December 16, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt reacts to an officials call during the first half of a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Enemy On The Ship: Answers About The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Opponents In 2013, New Orleans Saints Edition

Welcome to another installment of Enemy on the Ship, a series of articles where I am graciously given the time and effort of a writer or blogger for the teams the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face in 2013, and they share their thoughts on the team they cover, and how they’ll do against the Bucs in 2013.

For our final installment in this series, we’re joined by Chris Roling of Who Dat Dish to discuss the New Orleans Saints. You can check out Who Dat Dish here, and find Chris on Twitter here. Here’s what he had to say about the Saints:

Leo Howell – The Saints come into this season looking very similar to the 2012 version. What do you believe will be the biggest change from the team that went 2-0 against the Buccaneers last year?

Chris Roling – The biggest change is easily the new 3-4 defense in place under Rob Ryan. It’s a new look with a bunch of odds and ends that could surprise some folks if executed correctly. Since that’s so obvious it’s also important to point out something a bit under-the-radar, which is the return of the running game. Expect a lot of it now that Sean Payton is back. There’s no excuse for the team to hold back when it’s three deep at the position and seeing a lack of defenders in the box because of Drew Brees‘ arm.

Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports 

LH – Tell us about the Saints changed defensive scheme, and how you believe it will fare with the talent that is in place. Will it be better than the awful defense the Saints featured last year?

CR – It’s tough to say exactly how the new scheme will fare, but it’s almost a fact it will be better than last year’s team that ended up as the worst statistical unit in history. Akiem Hicks and rookie John Jenkins are exciting players to watch on the line, as are the mashup of players at linebacker. Corner is where the biggest upgrade happened thanks to Keenan Lewis. One good corner in that scheme will enable pass-rushers more time to get to quarterbacks.

LH – Drew Brees is getting older and seemed to struggle with a higher error rate last season. Do you believe Brees is past his prime, and has begun a decline? Or do you believe he’ll bounce back in 2013?

CR – Not sure I’m ready to say Brees is past his prime after back-to-back 5,000 yard seasons, pass-heavy offense or not. Part of the issue last year was the lack of a running game and Jimmy Graham‘s spotty health. Expect things to get back to normal in 2013 with a more balanced attack.

LH – Who is going to step up and be a factor in the running game for the Saints in the absence of Chris Ivory? Or does it not even matter, because the focus will continue to be on the passing game?

CR – It doesn’t matter because Ivory only played in six games. He can’t stay healthy because of his physical style and was the fourth back on the depth chart as a result. Pierre Thomas will continue to quietly be an efficient every-down back. It’s going to be a more balanced attack, so expect Mark Ingram to have a big year as well. He didn’t receive a good amount of carries last year, but average it out to give him 50-75 more and he would have easily broke 1,000 yards.

LH – Finally, Tell us how you think you Saints will fare against the Buccaneers in 2013 in their week 2 and week 17 matchups.

CR – Bucs are a much more dangerous team than most realize. Saints are going to be struggling early in the season to get the new defensive scheme in gear. With that in mind on the road, Tampa Bay probably has an easy win in Week 2. With the Saints at home to close out the season, the offense in a rhythm and the defense finally gelled, the Saints should take the final contest of the year.

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