What's expected of the Saints this season
The reigning NFC West champions should challenge for the division title again in 1992 with the chief competition from the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons. Certainly a playoff berth is within reach.
Three Saints to watch
Outside linebacker Pat Swilling is coming off his best season. Last year he led the NFL with 17 sacks and was named the league's Defensive Player of the Year. Quarterback Bobby Hebert is the team's offensive leader. His absence was felt in 1991 when he missed seven games because of shoulder problems. Rookie tailback Vaughn Dunbar, the team's No. 1 draft pick, appears to be a legitimate threat and should help revive the Saints' running game.
Who has been having a good training camp?
Free-agent kicker Cary Blanchard probably has been the surprise. He was signed before camp when team officials learned Morten Andersen was suffering from tendinitis in his left knee. Blanchard is 6-for-6 on field-goal attempts, including one to beat the Chicago Bears, 34-31, in the first preseason game.
What the Saints do well
A perfect Saints game is to control the clock offensively with a short passing game and a sound running game. On defense, the Saints use a bend-but-don't-break style, force turnovers and don't give up big plays.
What the Saints don't do well
The Saints seldom blow teams out, basically because their approach is conservative, and they lack a real impact, big-play type of player on offense.
The Saints' Maryland connections
Tight end John Tice starred at Maryland, where he led the Terrapins in receiving in 1981 and 1982. Coach Jim Mora and five of his assistants -- Carl Smith, Vic Fangio, Jim Skipper, Joe Marciano and John Pease -- served for three seasons on the staff of the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars of the U.S. Football League. Linebacker Sam Mills also played for the Stars.
(Brian Allee-Walsh covers the Saints for the New Orleans Times-Picayune)