Patrick Robinson has replaced Porter and could be a better player now., at least the Saints think so. The Saints signed free agents Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne who will start with Scott Shanle and the Saints will be much stronger at linebacker than they have been the past several seasons. Free agent Chris Chamberlain also adds depth at linebacker and special teams.
Smith is the Saints best defensive lineman, and he'll be missed for four games. Defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Turk McBride must elevate their game, but the Saints' defensive line accounted for only 16.5 sacks last year, and number will have to go up if they are going to play like they want to play. If McBride stays healthy, those sack numbers will rise.
The Saints safeties are overrated even though Roman Harper made the Pro Bowl. If they play up to their reputations, the Saints will be OK here under Steve Spagunolo's scheme.
Bringing in Spagnuolo to replace Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator is a plus for the defense. The Saints defense has been terrible the past two seasons. Check the league standings.
Spags isn't going to run the same kind of blitz-happy scheme Williams called, and that could be to the benefit of personnel like safety Malcolm Jenkins, who didn't get an interception in 2011.
Spags will rely on his front four to get his pass rush, same as he did when he was coordinator with the Giants. He doesn't have nearly the personnel he did there, especially with Smith out for four games.
The Saints will miss guard Carl Nicks and wide receiver Robert Meachem. Nicks signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract to go to Tampa Bay, and Meachem will make more money with the Chargers as a starting receiver there. Meachem isn't the kind of receiver you shouldn't let get away.
The Saints did replace Nicks with Pro Bowler Ben Grubbs from the Ravens and he's not a bad player, but Nicks is the best guard in the NFL.
The Saints ran the ball just 431 times against 662 pass attempts despite four good running backs.
It will be interesting to see if Mark Ingram can make the starting RB job his, but the Saints are sitll going to use Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. Sproles tight end Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston are Brees' go-to guys.
With Brees the Saints' head this season, the body shouldn't die.