- Associated Press - Thursday, July 21, 2016

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (7-9)

OPEN CAMP: July 20 (rookies), July 27 (veterans), White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

LAST YEAR: With defense languishing near bottom of NFL, Saints labored through second straight non-playoff season. Defensive deficiencies ultimately led coach Sean Payton to fire coordinator Rob Ryan during season and transfer duties to senior defensive assistant Dennis Allen, who remains coordinator. Offense ranked near top of NFL, with QB Drew Brees leading league in yards passing.

IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: TE Coby Fleener, LB James Laurinaitis, rookie WR Michael Thomas, rookie DT Sheldon Rankins, S Roman Harper, DT Nick Fairley.

IMPORTANT LOSSES: WR Marques Colston, TE Benjamin Watson, RG Jahri Evans, RB Khiry Robinson, S Rafael Bush.

CAMP NEEDS: Saints want to see if promising rookie Thomas or lanky third-year pro Brandon Coleman is best replacement for Colston. Also need to figure out if 2015 top pick Andrus Peat, drafted as offensive tackle, fits at guard without clear-cut successor to Evans. Interior defensive line rotation remains uncertain as top pick Rankins aims to contribute immediately and Fairley aims to salvage career. Questions also abound at safety with Jairus Byrd once again recovering from knee injury.

EXPECTATIONS: Saints appeared headed in right direction at end of last season, winning three of four. Efforts have been made to shore up defense with combination of young talent and veteran leaders. Must cut down on mental errors that were prevalent in recent seasons. If those moves work and injuries don’t expose relative lack of depth, Saints could re-emerge in hunt for NFC playoff spot.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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