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New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham prepares to stop Atlanta Falcons free safety Thomas DeCoud during the second half of an NFL football game on Nov. 21, 2013, in Atlanta. (Associated Press)

New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham prepares to stop Atlanta Falcons free safety Thomas DeCoud during the second half of an NFL football game on Nov. 21, 2013, in Atlanta. (Associated Press)

New look taking shape on Bayou

Last Modified: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 12:35 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

A few years back, when the Saints signed Drew Brees to that huge, long-term deal, they proclaimed they were “all in.”

If that’s the case, this offseason looks more like the big fold.

It would be easy to say the Saints have raised the white flag with releasing Lance Moore and the impending exits of Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas.

But don’t look at the Saints as rebuilding but rather remodeling.

They have seen the future and like what they saw.

During their recent run of success, the Saints were an offensive machine. They made scoring look easy in the pass-happy world of the NFL.

But the truth is they have only the one Super Bowl title to show for it. And Brees isn’t getting any younger.

Meanwhile, the rest of the division is getting better.

So the Saints have decided that in this copy-cat league they want to have the same look as the current champions.

Take a look at the three best teams in the NFC last year, Seattle, San Francisco and Carolina. All have great, aggressive defenses and young quarterbacks who can extend plays with their legs.

Unable to do anything different at quarterback, the Saints want to keep building on a defense that showed great improvement last year.

It is the main reason Rob Ryan was brought in to begin with.

Remember Sean Payton is a smart guy. He is the one who gave the city its only championship to date.

He also had a year recently when he could not coach thanks to the bountygate scandal. So he got to watch a lot of football.

Payton especially watched his own team last year.

Throwing the football may be fun but it doesn’t win in cold weather on the road. What does is running the ball and defense.

The Saints proved that themselves last January.

In their road playoff victory over the Eagles, the Saints were far from that pass-crazy group.

With Thomas out, the Saints used Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson, two young guns, to rush for 185 yards on 36 carries in the win. That meant they held onto the football for 34:53, controlling the pace and feel of the game.

It won’t get you any style points, but running the ball not only protects and rests your defense, it has a tendency to calm everything down.

Ingram ran for 146 yards in the two playoff games for New Orleans while Robinson added another 92. They are the reason Sproles and Thomas became expendable.

It is widely believed that legendary coach Bill Parcells suggested to his understudy Payton to play more power football. If so, good for Payton to listen. If not, then Payton seems to have learned just by watching.

Either way this is probably what was needed for the long-term future of this franchise, which at least has to be thinking about life without Brees.

That also means Jimmy Graham’s future in New Orleans remains in doubt.

Not a true tight end for he rarely blocks, Graham is unhappy with being tagged as a franchise player by the team.

Graham tweeted, “Wow unbelievable. Shocked and disappointed on everything that’s gone on this offseason.”

He just might not see the big picture.

In fact, the Saints might be better off if somebody makes Graham a better offer and gobbles him up. It would mean the Saints would get that team’s first round pick in each of the next two years.

If done right, those picks could add more pieces in this remolding project.

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