This article is part of our Team Previews series.
STATE OF THE FRANCHISEDespite entering the season with Super Bowl aspirations, the 2014 Saints stumbled to a 7-9 record. Behind a porous offensive line, quarterback Drew Brees looked every one of his (then) 35 years old, suffering through his worst season in nearly half a decade. The usually reliable Marques Colston struggled to get separation at wideout. And the defense, simply put, was a disaster.
Despite last year's disappointment, there's reason for optimism entering 2015. The Saints re-signed running back Mark Ingram, who finally broke through in 2014, running with power and even flashing a decent pair of hands. Last year's first-round draft pick Brandin Cooks also returns after his debut season was cut short by a broken thumb that limited him to 10 games. The timing of the ailment was unfortunate, as Cooks was just starting to emerge as a deep threat for the team, averaging over 14 yards per catch in the four contests before his injury.
The Saints also did some major housecleaning this offseason. Gone is longtime running back Pierre Thomas; ditto linebacker Curtis Lofton. The team also waved goodbye to veteran offensive linemen Ben Grubbs and Jonathan Goodwin, as well as frustrating cornerbacks Corey White and Patrick Robinson.
The most surprising moves came via trade, as the Saints dealt All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham to Seattle and up-and-coming wide receiver Kenny Stills to Miami. In return for Graham, the Saints acquired Pro Bowl center Max Unger and a first-round