Wounded Who Dats are back at the Gates of Hopeby J.W. Miller on 07/21/19
The last time we talked seriously about the Saints and football was probably before the Who Dat mob marched through the streets demanding the head of Roger Goodell on a pike. How dare he empower such stumblebums in striped shirts to take away the Saints chance at a second Super Bowl appearance? And what does Who Dat Nation have today but a hurtful gnawing in the stomach that just won’t go away?
It didn’t help that the NFL Network chose Friday night, the day the rookies reported to training camp, to replay that game. It’s almost as though somebody keeps rubbing it in our faces with the reminder that although our favorite team might have been victimized, they still lost the game that will live in infamy (apologies to F.D.R.), at least around here.
Not much significant has happened in the six months since the event. The NFL has made some rules changes to discourage such a travesty from happening again but you won't notice them. A local filmmaker is planning on shooting a documentary on what really happened on that last play. Last week, a state civil district court judge allowed a suit filed by a local attorney to get to the “truth” about the no-call and require the officials and Goodell to testify. Nice try, but anybody who thinks the suit will get past an appeals court outside the state wants Blake Bortles as his starting quarterback.
Nothing has happened to mollify Saints fans. They got whacked in the teeth and they keep getting reminded of it. And now here comes Who Dat Nation, wounded though its members be, marching right back to its customary position at this time of year. Standing in front of the Gates of Hope, the opening of training camp, hunched over a bit but still resilient and yearning for this year to give them another miracle. The seeds of that miracle, if it becomes that, have been planted, watered and nurtured the past few months and will sprout this week when the veterans join the rookies in camp.
There are many reasons for optimism that this group can do what they did not achieve last year. Drew Brees leads that list of reasons, which you already know, and some new additions will be an upgrade. TE Jared Cook should return us to the thrilling days of yesteryear when the Saints had a tight end who could spread the field and catch passes. C Nick Easton is solid, if unspectacular, and should give top pick Erik McCoy time to learn his trade. RB Marc Ingram may be missed more in the locker room than on the field, but Alvin Kamara should be even better in his third year. Michael Thomas is an elite receiver, and maybe Cook and second-year man Tre’Quan Smith can give him some relief, and maybe Keith Kirkwood will make a run for a starting spot.
The defense should be even better than last year, with a healthy Marcus Davenport making it difficult to double-team Cameron Jordan. Ex-Patriot Malcom Brown is a good addition at defensive tackle, especially with Sheldon Rankins’ injury situation, and Marshon Lattimore and Eli Apple could be the starting corners here for years. We'll get around to all the positions as we go through camp, but I believe that top to bottom they have a chance to be better as a team.
You might even be a little giddy if you believe the wise guys in Vegas who set the odds to win the 2020 Super Bowl. Their favorites are the Patriots and Chiefs, both listed at 6-1, followed by the Saints and Rams at 8-1. I think that shows that Vegas also believes the Saints should have been the NFC representative last year by placing them dead even with the team that did become New England’s annual lunch.
So I guess someday soon, I will venture down to my own little Gates of Hope - my local Mississippi sports book - and put my money where my mouth is. After all, I still have my uncashed Super Bowl wager slip from last season to remind me that the Saints were 15-1 then and damned near made it.