2014 Record: 8-5, 2nd in Peter, 6th in points for, 6th in potential points, 7th in All Play, lost in Superb Owl final
It’s been a while so let’s just refresh ourselves with that line up above there. 6th in points for, 6th in potential points and 7th in all play yet Here Comes the Brees limped all the way to the Superb Owl. Given that they got steamrollered by the Firebirds in the main event though the question is: was last season’s unlikely success actually a hindrance to the Brees? Receiving late draft picks because of it put them in the unenviable position of having a sparse roster and a lack of premium young talent to replenish. It has been a long, uncomfortable summer for Ben Archer and Dan Sayles.
One of the more active teams on the trade market, the Brees have attempted to turn areas of surplus strength on the defence or untrusted commodities into skill position improvements. Out have gone Marcell Dareus (not needed with Aaron Donald ready to step up this season), Kendall Wright, Corey Brown, Martellus Bennett and Roy Helu to be replaced with Isaiah Crowell, Terrance West, Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns, DeSean Jackson and a smattering of draft picks. It’s a lot of churn but the question could be asked of whether the overall quality of the team has really improved that much.
In free agency the odd decision was taken to recruit Owen Daniels, another TE to add to a stable that already included Tyler Eifert, Zach Ertz and Martellus Bennett. Even with Bennett’s departure, TE did not seem to be an area requiring much investment and although Daniels lands in a good and familiar situation that roster spot could perhaps have been better used elsewhere. Apart from that the Brees only invested capital in upgrading their linebackers, bringing in Nigel Bradham and Pernell McPhee. Bradham’s addition will not excite, he’s a run-of-the-mill depth option, but Pernell McPhee is a good addition. Although he’s seen only limited snaps in his career to date he has a high ceiling as a pass rusher and could prove a shrewd addition.
The trend of investing in skill positions continued in the draft with the first 4 picks going on Tevin Coleman, Breshad Perriman, Philip Dorsett and Maxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Williams. At the time the Brees must have hoped that Coleman and Perriman at least would be in a position to contribute straight away but, heading into week 1, Coleman seems to be behind Freeman in Atlanta (although the Brees do at least have Freeman) and Perriman is injured. Dorsett hasn’t established himself as the Colts #3 option yet and Williams is a 1st year TE so it would be unfair to set too high expectations. For all that, there is a nice mix of talent and situations there and, looking longer-term, the draft looks positive, particularly with the addition of defensive Swiss Army Knife Shaq Thompson and Jordan Hicks, though whether the Brees needed more linebackers is a question that could be asked (although who am I to judge?)
Areas of Improvement: The Brees have scraped together some talent at RB now though they can’t be happy with the number of committees they’re working with (Atlanta, Cleveland and Tampa, at least to some extent). WR still looks like a barren wasteland with the uncertainty around Victor Cruz and Pierre Garcon but DeSean Jackson provides a big ceiling each week and there are some young lottery tickets that may pay off in Charles Johnson, Perriman (when fit) and the two Jacksonville receivers.
Areas of Regression: Focusing so heavily on offence leaves the defensive side of the Brees roster looking underwhelming. The loss of Dareus removes depth and flex options and, even with the additions, the selection of linebackers is very ho-hum. Money invested into Earl Thomas and Michael Bennett needs to come off this season for the Brees to hold their own on this side of the ball.
Prediction: With few off-season moves set to make a big splash straight away you have to say that the best case scenario would be for the Brees to go 6-7 and finish in the position where their points total should have had them last year. More likely would be 5-8 or even 4-9 and a high pick in next year’s draft.