METAIRIE, La. -- With an 11-5 campaign in 2017 and coming off an appearance in the divisional playoffs, expectations for the Saints coming into this year's training camp are the highest they've been in years.
"I think you still take the same approach," said Saints Quarterback Drew Brees. "I think that there's probably more challenges with higher expectations. I think everyone loves the underdog mentality. It's easy to get motivated with the underdog mentality. It's a little bit harder to maintain that level of focus and concentration when you're supposed to be or expected to be. But then again, if we want to be a great team, we have to be able to embrace that."
"I mean without expectations, how to you hope to exceed expectations?" said Saints defensive end Cam Jordan. "You try and put your goals high so you can reach for those and reach for new ones."
"Coaches said in the meeting last night, just prove them right," said Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore. "A lot of people say you've got to prove them wrong this year because they've got us at the bottom, but they've got us at the top and we've got to prove them right."
As competitions unfold at different positions, one to keep an eye on is at running back, with the absence of Mark Ingram for the first four games. He's still out there practicing with the team, and is staying ready for when he gets back to game action in October.
"I'm here every day busting my butt, preparing myself to have another great season, to have my best season of my career," Ingram said. "That's my mindset. That's how I work. That's how I'm going to approach it every single day. That's not going to change because I still want to be the best. I'm not going to be there the first four but I'm gong to be working my butt off."
On the other side of the ball, the confidence is as high as ever. The Saints defense made a lot of noise last season, giving them plenty of reason to be loose out there, but they're challenging each other to be even better this year.
"Isn't it because of a season like last year?" said Jordan. "Because we went to the playoffs? Because we fell out of the playoffs the way that we did? I have nothing but the highest of ambitions to better myself in every facet of my game."
"That's all we're talking about is doing extra together and make sure that our weakest link is our strongest," said Saints linebacker Craig Robertson. "That's all we've been preaching all off-season."
"This up-coming defense, this up-coming year I want to be a top 5 defense," Jordan said. "Whatever that means for me, whatever that means for our defense. I think our defensive line is star-studded and for the most part unappreciated."
"We want to be number one but top 5 is our goal right now," Lattimore said. "We've got work like that though. We can't just say it. We've got to work at it and once we do that we're going to be good."