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3 New Orleans Saints Easygoing running back Deuce McAllister has to be a hard man to bring down

He's exceedingly polite, rarely speaks above a whisper and
readily admits that when the sun comes up, he'd rather be
relaxing with rod and reel than heading home from a big night in
the Big Easy. So when Deuce McAllister says, softly, "You're
talking about a guy who's 6'1", 230 pounds, who runs a 4.3 40 and
has a lot of talent around him, so, yeah, I'd expect some pretty
astonishing numbers from him," it's a little startling when you
realize that he's talking about himself.

"Deuce knows we're counting on him, and it's his time to shine,"
quarterback Aaron Brooks says of the second-year tailback out of
Ole Miss. Apart from his physical gifts, McAllister's
one-of-the-guys persona is a big reason why this year he is New
Orleans's featured back and Ricky Williams is playing in Miami.

Tired of Williams's unpredictable behavior, the Saints shipped
their former franchise tailback to the Dolphins in the off-season
for three draft picks, thus gaining some picks to offset the
eight they gave up for the right to select Williams with the
fifth choice in 1999. The trade will prove prescient, however,
only if McAllister can avoid the injuries that plagued him in his
rookie season and match or exceed Williams's impressive numbers
of a year ago: 1,245 yards and six touchdowns rushing and 60
catches for 511 yards. Given McAllister's output--16 carries for
91 yards and 15 catches for 166 yards while making four
starts--it's a big gamble for a team that fell from 10-6 and a
playoff win in 2000 to 7-9 last year, including a season-ending,
four-game losing streak in which New Orleans was outscored

"We think Deuce is ready to step into the role, or we wouldn't
have made the move," coach Jim Haslett says.

"No knock on Ricky, but Deuce gives us more effort out there,"
Brooks says. "He's more agile, not just a pounder like Ricky.
Deuce is a playmaker."

Brooks is particularly impressed with McAllister's receiving
skills, which will allow Haslett and offensive coordinator Mike
McCarthy to use him as a Marshall Faulk-type double threat, even
lining him up at wideout on occasion. "If I have half the career
that Marshall's had," McAllister says, "I'll have been a

His teammates and coaches, however, would be just as happy if
McAllister exhibits two of Faulk's qualities that largely go
unappreciated--toughness and durability. "In college Deuce was
such a good athlete that he never had to work that hard, and
maybe last year he didn't understand the day-in, day-out pounding
he'd be taking," Haslett says, "but he dedicated himself in the
off-season, added 12 pounds of muscle, and it shows."

"He's been flying into the hole, hitting it hard," said left
tackle Kyle Turley of McAllister's performance in camp. "If Deuce
keeps this up, we're going to score a lot of points." Meanwhile,
the addition of blazing rookie wideout Donte Stallworth, a
first-round pick out of Tennessee, and steady free-agent tight
end David Sloan will further improve an offense that returns
receiver Joe Horn (177 catches and 17 touchdowns in the last two
years combined) and Brooks, who set a club record with 4,190
yards of total offense in 2001.

The picture is less rosy on defense, where the Saints must
overcome the free-agency losses of tackle La'Roi Glover (to the
Cowboys) and end Joe Johnson (Packers). Emerging strong safety
Sammy Knight will have to build upon his Pro Bowl season (120
tackles, six interceptions) and provide leadership to a secondary
already reeling from the indefinite, alcohol-related suspension
of cornerback Dale Carter, a free-agent pickup.

More difficult for the team, perhaps, will be reconciling itself
to the sudden early-May firing of popular general manager Randy
Mueller, who oversaw the overhaul of the woeful 3-13 team of
1999. Add longtime tackle Willie Roaf, who after a spate of
bizarre late-season antics signed with the Chiefs, to the list of
high-profile departures, and it becomes clear that New Orleans is
a team at a crossroads.

That's why the onus is on McAllister to perform well enough to
make everyone forget Williams. The Saints can't get back to the
playoffs without him. --J.E.

COLOR PHOTO: MIKE DEHOOG/TDP The Saints are looking for Deuce to break loose with his superior speed and strength.



Most agree that All-Pro tackle Kyle Turley's move from the left
to the right side will be seamless--even though he replaces
seven-time Pro Bowl right tackle Willie Roaf, who signed with
the Chiefs as a free agent. "We all miss Willie," says center
Jerry Fontenot, "but Kyle's such a gifted athlete. It's as if
he's been there all along."

an opposing team's scout sizes up the Saints

"Jim Haslett is a good coach, but something went very wrong in
that locker room last year. That team lay down over the last
month.... Losing [defensive tackle] La'Roi Glover will hurt a
bit, but losing [end] Joe Johnson won't. Instead of overpaying
Johnson, they made a great move in signing Grady Jackson, because
even if he's overweight, he's still hard to block. Jackson and
Norman Hand will stop teams from running up the middle.... The
linebacker corps is nothing special. Bryan Cox will bring some
fire, but there's not much else there.... The secondary is a
scary thing for them. Other than corner Fred Thomas, who was one
of the most underrated players in the league last year, they've
got no one. Ken Irvin's on the decline, and Michael Hawthorne is
a liability in coverage.... I don't see where the sacks will come
from, and without that sort of pressure, their cover guys will
get exploited.... I don't know about quarterback Aaron Brooks. He
needs to be way more consistent; last year he made some
boneheaded reads. That the Saints aren't locking him up heading
into a walk year tells you they don't want to make a dumb
mistake.... Deuce McAllister will be a game-breaker if he stays
healthy and if the line comes together.... Joe Horn's a great
receiver, and if Donte Stallworth's hamstrings aren't a chronic
problem, he'll stretch defenses. On the other hand [because of
his 4.2 time in the 40], he might end up being this year's
overrated workout warrior."


Sept. 8 at Tampa Bay
22 at Chicago*
29 at Detroit

13 at Washington

Nov. 3 Open date
10 at Carolina
17 at Atlanta

8 at Baltimore
22 at Cincinnati

*Champaign, Ill.


NFL rank: T25
Opponents' 2001 winning percentage: .477
Games against playoff teams: 7

PROJECTED LINEUP with 2001 statistics

COACH: Jim Haslett; third season with New Orleans (17-15 in NFL)
2001 RECORD: 7-9 (third in NFC West)
NFL RANK (rush/pass/total): offense T18/10/10; defense 14/17/T16


QB Aaron Brooks 29
558 att. 312 comp. 55.9% 3,832 yds. 26 TDs 22 int. 76.4 rtg.

RB Deuce McAllister 34
16 att. 91 yds. 5.7 avg. 15 rec. 166 yds. 11.1 avg. 2 TDs

RB Terry Allen 178
168 att. 658 yds. 3.9 avg. 17 rec. 68 yds. 4.0 avg. 3 TDs

FB Terrelle Smith 278
5 att. 8 yds. 1.6 avg. 4 rec. 30 yds. 7.5 avg. 2 TDs



WR Joe Horn 63 83 rec. 1,265 yds. 9 TDs
WR Donte Stallworth (R) [N] 207 41 rec. 821 yds. 10 TDs
WR Jerome Pathon [N] 187 24 rec. 330 yds. 2 TDs
TE David Sloan [N] 131 37 rec. 409 yds. 7 TDs
K John Carney 249 32/32 XPs 27/31 FGs 113 pts.
PR Michael Lewis 383 14 ret. 5.8 avg. 0 TDs
KR Michael Lewis 383 32 ret. 23.8 avg. 0 TDs

LT Kyle Turley 6'5" 300 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
LG Kendyl Jacox [N] 6'2" 330 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
C Jerry Fontenot 6'3" 300 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RG LeCharles Bentley (R) [N] 6'2" 299 lbs. 12 games 12 starts
RT Spencer Folau [N] 6'5" 315 lbs. 16 games 15 starts


LE Willie Whitehead 18 tackles 2 sacks
LT Norman Hand 25 tackles 3 1/2 sacks
RT Grady Jackson [N] 52 tackles 4 sacks
RE Darren Howard 35 tackles 6 sacks
OLB Sedrick Hodge 18 tackles 0 sacks
MLB Charlie Clemons 75 tackles 13 1/2 sacks
OLB Darrin Smith 50 tackles 1 1/2 sacks
CB Michael Hawthorne 19 tackles 0 int.
SS Sammy Knight 78 tackles 6 int.
FS Jay Bellamy 71 tackles 3 int.
CB Fred Thomas 55 tackles 1 int.
P Toby Gowin 76 punts 41.8 avg.

[N] New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 98)

"They made a great move in signing Jackson; he will stop teams
from running up the middle."