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FILE – New Orleans Saints first-round pick receiver Chris Olave (12) quarterback Jameis Winston (2) during NFL football practice in Metairie, La., Thursday, June 2, 2022 (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

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NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (9-8)

CAMPING: Metairie, Louisiana

LAST YEAR: New Orleans won five of the seven games Jameis Winston started before his first season as successor Drew Brees ended with a knee injury. The Saints lost their next four games before coming back into play when Taysom Hill returned from his own injury and took over at QB. The Saints remained in contention until the last day of the season, when they were eliminated by San Francisco’s dramatic comeback to the Los Angeles Rams. The winning record came despite four starting QBs and despite top receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) missing all season. Longtime coach Sean Payton retired after the season and was replaced by defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, whose unit has performed well over the past half-decade and been the obvious strength of the team over the past two seasons.

IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: First-round picks WR Chris Olave and LT Trevor Penning, WR Jarvis Landry, DBs Marcus Maye and Tyrann Mathieu, second-round picks CB Altontae Taylor.

MAJOR LOSSES: S Marcus Williams, LT Terron Armstead.

CAMP NEEDS: Alvin Kamara’s arrest over Pro Bowl weekend in Las Vegas raises the prospect of a suspension and the need for the Saints to establish a running back rotation that explains the lack of Kamara to start the season. Veterans Mark Ingram and Dwayne Washington, third-year pro Tony Jones Jr. and undrafted rookie Abram Smith will be vying for snaps at the position. After losing Armstead in free agency, the Saints will be hoping to fill that spot with first-rounder Penning. The Saints also want to see further evidence that Winston will be fully recovered from reconstructive knee surgery by the start of the season. Newly acquired veteran Andy Dalton and second-year pro Ian Book will open camp by taking backup shots. Allen said Hill would continue in his periodic role as a running QB, but should shift mostly to tight end. Defensively, the Saints are hoping former LSU star and nine-year NFL veteran Mathieu has enough reserve in his tank to make a difference and fits Allen’s plan well. It also remains to be seen how defensive ends Payton Turner (shoulder) and Marcus Davenport (shoulder/hand) return from injuries.

KEY COMPETITIONS AT CAMP: The Saints’ top three receivers could be players who didn’t play for New Orleans last season. Thomas is aiming to return from injury and join Jarvis Landry and rookie Olave. But returning veteran Tre’Quan Smith will also compete for first-team snaps there, while Deonte Harty (formerly Harris) is trying to carve out a bigger role as a receiver to go along with All-Pro credentials. that he established as a returner. in his rookie season in 2019. While the Saints want Penning to win left tackle as a rookie, he will be challenged by veteran James Hurst, who started eight games at left tackle when Armstead was injured on the season last.

EXPECTATIONS: The Saints nearly made the playoffs last season despite a series of injuries in key positions and return with a roster that is perhaps stronger and deeper than it was a year ago, especially to the receiver. But New Orleans will also rely on 30-something veterans Cameron Jordan and Demario Davis to anchor its defense. If those players and Mathieu, who was let go by Kansas City, show signs of declining, it could hurt the Saints’ chances of being a playoff dark horse. Another crucial factor will be how the team reacts to Allen taking over from Payton, who had been Saints head coach since 2006. However, Allen is no stranger to returning players. . He served as the Saints’ defensive coordinator from late 2015 until last season and brought back the most prominent assistants from Payton’s staff.

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