The Broncos will play the Saints on Sunday for the first time in four seasons, and although the team that steps on the field at INVESCO Field at Mile High on Sunday is an unfamiliar opponent, the man under center is not.
Current Saints quarterback Drew Brees was the signal caller for the rival San Diego Chargers for five seasons from 2001-2005.
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Brees has a 3-5 record as a starting quarterback against the Broncos. But as good of a passer Brees was with the Chargers, Champ Bailey said he is an even better one with the Saints.
“He is a different person from back then,” Bailey said. “It seems like he never got settled in San Diego. The move that he made to New Orleans — I think its great for his career — because he has definitely blossomed into a great quarterback.”
Photo: Eric Lars Bakke
In his two seasons in the Big Easy Brees has been the league leader and league runner-up in passing yards. He was second only to Tom Brady last season.
Bailey said Brees production stems from added confidence.
“He is playing with a lot of confidence,” he said. “He trusts himself a lot. I think the coaches believe in him and I think that is part of the game because in order to be successful you need people that believe in you.”
Photo: Getty Images
Brees isn’t the only Saint that the Broncos have some familiarity with. Saints Head Coach Sean Payton and Broncos Head Coach Mike Shanahan are both alums of Eastern Illinois.
Payton, like Shanahan, was thrust into the NFL ranks at a fairly early age for coaches.
“Sean has always been a great quarterback,” Shanahan said. “He went to the NFL very quickly and he has done a heck of a job. He is sharp I really admire what he does with his offense and he is a guy that has always been ahead of the curve.”
Both Shanahan and Payton have been praised for their ability to direct their respective offenses.
“I think most coaches have some similar philosophies,” Shanahan said. “Obviously theirs is a little different than ours but he has been very successful in what he is doing. A quarterback has a good feel for defenses, does a great job in play selection and calling plays. He is a guy if you aren’t on top of your game you are going to be exposed.”
Some have speculated that Sunday’s matchup has the potential to be a let down game for the Broncos, but Bailey doesn’t see it that way especially with the Saints being such a high caliber team with their fire power on offense.
“I think you do have to emphasize that every team is good in this league,” he said. “New Orleans is a good team. They were in the NFC championship a couple years ago with pretty much the same team. They can come in here and put it on us if we are not ready.”
NALEN OUT FOR SUNDAY
Veteran center Tom Nalen will be held out of his third straight contest this week.
“I felt like after watching him practice the last couple of days that it’s not in his best interest to practice,” Shanahan said. “You watch a guy practice for 14 years; you know when he is hurting. I thought it was best to give him a couple days rest.”
SAINTS WAIVE McKINLEY
Former Bronco Alvin McKinley was released by the Saints Friday to make room for the signing of quarterback Joey Harrington.
-Jake Grilley, DenverBroncos.com