The New Orleans Saints (5-0) have made no secret over the years about their admiration for their upcoming opponents, the New England Patriots (4-1). The Saints have long pointed to the Patriots as a model for sustaining success, year in and year out, while continually reshaping the roster.
That’s something the Saints are trying to emulate this year. The Saints have only 12 players on their current 53-man roster who were around for their Super Bowl run in 2009 (with two others on injured reserve).
Four years may not seem like a long time, but it can mark an entire life span for a NFL roster.
Just look at the Patriots, who only had seven players on the roster who were on both their 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl appearances. Only three of those players are still left on their active roster today (quarterback Tom Brady, guard Logan Mankins and kicker Stephen Gostkowski, plus defensive tackle Vince Wilfork on injured reserve).
Heck, a lot can change in just two years -- even with the NFL’s most stable franchises. The Saints only have 26 players on their current 53-man roster who were around for their last playoff run in 2011.
That means more than half of the current roster is playing under coach Sean Payton for the first time, after he served a season-long suspension in 2012.
To Payton’s credit, that’s something he quickly learned to appreciate when he met his team this past spring and realized how many new faces were in the room.
“Each year, look, there’s a cliché, ‘It’s a different season.’ And a lot of that’s true,” Payton said when asked about the Saints’ leap from an 0-4 start in 2012 to a 5-0 start this year. “Obviously circumstances are different this year than a year ago. ...(But) there’s constant change. The thing I noticed most being away one year is you missed out on a draft and free agency class. Then you come back and get another draft and free agency class. That first team meeting there’s 40 new faces.
“So we went back to kind of putting the tape on the helmet with the names, because there’s a lot of new players. And oftentimes as a coach you think that they’ve heard your message before, when a lot of ‘em by and large haven’t. But this group’s worked hard. They’ve been very eager to please.”