New Orleans Saints preseason primer

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2006 season recap

Surprise, surprise for Saints
Expected to contend for last place in the NFC South for the second consecutive season, the Saints, buoyed by the additions of quarterback Drew Brees, rookies Reggie Bush and Marques Colston and head coach Sean Payton, sprinted out to a strong start and eventually reached the NFC Championship Game.

Key camp questions

Will the defense hold up its end?
The Saints had one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL last year, but the defense didn't always supplement the offense. Statistically, the unit ranked a respectable 11th in total defense, but it was 31st in creating turnovers and 23rd in rush defense. Those areas will need to be improved if the Saints are to take the next step toward the Super Bowl.

Can Bush and Colston avoid the sophomore slump?
Video: Bush workout feature -- how he prepares for 2007 season
The Saints first- and seventh-round draft picks, respectively, Bush and Colston were the best offensive rookie tandem in the league last year by a large margin. The test will be whether they can duplicate those strong performances the second time around with the league having an offseason to prepare for them and Payton's high-flying offense. .

With other teams gunning for them, can the Saints adjust to being the hunted?
New Orleans took the NFL by surprise last year. That won't be the case this year. Every opponent will be ready for them, and the Saints must be able to match that intensity on a weekly basis. Veterans like Brees and Hollis Thomas will be relied upon to make sure the Saints don't let up.

Key position battle

David Patten vs. Terrance Copper
Patten suffered through a myriad of injuries during his two-year stint in Washington and never reached the level he demonstrated with the Super Bowl champion Patriots. He is hoping to fend off promising second-year player Copper for the coveted third wideout spot in Sean Payton's spread offense.

Rookie spotlight

WR Robert Meachem
The speedster out of Tennessee has struggled with injuries thus far and has been unable to show his stuff in offseason camps. With four receivers ahead of him on the depth chart, Meachem might find it hard to get on the field during his rookie year.

Player on the spot

LB Brian Simmons
The veteran linebacker joins the Saints after a lengthy and productive career in Cincinnati. The Saints are counting on the crafty Simmons to help lead the defense and tighten up a sometimes shaky unit that showed cracks despite impressive overall numbers in last year's 10-6 campaign.

Fantasy focus

WR Marques Colston
The true definition of a sleeper, Colston went from seventh-round draft choice to fantasy football star in a very short time. While some are worried about the dreaded sophomore slump, Colston remains a prominent component of a prolific offense and is a nice No. 2 fantasy wideout.

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