For the second year in a row, the Saints finished a dismal 6-10, to cap off five losing season in a row.
Unlike previous seasons however, they started out an optimistic 3-0 and were still in the hunt for the playoffs until dropping the last three games to the year, leaving their prospects for 1997 much brighter than seasons past. Among the positives was a swarming defense that despite being ranked 27th in the NFL forced it's share of turnovers and gathered enough sacks to leave Saints fans giddy in the off-season, with the belief that Da Coach had the Saints headed in the right direction.
The offense still in need of a real threat, showed improvement in ball control and consistency. Still, the lack of a running game hurt the Saint's chances in many games, including the three lost at the end of the year that kept them out of the playoffs. Anytime the best offensive player is a lineman, you're in for a long season.
To provide a spark, Mike Ditka brought in highly controversial running back Lamar Smith and quarterback Kerry Collins, along with underrated Sean Dawkins, who quickly fell into Ditka's doghouse. Lamar Smith ran for less than 500 yards and Kerry completed only 50% of his passes and threw twice as many interceptions as touchdowns.
Among the bright prospects for the future emerged Kyle Turley, a talented offensive lineman that started every game at 3 positions, and Cam Cleeland, who under the guidance of former tight end Mike Ditka, caught 54 passes for 823 yards after surviving a hazing incident in training camp. Other rookie contributors were LB Chris Bordano, Florida CB Fred Weary and fan favorite, RB Wilmont Perry from Livingstone College in North Carolina.
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