saintscamp.072618.028

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) throws while head coach Sean Payton watches during the first day of training camp at the Sports Performance Center in Metairie, La. Thursday, July 26, 2018.

For the first time in years, the ink, digital screens and airwaves around New Orleans are filled with Super Bowl talk, a legitimate belief that the team the Saints rebuilt around Drew Brees has what it takes to make it back to the mountaintop if everything falls right. 

Nearly all of the teammates around Brees have no idea what the 2009 run was like, what that team had that carried it all the way to a place the city of New Orleans and its franchise had never been before. 

But Jermon Bushrod was there, both for the years leading up to the magical 2009 season and for the aftermath as the Saints tried to recapture that magic once again. 

Brought back this offseason after three years in Chicago and two in Miami, Bushrod missed the buildup this time. A veteran of 12 training camps, Bushrod has played on a Super Bowl team and on teams that never had a shot.

And after practicing with this Saints team for a summer, he believes. 

Bushrod believes this team has the ability to make all of those Super Bowl predictions right. 

"I wouldn't see why not," Bushrod said. "As long as you can build on what these guys did last year. ... If we can get the focus and the vision in front of us like we need to, this team can write their own story."

Bushrod's veteran eye confirms what these Saints look like on paper: a team with no obvious holes.

Brees is still one of the NFL's best quarterbacks at the age of 39. Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara might be the league's best tandem of running backs. Pro Bowler Michael Thomas leads a receiving corps so deep that the Saints will cut proven veterans at the end of training camp, and the presence of Benjamin Watson solidifies a tight end spot that was a weak point last year. All of those weapons will line up behind one of the NFL's best offensive lines. 

Meanwhile, a defense that was this team's glaring weakness for so long is on the rise and seems poised to potentially become one of the NFL's best. With Cameron Jordan at defensive end and Marshon Lattimore at cornerback, the Saints have two returning Pro Bowlers to anchor a defense that is a mix at every level of productive veterans and up-and-coming young talent. 

"We probably feel like we have fewer holes," general manager Mickey Loomis said at the beginning of the year. 

Loomis spent the offseason adding veteran experience to a young roster. By signing veterans like cornerback Patrick Robinson, safety Kurt Coleman and Bushrod, the Saints added players with Super Bowl pasts to a team hoping to make it there. 

Robinson, who joined New Orleans the year after its Super Bowl and finally got his own ring with the Philadelphia Eagles a year ago, plans to bring that experience to bear in his return to the team that first plucked him out of the draft. 

"I know what it takes," Robinson said. "I'm trying to share my knowledge of how we did it last year in Philly, share all the knowledge I've gained and win another championship."

New Orleans also has the pedigree now after an 11-5 season that took the Saints within one miraculous play of the NFC Championship game in 2017. Put it all together — a legendary quarterback, bona fide stars around him, depth at every position, few holes and playoff history — and it's easy to see why so many experts have tabbed the Saints to go all the way. 

That ending, the Minneapolis Miracle few Saints fans want to see again, is also a factor. Hard to get complacent when a shot at the Super Bowl gets ripped away in such a painful fashion. 

"These young guys are hungry," free-agent cornerback Patrick Robinson said. 

With all of these lofty predictions swirling around the Saints, head coach Sean Payton has steered his ship right into the thick of them. 

A lot of teams draw motivation from the idea that no one is believing in them. 

Payton wants his team to draw motivation from the opposite. An enormous banner next to the practice field reads "Prove Them Right," the mantra Payton set in front of his team before the start of training camp. 

"If we want to be a great team, we have to be able to embrace that," Brees said. "We have to get the best out of ourselves by expecting it out of ourselves."

Nobody is quite so aware of how close the Saints came last season as the players themselves. Whatever the outside world is saying, the Saints know exactly what they're capable of doing this season. 

"We have to remember to focus on ourselves," linebacker A.J. Klein said. "We set high expectations for ourselves, so obviously, we want to accomplish our goals. ... We have our expectations, and we're going to prove ourselves right."

Embracing expectations is one thing. 

Realizing those expectations can be another. As talented and deep as the Saints appear to be, a Super Bowl season requires a team to hit a wave of momentum at some point in the regular season, build on that as it heads into the playoffs and then keep it going all the way through the first Sunday in February. 

Bushrod, like Brees, Payton and the other Saints who were around in 2009, knows that as well as he knows a Super Bowl run. Two years after New Orleans got its ring, a team that many believe is the most complete team the Saints ever put together came up short. 

"I still think back to the 2011 year," Bushrod said. "Shoulda, coulda, woulda, but we couldn't get it done."

When the Saints won the Super Bowl, they were coming off of two mediocre seasons, nothing that would have predicted greatness. The 2011 team was a lot more like this 2018 crew appears to be: a complete team building to a crescendo.

"We had one of the best records in the NFC, but we were hot early and didn't get it done come playoff time," Bushrod said. The Saints were 13-3 in the regular season, but fell 36-32 on a touchdown pass with 9 seconds left at San Francisco in the divisional playoff round. "You've got to ride that wave when that wave comes."

Only time will tell if these Saints can ride that wave all the way to the place so many are predicting they'll be. 

Follow Joel A. Erickson on Twitter, @JoelAErickson.