hasn't truly become a dominant force. That could change simply if Ellis stays healthy. He's as talented as any defensive tackle in the league. Last year's emergence of Anthony Hargrove should help. The Saints can use Hargrove in a rotation that will limit Ellis' playing time a bit and help keep him fresh.

5. Evans a key: Don't underestimate the importance of fullback Heath Evans. The Saints brought him in last season because they felt he was a jack-of-all-trades, and he started off very nicely. But Evans got hurt and missed the second half of the season and the postseason. That forced the Saints to do a lot of shuffling on offense, and the coaching staff did a masterful job of that. Having a healthy Evans this season will make things a lot easier for the offense. He's a big-time blocker, and that will help the running game. He also is capable of handling a few short-yardage carries and catching some passes out of the backfield. When the Saints say their offense can be better than last season, a healthy Evans is one of the reasons they believe that.

-- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN.com

Scouts Inc.'s Fabulous Five

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