2016 has shown future is bright for Saints

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Nov 6, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) high fives head coach Sean Payton on the sideline after Saints touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the fourth quarter at Levi's Stadium. The New Orleans Saints defeated the San Francisco 49ers 41-23. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 6, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) high fives head coach Sean Payton on the sideline after Saints touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the fourth quarter at Levi's Stadium. The New Orleans Saints defeated the San Francisco 49ers 41-23. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints have had an up-and-down 2016 season, as their 5-6 record will show you. One can look at the wins that got away (similar to what we saw in 2014 and 2015,) but there are too many positives to overlook right now.

The┬áSaints have shown plenty of signs that their future is bright. Drew Brees is once again among the NFL’s best quarterbacks. At age 37 and playing behind a stout offensive line, it’s not hard to guess he could play until he’s 40. Maybe even older.

But aside from Brees, the rest of the Saints core is super young. Brandin Cooks is a top-10 NFL receiver and he’s only 23 years old. Shining rookie star Michael Thomas is also only 23 and figures to get better. Willie Snead is 24. Franchise cornerstone offensive lineman Terron Armstead is only 25.

And the defense? It was awful for the first three games when the Saints were winless. It has since turned around significantly. They haven’t allowed over 23 points since Week 6 against the Carolina Panthers – a game they won anyway.

Given how they easily allowed 30-plus points a game last year, that is significant progress for the Saints.

Kenny Vaccaro is also going to get better with time. Sheldon Rankins and Delvin Breaux would have made this defense a lot better if they didn’t miss the entire season.

The Saints have had some key injuries, play in a tough NFC South and could have easily won five of the six losses.

For fans, they need to be excited about the long-term contender the Saints are rebuilding.

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