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In Depth 2015: New Orleans Saints

A season of high expectations fell apart quickly for New Orleans in 2014. The defense gave up 424 points and the in-depthSaints lost their last five games at home to finish a deeply disappointing 7-9.

Urgency reigned at the beginning of the new league year, as well. Stud tight end Jimmy Graham was sent to Seattle for Max Unger and WR Kenny Stills was sent to Miami – both deals netted picks in the first half of the 2015 draft. Mark Ingram was re-signed and CJ Spiller was added to give the offense a new dimension.

Can these changes bring the Saints back to postseason relevance in 2015? Travis Dauro, previously a writer at Canal Street Chronicles and now a freelance writer covering the Saints, re-joins Zoneblitz with his thoughts and observations on the 2014 letdown and the team’s efforts to recover heading into 2015.

Zoneblitz: Though the Saints were in playoff contention until late in the season, New Orleans finished 7-9 and out of the postseason in the weak NFC South. What’s your assessment of the season? Continue reading

In Depth 2015: Cleveland Browns

It was an up and down year for the Cleveland Browns, who used a mid-season surge to get into playoff contention in-depthbefore sliding to 7-9 in 2014.

But for a team on its third head coach in three seasons – one that made two first-round picks, neither of whom produced in their first year – and missing its biggest weapon in Josh Gordon for most of the season, to still produce the team’s best record since a 2007 10-6 mark shows signs of growth.

Can they sustain the indications of momentum? Or will the failure to solidify a long-term QB solution keep this team in the doldrums for more than the foreseeable future? Pete Smith, a contributing writer for Football Savages and former editor of Dawg Pound Daily, rejoined Zoneblitz to share his thoughts.

Zoneblitz: The Browns looked for a while like a postseason challenger before falling apart a bit at the end. How would you assess the season? Continue reading

In Depth 2015: Minnesota Vikings

Mike Zimmer’s first year as head coach of the Vikings got off to a great start, as Minnesota trounced the St. Louis in-depthRams. Then Adrian Peterson’s child abuse situation cost him the rest of his season and things started derailing a bit. Matt Cassel got hurt, thrusting Teddy Bridgewater into the starting lineup before the team really wanted him there.

All things considered, an improvement from 5-10-1 to 7-9 in year one doesn’t look all bad. So where do the Vikings go from here? How far is this team from rejoining the postseason ranks? Jon Merckle, staff writer for The Viking Age, shares some thoughts.

Zoneblitz: The Vikings improved to 7-9 in 2015 and looked like they might finally have a long-term QB solution. How would you assess the season? Continue reading

In Depth 2015: St. Louis Rams

The NFC West is as competitive a division as the NFL has seen in years, but as the St. Louis Rams entered the 2014 in-depthseason, hopes were high that a strong defense and a healthy Sam Bradford could bring the team closer to the postseason.

Then disaster struck. Bradford again tore his ACL, missing the entire season and sending the team on a slow tailspin. There were moments of hope – such as a big, dominant win over Denver – but the combo of Shaun Hill and Austin Davis didn’t have what it took to lead the team to the playoffs.

As 2015 approaches, Bradford is gone. Nick Foles is at the helm, at least for the time being. And a strong defense again gives St. Louis at least a glimmer of hope that this will be the year.

How close are the Rams? Blaine Grisak, editor of Ramblin’ Fan, shares his thoughts.

Zoneblitz: The 6-10 record in 2014 was actually a one game step back from 2013. What caused that and how would you assess the season? Continue reading

In Depth 2015: New York Giants

There was very little middle ground for the streaky New York Giants in 2014. They opened the season with two in-depthdouble-digit losses, won three games in the same fashion, lost the next seven – four of which were blowouts – knocking themselves out of the playoffs and then finished winning three of four.

The end result, however, was a 6-10 record that, despite an aggressive free agency push toward improvement from a 7-9 mark in 2013 actually resulted in a one game regression.

That said, Eli Manning appeared to pick up the new offensive system as the year rolled on. And Odell Beckham showed signs during his rookie year that he could be one of the league’s top up and coming stars. So where does that leave the Giants going forward?

Ed Valentine, editor in chief of the Big Blue View, stopped by with some thoughts.

Zoneblitz: The Giants were as streaky as streaky gets in 2014, which ultimately resulted in a 6-10 mark. How would you assess the season? Continue reading

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