NFL coaches, players and fans may have heard in passing that the New Orleans Saints' opponent in the regular-season opener, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, signed a new starting quarterback this offseason.
That doesn't mean the Saints, who will face the Buccaneers on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, have no inkling of what Tampa Bay might want to do offensively.
Tom Brady won six Super Bowls in his 20 seasons as quarterback of the New England Patriots, and Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians has a system he has crafted through years of trial and error. Between the two, there emerges a picture of what the Buccaneers can do.
The Saints' issue is deciphering it quickly.
"I'm sure there's going to be some elements to what they do offensively that Tom has done before in New England, and then I'm sure there's going to be the system that's in place there that those guys are used to running and having success with," Saints coach Sean Payton said Monday. "So, like every first game of the year for so many teams – especially when there've been coaching changes or personnel changes like this – you're going to have to be ready to adjust and quickly adapt to what you're seeing."
What, and who, will be seen likely won't be foreign. Tampa Bay's main returning offensive weapons, receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin each totaled at least 1,100 receiving yards and eight touchdowns last season in Arians' system, and tight end Rob Gronkowski – back after a year in retirement – played each of his previous nine seasons (four as a first-team All-Pro) with Brady in New England.
"Bruce and (offensive coordinator) Byron (Leftwich) and those guys in Tampa have done a fantastic job offensively, so that's not going to change," Payton said. "There are going to be some elements, I'm sure, that as coaches, you look closely at what Tom has had success with and I'm sure they'll incorporate a portion of that. Now, how much, I don't know.
"But I think you're in the first game of the season, you haven't had preseason games as well, we're going to have to be able to adjust very quickly to what we're seeing and how they're attacking us, and I think the same way that they'll have to adjust for us."
A significant defensive counter for the Saints will be cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Jackrabbit Jenkins. Jenkins joined the team late last season, on Dec. 16, in time to play the final two regular-season games and the playoff game. But he and Lattimore arguably combine to give the Saints their best starting corner tandem in the Payton era.
"We feel real confident in the camp they've had," Payton said. "They're smart players with good ball skills. They're going to get tested early, Tampa is outstanding in all the skill positions. But I'm glad we have them."
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Payton went into a bit more detail regarding the Saints' pursuit of free agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who wound up signing with Tennessee. "We felt like we got close," Payton said. "We weren't able to match the money and that's one of the challenges each year when you're going after a player, what type of space do you have. (Executive Vice Present/General Manager) Mickey (Loomis) and (Vice President of Football Administration) Khai (Harley) and those guys did a great job of really spending time with his representation. In the meantime, we had a good visit when we went out to see him. And it was one thought, just creatively, relative to essentially having a team sign a player, take some of the financial burden away from the team they trade him to and then essentially then get a draft pick back. First response we got from the league, we felt was fairly positive and then ultimately, they decided against it. So we move forward."
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