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John DeShazier: New Orleans Saints Mailbag senior writer answers your questions

Only a few more weeks of mailbags before we lullaby the segment for the summer, so continue to submit questions and we'll do our best to give you a logical – if not always headline-grabbing – answer. Thanks again for this week's entries.

@burchett_tyler:What are the chances that this is Drew Bree's final year as a Saint?

JD:There's always a chance that it will be, but my feeling today is that the relationship has been mutually beneficial, and it'll continue beyond this year.

@thegutsysleeper: Who is your, "Wow, I didn't think he'd make the cut" player this year?

JD:Way, way, way, waaaaaaaaaaay early for that kind of prognostication. For instance, Marques Colston looked like he'd be cut after his first appearance as a rookie in 2006, then was a lock to start by the end of training camp. So, let's get into training camp before we start checking on surprise roster inclusions, because that's where the real progress shows.

@alexwillis587: Other than defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, which first-year player or second-year player (because of injuries in 2015) will make the biggest impact on defense?

JD:Cornerback P.J. Williams is a good candidate. He sat out last season with an injury, plays a premium position and if he can cover as well as the Saints believe he can – they spent a third-round pick on him last year – he'll be on the field a lot.

‏@QDub85: How do you think the New Orleans Saints defense is going to be this season, especially against Oakland in the first game?

JD:The defense will be improved; by how many leaps and bounds, it will be difficult to say until the season is in full swing. The total improvement might not be on display in the season opener, nor should it, because the goal is to improve every week and to be playing your best at the end of the season (hopefully – obviously – as you enter the playoffs). But starting the season at home should help the team as a whole, and Oakland is a nice opponent to get an initial gauge against defensively.

‏@_CODY_103:Who will be our starting running back this year?

JD: Mark Ingram, and he has been the starter the last two years, and is coming off a career high in yards from scrimmage. I see him beaten up quite a bit on the message boards, but message board writers don't see the work he puts in, the improvements he has made, the injuries he plays with and through, or the regard his teammates have for him. And critics sometimes aren't totally objective about his production (in the interest of fairness, I must admit that as an employee of the team, I'm not always objective, either). But I've also seen the strides Ingram has made as a runner, receiver and blocker. And he has a good approach to the whole thing, on and off the field.

‏@ItsXMan: With the addition of second-round pick Vonn Bell, how often will we see three safeties on the field?

JD:Only defensive coordinator Dennis Allen can answer that, and he only can answer it after watching his safeties and cornerbacks in OTAs, minicamp and training camp. Bell can cover, which always is a plus, but he also has to pick up the schemes and learn the defense. If his learning curve is an accelerated one, and he seems to be catching on quickly, he could play a ton, especially in the sub packages, where his coverage ability will be prized.

‏@GregF_lores: What scheme will the defense be in?

JD:That's a sexy question, and I don't have a sexy answer. Here's the un-sexy answer that may sound smart-alecky, but isn't meant to: Dennis Allen is looking for the best 11 players he can put out there defensively. That could mean a 4-3 alignment, or it could mean a 3-4. That will sort itself out during training camp (that's especially the case for linemen, because it's most difficult to get a read on them without pads). And he'll go from there. What we do know, or strongly suspect, is that the defense will attack and look to force turnovers. That's not a reinvention of the wheel; that's always the goal, every season, but the hope also is to put players in better position to take advantage of their talents and to have them playing more freely mentally. If that happens, people won't much care whether it's from a 4-3 or a 3-4.

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