- Covered Saints for eight years at New Orleans Times-Picayune
- Previously covered LSU football, San Francisco 49ers
- Iowa native and University of Iowa graduate
METAIRIE, La. -- Drew Brees is heading into his 17th NFL season, so he has gotten used to the idea of adjusting to moving parts around him in the offense.
But this year’s turnover is a little more turbulent than usual. The New Orleans Saints will head into Monday night’s opener at the Minnesota Vikings without receivers Brandin Cooks (traded to New England) and Willie Snead (suspended for the first three games) – not to mention starting rookie Ryan Ramczyk at left tackle.
“Obviously that all happened in March [with Cooks], so we’ve been moving along with the guys that we have and feel very good about that,” Brees said. “[Losing] Snead was tough and he’s a big part of what we do offensively. But it's the 'next man up' mentality, and the guys that will step into that role will do a good job. And we’ll kind of keep chugging along.
“Obviously we’ll miss him. But we have to keep rolling."
Among Brees’ top receiving targets on Monday, only running back Mark Ingram, receiver Brandon Coleman and tight end Josh Hill have been around longer than a season.
Receivers Michael Thomas and Tommylee Lewis and tight end Coby Fleener arrived last year. Receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and running backs Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara are brand-spanking new.
But when asked if it feels different than ever before, Brees said, “I guess I don’t even think about it like that.”
“Because even when you do get a new guy in, you get to work immediately with him from the offseason, to the time that we put in together away from the facility, to all of training camp and then here we are,” Brees said. “You have to get on the same page -- you have to get on the same page quick, especially in this offense, because there are a lot of nuances to it that just require a lot of that me-to-you type chemistry.
“We continue to get better and better, but obviously we’ve got to hit the ground running when we get to Minnesota.”
Brees, 38, has shown a proven ability to adjust as he has been separated from favorite targets such as LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Jimmy Graham, Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles among others over the years.
So, too, has Saints coach Sean Payton, who has earned his reputation as one of the game’s all-time great offensive innovators.
“That’s one of the things that he’s the best,” Brees said of Payton’s ability to adjust. “You always assume that through stretches of the season you’ll be without certain guys, and you always try and put yourself in position where other guys can step up. And when they do, you’ve got to put them in positions to succeed according to what they’re good at.
“We take the toolbox and tools and put them to work according to where you think they fit best. That’s something that he’s always been very, very good at, and obviously that applies to this week, too.”