Indianapolis – As much as the NFL Combine appears to be focused on the tangible – height, weight, speed, bench press, vertical leap – the intangibles offered by the athletes are as much under the microscope. And the combination of the two will be a significant determining factor for teams like the New Orleans Saints.
"That's definitely one of the goals here, to learn more about the individuals," Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said Friday. "I think the Combine is really important. It's important for the medical information that we get, it's important for the measurables that we get on each of these guys, the drill work, getting to see them on the field doing some physical things. And it's important the interviews we do, both in our room and that our coaches do with these guys individually.
"It gives us more bits of information. Each of these guys has put together a pretty good resume. Their college career is a real good resume. So we're just adding little pieces of information to it in order to help us make the best decision in who fits the New Orleans Saints the best."
Loomis agreed that the Saints will be looking to upgrade the defense this offseason, after the unit allowed the most points and second-most yards per game in the league in 2015. But, he said, that doesn't mean New Orleans won't do its homework on all players.
"It's correct that when we look at this offseason, a lot of our focus is on defense," he said. "And yet, we're not ignoring the offensive players in this draft. We're spending the same amount of diligent time evaluating each player, whether they're offense or defense.
"We're focused on all the players here and I think our area scouts and our personnel department do a great job in making sure that we have complete information on every player."
Part of that diligence is extending the process beyond the Combine. Franchises also are able to bring in players to their respective facilities for further evaluation and interviewing after this week in Indianapolis.
"That's all part of the process," Loomis said. "There'll be guys that we feel real comfortable about and we won't need to bring in, and there'll be some guys that we have questions about – and it may be something really innocuous – that will cause us to say, 'Let's bring this guy in and spend a little more time with him.' It's all part of the information gathering process.
"And yet, we've had guys that have come in that we haven't drafted, we've had guys that we didn't bring in that we did draft. So I wouldn't say that it's an indicator of who we are going to draft, it's just an indicator that we want to gather more information on a particular player."
Whether or not it's a player who makes a trip to the practice facility in Metairie, the Saints hope the draft is a collection that has an impact similar to last year's class.
"I think we did hit on guys that fit the profile of what we've determined a New Orleans Saints player to be," Loomis said. "In year one, either due to circumstance or their own talent, we got a lot of contributions. And we have some guys that we think are going to make contributions to our team down the road. All of that remains to be seen, but we're encouraged by year one."
FOREVER A SAINT: As might have been surmised, Loomis said that the franchise releasing guard Jahri Evans was a difficult decision.
"It's always difficult to say goodbye to a player," he said. "It's particularly difficult with someone like Jahri. He has been an exemplary New Orleans Saint. Both on the field and off the field, he's exceeded our expectations from the day we got him. So that's particularly hard.
"But on the other hand, he'll be a part of the New Orleans Saints for the rest of his life. He's always welcome in our building, he'll be a part of the Hall of Fame someday, he'll be a part of the Ring of Honor someday. His imprint on the New Orleans Saints is significant, and that isn't changing."