During the offseason, I’ve wrote many times in this column about the New Orleans Saints getting off to a fast start in the regular season.

When looking at the middle of the schedule, I thought a quick start and wins out of the blocks early would help propel this football team throughout the season and it would break a trend that has been around the organization since 2013.

In 2013, the Saints started the season with a 2-0 record and then went on to finish with an 11-5 mark.

Since 2013, the Saints have started the first 2 games: 2014 (0-2), 2015 (0-2), 2016 (0-2) and 2017 (0-2).

And now in 2018, they have started out 0-1.

It’s not about training camp and how they play their players in preseason. Virtually every team does it the same way now and also the new Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits much contact in training camp.

It’s all about getting your team mentally ready and prepared to play these early games that seem to be the issue.

The Saints scored 40 points against the Buccaneers last weekend and still got beat. Yes, they didn’t run the ball well and there were two critical turnovers in the contest, but the defense was awful.

For all the money it took to secure the talents of veterans in safety Kurt Coleman, linebacker DeMario Davis and nickel-cornerback Patrick Robinson, the Saints defense was burned time and time again on passing plays. The Buccaneers had their way running the football early on also.

The Saints also traded up in first-round of this year’s NFL draft and gave up a 2019 first round pick to the Green Bay Packers in order to select defensive end Marcus Davenport and he has had little impact.

That’s not a huge surprise to me. Davenport has enormous potential and talent, but he is still a football puppy in regards to technique work and also moves and countermoves to defeat his opponent.

But the effort against the Buccaneers defensively was just not there.

Now here comes the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns were a 1-15 overall football team in 2016. In 2017, the Browns went 0-16.

In their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, the Browns got six turnovers and won the giveaway/takeaway ratio by a plus-5 and had a chance in the final seconds to win it with a field goal and ended up with a tie.

Since the Cleveland Browns returned to Cleveland after losing the original franchise to Baltimore, NFL teams who have had a plus-5 in the most important stat in football are 132 wins, 4 losses and 1 tie.

The Browns have been involved in two of the losses and now the tie.

For the Saints, it is a total focus game and it should be the only game they are concentrated on. Leave the talk about games in October and November to sports media and take care of business on Sunday.

Last year it was remarkable for the team to lose the first two games and then win 11 of the next 14 regular season games.

But they have to take care of business versus the Browns. That’s what they get paid to do.

THE MENTAL PART OF THE GAME

Here is a comment from former New Orleans Saints wide receiver/special teams standout Rich Mauti on mentally preparing for NFL games.

“I really believe what many don’t fully understand is the mental preparation it takes to play in the NFL,” Mauti said. “It’s a kid’s game, but it is played by grown men. It is about preparing day to day and giving up some of your spare time to mentally understand who you are playing and how you can take full advantage of your opponent’s weakness. That’s what happened to the Saints last week versus Tampa Bay. They were an overconfident team and thought what they accomplished last year would all come right back. That’s not the case. I played 8 years in the NFL. I felt honored and privileged to play that long and I’m so thankful for those years. I didn’t take an opponent for granted. It’s about your work ethic and attention to detail. But I have been on teams that as a group we didn’t take them seriously or I should say seriously enough, and we got beat.”

Mauti recalled in 1997 playing against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team that had lost their first 26 games when entering the NFL as an expansion team.

“I knew it when we hit the field that we weren’t going to win,” Mauti said. “All the players were saying we just couldn’t lose to these guys. When you have that attitude and not the attitude that we are prepared and ready to kick them around, you lose and we got beat. It was embarrassing to be the first team to lose to the Buccaneers, but we brought it amongst ourselves. And we got beat badly to them (33-14). Our head coach Hank Stram got fired after the season because we got beat by the Buccaneers. I have no doubt that the owner of the team John Mecom, Jr., was so embarrassed he fired Stram because of the defeat. And the following week the Buccaneers beat the St. Louis Cardinals and the owner of the Cardinals fired their head coach Don Coryell after the finale. It’s great to have talent, no question about it, but the key in the NFL is to get that talent collected to play hard, play smart and come focused each week. Like him or hate him, no one in the free agency world of the NFL has done it better than Bill Belichick and what he does to get the Patriots ready each and every week. It’s remarkable to watch.”

Top Players for the 2019 NFL Draft

1. Ed Oliver, Defensive Tackle, Houston

2. Nick Bosa, Defensive End, Ohio State

3. Drew Lock, Quarterback, Missouri

4. Clelin Ferrell, Defensive End, Clemson

5. Rashan Gary, Defensive End/Tackle, Michigan

6. Raekwon Davis, Defensive Tackle, Alabama

7. Justin Herbert, Quarterback, Oregon

8. Greedy Williams, Cornerback, LSU

9. Christian Wilkins, Defensive Tackle, Clemson

10. Jeffery Simmons, Defensive Tackle, Mississippi State

11. Jonah Williams, Offensive Tackle, Alabama

12. Devin White, Inside Linebacker, LSU

13. Greg Little, Offensive Tackle, Ole Miss

14. Deandre Baker, Cornerback, Georgia

15. A.J. Brown, Wide Receiver, Ole Miss

16. Dexter Lawrence, Nose Guard, Clemson

17. Derrick Brown, Defensive Tackle, Auburn

18. N’Keal Harry, Wide Receiver, Arizona State