The New Orleans Saints offence ranked fourth in total yards in 2013, while quarterback Drew Brees finished behind only NFL MVP Peyton Manning in passing yards. In 2014, the Saints will have the offensive weapons to compete for the title of the league's preeminent offence.
The Saints will be without offensive stalwarts of the past Darren Sproles and Lance Moore this season, after Sproles was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles and Moore was cut in the offseason. However, the Saints replaced Moore with first-round draft pick Brandin Cooks and previously had the running back depth to move Sproles.
The group of receivers Brees will throw to this year may be more talented than any other unit in the league, featuring veterans Marques Colston and Robert Meachem joined with speedsters Cooks and Kenny Stills.
Coltson posted less than 1,000 yards receiving last year for the first time since 2008 - when he only played in 11 games. His final stat line was 75 catches for 943 yards and five touchdowns. Yet, Colston was bothered by a foot injury in each of his past two seasons and claims to be in full health entering his age 31 season.
"It's a totally different experience for me just being able to really rest and come into the season healthy," Colston told ESPN after reporting to training camp.
Colston is slated to open the season as the receiver across from Stills.
Stills, selected in the fifth round (144th overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft, took defences by surprise in his rookie season, averaging 20 yards per catch. Stills finished with 32 receptions for 641 yards and five touchdowns. He's primed to top those marks in 2014 as an every-week starter.
By all accounts, Cooks impressed the Saints' coaches, players and media throughout training camp and should be a key contributor to the team's explosive offence this season. Cooks posted an astounding 128 catches for 1730 yards at Oregon State University in 2013. He also rushed for 217 yards on 32 carries.
Meachem and third-year receiver Nick Toon should complete the team's strong receiving corps.
The biggest playmaker for the offence will not carry wide receiver title, despite his off-season attempt to earn the designation. Tight end Jimmy Graham will once again be the focal point for the offence in 2014, after leading the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns last season.
Brees' favourite weapon posted a league-high 16 touchdowns in 2013 and the only thing holding him back from repeating as the scoring leader may be added competition.
The Saints offence will be balanced by running backs Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson. Thomas led the team with 549 yards rushing last season and added 77 receptions for 513 yards. Ingram and Robinson, however, are expected to compete for feature back duties this season as Thomas enters on passing downs.
With playmakers across the offence, the Saints will be in prime position to compete with Manning's Broncos, amongst others, for the title of 2014's top offence.
Defensive Additions: The Saints defence surprised offences in 2013, finishing as a top-five group in their first year under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. In the offseason, the Saints added to the group with the signing of safety Jarius Byrd and cornerback Champ Bailey. Byrd will join 2013 first-round Kenny Vaccaro on the back-end of the Saints defence, while Bailey could draw starts opposite Keenan Lewis.
Kicker Controversy: The Saints have yet to name their starting kicker for the 2014 season after a competition between incumbent Shayne Graham and Dimke has been a dead heat. The Saints will either cut one while trimming their roster to 53 men and keep the other, or cut both and sign a kicker cut by another team.