Thursday, April 30, 2009

Saints Nation: New deal in place, Saints to remain in New Orleans till 2025

We can now rest assured the Saints will remain in New Orleans for the foreseeable future. After months upon months of hammering out a deal, Governor Bobby Jindal and Saints owner Tom Benson announced the good news to the media. You can check out there story HERE. This means we'll now likely land host to the 2013 Superbowl and we can count on the Saints playing in New Orleans till at least 2025. The proposal calls for major upgrades to the Superdome during the lifespan of the deal which means the Saints will also continue to play in the stadium for a long time. Great news! I applaud the Louisiana government and Mr. Benson for finding common ground in this economy and I think we can all very much look forward to many more years of exciting New Orleans Saints football. This is a nice relief and I'm glad I can postpone worrying about the Saints leaving New Orleans for 15 years.

lagniappe:

The Saints have added another rookie free agent
in WR Kenneth Harris out of Georgia.

Check out Saints Nation's Q&A with new Saint Alex Fletcher

Saints Nation: Getting to know new Saints center Alex Fletcher with 10 questions

Saints Nation caught up with new rookie free agent signee Alex Fletcher and he was nice enough to take the time for a quick little Q&A. Special thanks to him for sharing a little insight into who he is. I know that I along with many worldwide Saints fans appreciate it. Fletcher is a center who played collegiate ball at the prestigious university of Stanford, so there is no doubt he fits Sean Payton's mold of an intelligent football player with high character.

Saints Nation (SN): What is your best memory as a Cardinal?
Alex: October 6th, 2007 when we beat USC in 2007 at the Coliseum 24-23 (Stanford was a 40 point underdog that day).

SN: Who is your best friend on the Saints so far?
Alex: We report next Thursday, so the only guys that I know are Sedrick Ellis from playing against him and Leigh Torrence (a former Stanford teammate).

SN: If you were not an NFL player, what would be your profession?
Alex: I would probably go to New York and find a job in finance.

SN: What is something fans might not know about you that you would want them to know?
Alex: I really just pride myself on being a hardworking competitor.

SN: What is your favorite music/band/artist?
Alex: Varies, but anything from Coldplay to Jay Z.

SN: What is your favorite restaurant in New Orleans so far?
Alex: TBD. (we'll have to check back with him once he's had a chance to hit some of our restaurants!)

SN: Which NFL player do you respect the most?
Alex: TBD

SN: Who is the toughest opposing player you have faced?
Alex: There are definitely two players that stand out in my career. Haloti Ngata, who went to college at Oregon and is now with the Baltimore Ravens, and Sedrick Ellis-USC/NO Saints.

SN: Where is your favorite place to play besides @ Stanford?
Alex: Playing at Oregon was always a thrill.

SN: Outside of the NFL (baseball, basketball, hockey) who is your favorite professional team?
Alex: The New York Yankees. I grew up in Long Island, New York.

Great stuff... Thanks again to Alex for taking the time and best of luck to him as OTA's, mini camp and training camp approaches. We hope to see you in a Saints uniform for years to come!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Saints Nation: Hollis Thomas now gone, too

Hollis Thomas was released today, making him the second veteran defensive tackle in as many days to part ways with the Saints (special thanks to Momma Judge for the lead). While his departure was predictable based on his age (35), injury history (he missed the first half of last year with a torn tricep) and his ongoing battle with weight problems, the release of Thomas leaves the Saints with a lot less depth at defensive tackle. Now I can see last year's rookie DeMario Pressley moving up to #4 on the depth chart (behind Sedrick Ellis, Kendrick Clancy and Rod Coleman). Hollis spent a number of quality seasons in New Orleans and he was instrumental in the defense's terrific 2006 performance. He is loaded with humor and personality, so it's another leader presence in the locker room the Saints will miss greatly. All the best to you Hollis, and thanks for your contributions to the team and city.

This latest release saves more cap room for the Saints and makes you wonder what their next move is. They won't need much money for their rookie pool with only 4 draft choices, and Malcolm Jenkins it the only one that will command a real cap costing figure. Sounds to me like they're thinking about making a run at someone available. Whether that's a power running back or a recently released player with potential remains to be seen. Based on the timing though, it sure sounds like the Saints are up to something. Stay tuned...

Saints Nation: Rookie Jersey Assignments


The official website has the numbers listed for the newly drafted Saint rookies.

Punter Thomas Morstead will be #6.

Corner Malcolm Jenkins will be #27.

Safety Chip Vaughn will be #37.

Linebacker Stanley Arnoux will be #57.

Do you remember a #57 linebacker that used to play for the Saints? Rickey Jackson anyone?


In related news, Darren Sharper has taken #42 from Jason David while David has changed to #29.

Saints Nation: Lance Moore's brother signs with Vikings

Lance Moore was all smiles as he broke the news that his younger brother Nick, also a receiver from Toledo, signed a free agent rookie contract with the Minnesota Vikings. Nick will enter the NFL the same way his big brother did and hope for the same success. Nick has a much bigger frame at 6'4" and with his Saint bloodlines we wish him the best. Nick's crowning achievement at Toledo last year was a huge upset win at Michigan for his team; a game in which he posted a career best 20 catch 162 yard effort to help Toledo pull off the 13-10 win.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Saints Nation: Saints release Brian Young


Brian Young was released today (thanks to theillinoise for the story). The Saints lost a good one, though the move does clear $3.2 million in cap space. Young was a good guy and a very positive locker room influence. He was go-go-go all the time on the field with a high motor and lots of hustle. Unfortunately for him and the Saints, he could never be healthy and the many injuries he endured ultimately did him in. It's safe to assume Brian Young's career has come to an end, but don't rule out a return from the big fella. Few players have more heart that this guy. So long #66 and thanks for your contribution to the Saints over the years. You will be missed.

Saints Nation: Saints Nation's early stab at the New Orleans Saints' 53 man roster

So with the draft and rookie free agency now pretty much complete, here is my initial guess at the 53 men who will make the final cut going into the first regular season. Keep in mind this doesn't include any free agent signings between now and then, nor does it include and pickups the Saints will make from future cuts off other teams. Will the guy pictured to the left (Joey Harrington) make the team?

QB (2): Drew Brees, Mark Brunell
HB (4): Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, Mike Bell, Herb Donaldson
FB (1): Heath Evans
WR (6): Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Adrian Arrington, Courtney Roby
TE (4): Jeremy Shockey, Billy Miller, Dan Campbell, Darnell Dinkins
C (2): Jonathan Goodwin, Nick Leckey
G (3): Jahri Evans, Carl Nicks, Jamar Nesbit
T (3): Jammal Brown, Jon Stinchcomb, Zach Strief

DE (5): Will Smith, Charles Grant, Bobby McCray, Paul Spicer, Jeff Charleston
DT (4): Sedrick Ellis, Kendrick Clancy, Roderick Coleman, DeMario Pressley
OLB (4): Scott Fujita, Dan Morgan, Scott Shanle, Jo-Lonn Dunbar
MLB (2): Jonathan Vilma, Stanley Arnoux
CB (5): Tracy Porter, Jabari Greer, Randall Gay, Malcolm Jenkins, Leigh Torrence
FS (3): Darren Sharper, Pierson Prioleau, Usama Young
SS (2): Roman Harper, Chip Vaughn

K (1): Garrett Hartley
P (1): Glenn Pakulak
LS (1): Kevin Houser

Notable cuts: Thomas Morstead P, Skyler Green WR, Jason David CB, Lynell Hamilton HB, Chris Reis SS, Marvin Mitchell MLB, Mark Simoneau MLB, Troy Evans OLB, Brian Young DT, Jermon Bushrod T, Rob Ninkovich DE, Hollis Thomas DT, Josh Savage DE, Joey Harrington QB

Keep in mind that Will Smith and Charles Grant both still face possible suspensions by the league for testing positive for a banned substance last year. If they end up suspended that would open up two roster spots to others for the first 4 games. For now, I'm going to say that Joey Harrington and Josh Savage would benefit from that scenario. I will update this as injuries, signings, trades and cuts happen.

Saints Nation: Usama Young moving to Free Safety?

The many articles I've read since the draft have alluded to Usama Young being moved to Free Safety. While I've yet to read a direct quote saying as much, it is all coming from interviews had with Sean Payton; so we can trust the information as true. With the Malcolm Jenkins draft pick and Jabari Greer free agency pickups, it was going to be hard for Young to get much action at corner; the move makes sense. Out of nowhere the safety position is starting to get pretty crowded, though, and I wonder who's the odd man out. Suddenly the safety position counts 6 players: projected starters Darren Sharper and Roman Harper, free agent pickup Pierson Prioleau, rookie Chip Vaughn, and veteran backup/special team standouts Young and Chris Reis.

I just can't see them keeping 6 guys. Obviously this is a good problem to have and you can't ignore the possibility of an injury in training camp which would ease the coaching staff's decision in letting one of these guys go. Realistically the Saints will keep 4 of these guys, and maybe 5. Currently they've got Sharper, Prioleau, Vaughn and Young (in that order) listed as the depth chart at free. At strong they've got just Harper and Reis. One would think Reis is the odd man out from the 6, but he's been a special team ace for the Saints and is currently listed as one of two strong safeties. I still believe Prioleau and Vaughn are better fits at strong, but the Saints are currently trying them out at free. So who is the odd man out? Time will tell, but I wonder how secure Darren Sharper's job with the Saints is. He signed a one year deal for very little money and if he gets bumped from the starting lineup after a bad training camp I can't see him sticking around because the guys behind him are much better special teamers. I also wonder if Usama Young is in jeopardy of losing his roster spot. Like Reis he is very valuable as a special teamer, but he's being thrown into a new position, and if he can't adjust quickly he might find himself out. I could be wrong but barring injury I think Prioleau, Vaughn and Harper's jobs are currently the most secure. Prioleau has played for Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams on 3 different teams and it's pretty clear he counts on him. Vaughn is a promising rookie and I doubt the Saints would give up on him in year one. Harper is a returning starter and he's shown flashes of playmaking ability.

One thing is for sure: it will be very interesting to see how this training camp battle for roster spots play out.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Saints Nation: Grading the NFC South's Draft

So now that the draft is over, let's look at how our closest competition fared in the exercise:

Atlanta Falcons:

See their draft choices HERE

My take: I'll give the Falcome an A. A pretty solid draft for them. Peria Jerry isn't a can't miss prospect, but he should be a pretty good player almost immediately. He's not going to make them a better run defense overnight, though he will be scary teaming up with John Abraham in pass rushing situations. The William Moore pick is all about potential. The guy has tremendous ability and lots of promise, but he hasn't put it all together yet or proven that he's got the high football IQ to play consistently. Some people said he was the best safety prospect in the draft. As you can see from the rest of their picks: The Falcons went almost EXCLUSIVELY with defense, which makes it pretty clear what they intend on improving. Add to that the Tony Gonzalez pickup for their offense and they look pretty good on paper. They are very young and very talented, so that makes them a huge threat to the Saints.

Carolina Panthers:

See their draft choices HERE.

My take: I'm going to give them a C+. Intriguing draft by the Panthers. With the Julius Peppers situation anything but figured out and the head scratching Jake Delhomme extension, you sensed they needed a good draft to rebound. Without a 1st round pick, they traded their 2010 1st round draft pick to select Everette Brown in the 2nd round. While Brown was graded as a 1st round talent by almost everyone, he'll never come close to becoming an improvement on Julius Peppers. While he's a good player that will help them and it's clear they needed an end, it came at a price. Imagine if Delhomme goes down this year, and let's say they lose someone else valuable to their team via injury... all of a sudden they are 5-11 with a terrific pick in the 2010 draft, except they gave it away for Everette Brown. Pretty risky move if you ask me. They also get a RB and FB as if their rushing attack needed more help. Call me confused but shouldn't they be focused on finding someone who can catch the ball other than Steve Smith?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

See their draft choices HERE.

My take: Also giving them a C+. Josh Freeman 17th overall?!?! LOL. How many QB's do they need anyway? Add Freeman to the Griese vs. Leftwich vs. Josh Johnson vs. Luke McCown sweepstakes. None of these guys strike any fear into me whatsoever... well, that is no more than any other starting/backup quarterback who torched the Saints defensive backfield the last few years. But now we've got Sharper, Jenkins, Greer, Porter etc. It's a very high place to draft a very undeveloped player. We'll see how he pans out but I don't forsee him making the Pro Bowl anytime soon. They did help out their defensive line a little bit, which was sorely in need.

Saints Nation: According to ESPN, Saints land 2 top 10 rookie free agents



ESPN has listed their top 10 free agent rookies HERE, and 2 out of the top 10 listed (Parrish, pictured above, and Casillas) signed with the Saints.

Saints Nation: Confirmed rookie free agent signings for Saints

Here are a few of the players the Saints have apparently signed via rookie free agency (according to KFFL or NOLA.com). Click on the player's names for more information:

Cedric Dockery (pictured left), G, Texas

Jonathan Casillas, OLB, Wisconsin

Danny Gorrer
, CB, Texas A&M

Alex Fletcher, C, Stanford

Chris Vaughn, WR, Louisville

Pat Cowan, QB, UCLA - check out the story here (thanks to saints45)

Augustus Parrish, T, Kent St.

Herb Donaldson
, RB, W. Illinois - check out story here (thanks to ZZtoP)

Reggie Jones, CB, Portland St.

PJ Hill, RB, Wisconsin

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Saints Nation: Reviewing the Draft

The draft is now coming to a close and the Saints have added new members to their lineup. We should also expect in the coming 24 hours that the Saints sign undrafted rookie free agents that will join our newest additions in competing for roster spots. With only 4 selections going into the draft, it was clear the Saints weren't going to overhaul their roster and make any big changes. Instead, they landed one big name which will hopefully make an immediate impact and added three others that will promote special teams and add depth. 

Vaughn, Arnoux and Morstead are all special-team standout type players in year 1. Vaughn is a vicious hitter, solid tackler, and a guy who has been known for blocking kicks. Arnoux was rated the 2nd fastest linebacker in the draft (after teammate at Wake Forest Aaron Curry) and he is also known as a terrific tackler. Morstead, according to Sean Payton, is the guy they labelled as having the strongest leg in college football. So don't expect Vaughn to unseat Roman Harper, and don't expect Arnoux to cost Scott Shanle a roster spot. What you can expect is that the Saints special teams will be much better with these three guys than it was before the draft started. Glenn Pakulak seemed like a punter who filled in nicely last year, but he'll have his work cut out for him this offseason with one heck of a training camp battle against Morstead. Even if Morstead ends up released in favor of Pakulak, you have to assume the Saints will be better off at the position for it. 

Malcolm Jenkins is a whole other story. We'll have to see how things develop over training camp and preseason. Right now the Saints are looking at Darren Sharper starting at FS and Jabari Greer/Tracy Porter at corner. They love Randall Gay as their nickel guy covering the slot, so he's probably not moving from that #3 corner spot. So now it remains to be seen if Jenkins can unseat new free agent Greer or 2nd year man Porter. I think that's unlikely based on his "tweener" status coming into the NFL and questions about how successful he can be at the cornerback position. I think Jenkins starts #4 at CB with a move to free safety very likely. I see him starting year 2 at free safety, succeeding Sharper, depending on how things play out at cornerback. The Saints had so many injuries at that position a year ago, he could easily be in the lineup by midseason if not sooner. The good news is Gregg Williams' defense has a lot of different wrinkles that plays into an individual player's strength and it relies heavily on rotating personnel. This means there will be room on the field for Jenkins provided he is healthy and lives up to the hype. 

Saints Nation: Saints trade up to 5th round, tab SMU Punter Thomas Morstead

In the most surprising move by the Saints in this draft, they traded up to the 5th round to select SMU Punter Thomas Morstead. The Saints gave up their 7th round pick this year and a 5th round pick in 2010. This concludes the draft for the Saints, barring any other trades. This means Glenn Pakulak's job is anything but safe and he'll have to outperform a guy Sean Payton calls "the strongest leg in college football last year". Very surprising move to say the least.

Saints Nation: Saints pick up a couple defensive players from Wake Forest in 2nd round


The Saints drafted TWO defensive players from Wake Forest in the 4th round. First they took hard hitting safety Chip Vaughn, and they followed it up two picks later with interior linebacker Stanley Arnoux. If you look at the 3 players selected so far, all defensive players, there's a clear direction the Saints are taking to improve their team. Personally, I like it. Malcolm Jenkins improves their coverage greatly, whereas Vaughn and Arnoux improve their tackling. Vaughn is a more aggressive version of Roman Harper - he's big, strong and a ferocious hitter. His coverage ability is his weakness, so I would look for him to back up Harper this season and make an impact on special teams. Arnoux could also make an impact on special teams and will back up Vilma. Arnoux is a little bit more of a head scratcher, because there is no guarantee he'll beat out Marvin Mitchell for a roster spot, and because most boards have him as a late round draftee. The Saints may have reached for this guy. One thing is for sure, they obviously like the way Wake Forest plays defense (and they should). 

On another interesting note as we sit half way through the 4th round, there is still only 1 LSU player drafted.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saints Nation: The Saints Draft Malcolm Jenkins 14th Overall


We can welcome our newest addition to the New Orleans Saints team. The Saints have just drafted Cornerback Malcolm Jenkins of Ohio St. Maybe Sean Payton has finally learned his lesson by drafting defense and opening his eyes on the reason we lost games the past 2 years. Many of us have been lobbying for this pick for months. This is a terrific pick. Great job Saints, I'm proud of you for not screwing this up.

LSU's Jackson to Chiefs at #3

What a reach by the Chiefs. How can you pass on Curry? Wow. I am happy for the former LSU Tiger, though, he's a tough player with lots of heart. We're creeping up on pick #14!!!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Saints Nation: Lance Moore and Jahri Evans officially locked up for 2009

The Saints have now officially signed Jahri Evans and Lance Moore to their restricted free agent 1 year contract tenders. While this is good news, it is also expected news. The Saints were at a very low risk with Evans as they tendered him the highest possible amount (an amount that would yield a 1st and 3rd round pick in return should another team sign him and the Saints refuse to match). Lance Moore was a little more risky of a tender (only yielding one 2nd round pick in return if the Saints did not match another team's offer sheet), but it ended up saving the Saints a little cash. Welcome back, guys!

Saints Nation: The moment we have been waiting for is near.

The 2009 NFL draft starts tomorrow, and the New Orleans Saints will pick 14th overall. The wait is almost over. Check back here as I'll be making frequent entries on draft day with my opinions on not only the draft in general, but more importantly the moves the Saints will make.

Saints Nation Fans Have Spoken: Saints-Patriots is the top game this season.

What you see above is Heath Evans engaging a would be Saint tackler. The next time the Saints and Patriots battle, Evans will be wearing a Saints uniform. Thanks to all of you who voted in the Saints Nation poll: What is the most exciting home game of 2009? 44% of you picked the Saints hosting the Patriots on Monday Night Football in Week 12. It will be very interesting to see how we measure up against the best of the best. Please vote in the new poll below, and GEAUX SAINTS.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Saints Nation: Breaking News in the NFC South

Gulp, the Falcons just got A LOT better. You thought the Roddy White/Matt Ryan/Michael Turner (aka "MURDA" as the classy/linguistically skilled Atlanta fans so tastefully call him) offensive combo was scary? Add Tony Gonzalez to the mix. That's right, the Chiefs just traded the best tight end in the NFL for a 2nd round draft choice to the Falcons. If Malcolm Jenkins wasn't #1 on our board before this news, he should be now. This is not good news. Not good news at all.


Speaking of linguistically skilled, over in Carolina I hear the news that Jake Delhomme received a 5 year $42 million extension with $20 million in guaranteed money. Holy cow. That's a lot of money for a guy who single handedly buried their playoff game last year. This news is a little easier to swallow. Sure, Delhomme has owned us since he's joined Carolina, but he strikes a lot less fear in me than Matt Ryan throwing to Tony Gonzalez. Jake is also 34 years old. How many of those 5 years can we really expect him to play at that kind of money?

Saints Nation: Sinking Suspicion the Saints Will Trade Down

With the Saints locked away in a room and the likes of Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis, and lesser team officials pondering their dream scenario Saturday, I can't help but think trading down is a popular choice amongst them. As much as I've been lobbying for Malcolm Jenkins to be picked at the 14th slot, there are no guarantees he will be available. Some mock drafts have the 49ers taking Jenkins at 10, while others have the Packers taking him as high as 9. While the vast majority of mock drafts out there still have the Saints taking Jenkins at 14, another trendy prediction is that the Saints will bypass an available Malcolm Jenkins in favor of his former Buckeye teammate: running back Chris "Beanie" Wells. If the Saints draft Wells over Jenkins, then they've learned NOTHING from their shortcomings the past two seasons. Please, Saints, do not give this silly prognostication any validity.

One thing the sea of mock drafts you'll run into do not offer: possible trade scenarios. The mock drafts are a crapshoot as is, but guessing who will move out of what spot is impossible. With only 4 total picks overall and only one on the first day, though, the Saints are the most likely of candidates and we can't ignore it. Hopefully the Saints believe Jenkins, if available, is just too good to pass up. They may not, though, and my gut tells me they'll trade down without question if he's not there. Another theory is that they might believe they can still land Jenkins further down in the draft and take the risk for extra picks. The bottom line is the Saints currently have 4 picks and it would be foolish to think they'll end the draft with only 4 new players. You'll also read that the Saints have no ammunition to move up in the draft; that is not true. It's very trendy to trade picks in the following year's draft in order to move up in the current draft, and the Saints have a full stock of picks in 2010.

Saints Nation: Origins of WHO DAT?!


By request from "The Plaintiff", I have decided to share the origin of "Who Dat?" as the story has been told to me. Keep in mind this is a second hand story from the many knowledgeable Saints fans I've talked to, so PLEASE feel free to comment and share your "Who Dat?" origin story if it's different. The story starts in Patterson, Louisiana - home to former Saints' star running back Dalton Hilliard. In the late 70's/early 80's, Hilliard's high school team made it all the way to the Superdome for the state championship against John Curtis. Rumor has it that the Patterson Lumberjack fans brought a chant to New Orleans with them of "Who Dat say dey gonna beat dem Jacks". The chant followed Hilliard everywhere he went. After 4 years at LSU where the chant scored some popularity, Hilliard was drafted by the Saints. It is said that the chant followed him to New Orleans and spread like wildfire amongst the fans. One thing is for sure: Who Dat is of absolutely NO RELATION to the chant "Who Dey" used in Cincinnati.  There's also debate about which chant started first. "Who Dey" was used at some point in 1981 when the Bengals made the Superbowl. "Who Dat" started in Patterson prior to '81, but it wasn't adopted as a Saints cheer until years later when Hilliard joined the team. The disagreement on which one came first stems from the issue that while the Bengals used "Who Dey" prior to the Saints using "Who Dat", but the official "Who Dat" slogan was created in Louisiana before "Who Dey" existed. So we've got the eternal #21 to thank for the cheer. The term "Who Dat" is a shortened version of the official Saints cheer which goes: "Who Dat? Who Dat? Who Dat Say Dey Gonna Beat Dem Saints?"

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Saints Nation: Few can debate Brees has cemented his place as Saints best QB ever.











In just three seasons as a New Orleans Saint, Drew Brees has risen to the best quarterback in team history. This is partially because of the bleak history of the Saints, but it is also largely illustrates the incredulous prowess of Brees in a very short time frame. Comparing him to the few success stories at the quarterback position, he has been the most productive by far.Below you'll see career stats for famous Saints QB's, and you'll realize there is no debate. Let's take a look at his competition:

Archie Manning's stats as a Saint in 10 seasons:
21,734 career passing yards (1st all time)
3,716 passing yards in a season (8th all time)
115 TD's vs 156 INT's
2 Pro Bowls
0 Playoff Appearances
0 Playoff Wins

Bobby Hebert's stats as a Saint in 7 seasons:
14,630 career passing yards (3rd all time)
3,287 passing yards in a season (12th all time)
85 TD's vs 75 INT's
0 Pro Bowls (1 with Falcons)
3 Playoff Appearances
0 Playoff Wins

Jim Everett's stats as a Saint in 3 seasons:
10,622 career passing yards (5th all time)
3,970 and 3,855 passing yards in a season (4th and 5th all time)
60 TD's vs 48 INT's
0 Pro Bowls (1 with Rams)
0 Playoff Appearances
0 Playoff Wins

Aaron Brooks' stats as a Saint in 6 seasons:
19,156 career passing yards (2nd all time)
3,832 and 3,810 passing yards in a season (6th and 7th all time)
120 TD's vs 84 INT's
0 Pro Bowls
1 Playoff Appearance
1 Playoff Win

Drew Brees' stats as a Saint in 3 seasons:
13,910 career passing yards (4th all time)
5,069, 4,423 and 4,418 passing yards in a season (1st, 2nd and 3rd all time)
88 TD's vs 46 INT's
2 Pro Bowls
1 Playoff Appearance
1 Playoff Win

So in 3 seasons Brees has already tied the most playoff wins in Saints history for a QB (1), he's tied for the most pro bowls (2) and he's shattered the most yards passing in a season each year. He also has more TD passes in 3 seasons than Bobby Hebert had in 7. Brees is the best QB in Saints history after only 3 seasons, case closed. Amazing feat to be sure, but how much will he expand on this success? The sky is the limit as he is just entering his prime.

Stats were found on: NFL.com and nosaintshistory.com

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Saints Nation: You want answers? This is the worst time to get them.

NOLA.com reported that Mickey Loomis will meet with the media tomorrow to discuss the upcoming NFL draft on Saturday. But who really cares? One thing is for sure, you will hear nothing of substance. If you think you hear something of substance, either it's a smokescreen or Saints management are not as smart as they think they are. This is always the most painful time of the year where countless opinions and predictions get thrown out there and only few have any validity. And don't expect anything to come out of Loomis' mouth that will either be: A. of any interest whatsoever or B. something you didn't know. Who can forget Jim Haslett's bold face lies to the media about what the team was targetting pre-draft? With Haslett, the only thing you could count on was he was going to draft anything but what he told you.

So take that press conference tomorrow with a big grain of salt and stay patient till Saturday. We're not going to get any answers before then as the team officials lock themselves in a room and throw away the key. I would go as far as saying there are players on the Saints roster that are more in the dark about their team's draft plans than some of us fans. We'll see what happens soon enough, and hopefully what happens is Malcolm Jenkins in a Saints uniform.

That's right Mickey: IF YOU ARE READING THIS, DRAFT MALCOLM JENKINS.

Other links:

Shockey fires Drew Rosenhaus. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Shockey claims he's not unhappy with his contract, though (cough cough).

Torry Holt is now a Jaguar
. A little weird, but even at his age I'm glad to get him out of the NFC.

Turning to the NBA for a second: Good luck to the Hornets tomorrow night against the Denver Nuggets. Down 1-0 in a 7 game playoff series, this is an important game to win for them. As Saints fans we should rally behind them and support our city. Surprisingly, they don't seem too worried about the game 1 blowout loss.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Saints Nation: Does watching this ever get old?


If you're in need of some Saints action during this slow offseason: CLICK HERE

That block by Jo-Lonn Dunbar on the first return never gets old. Brees' smile on the second TD right at the end is priceless, too.

Only 5 more days till the draft!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Saints Nation: My Redskins story

On Sunday September 14th of 2008, my wife and I took a trip to Washington, DC for the Saints-Redskins game. We proudly supported our Saints despite the fact that we were clearly outnumbered. I carried the valued #25 jersey on my back while my wife sported an old school Joe Horn jersey. We were greeted by a number of lighthearted insults, snide comments and death stares - All things you expect traveling to enemy turf. The people we sat next to were actually fairly nice, but I quickly noticed how negative they would become after a bad play and how quick they were to turn on their own. You think we're negative as Saints fans after years of losing? For a franchise that has won numerous Superbowls, their fans were no better. For the most part I was reserved in my cheering because I wanted to be respectful of all the Redskins fans around me and not put my wife in the bad position of having to witness any sort of confrontation. The only time I really got animated was the Reggie Bush punt return for a touchdown. I felt free to stand up and let people see the jersey I was wearing while making noises reminiscent of the New Orleans arena when Chris Paul turns one of his ridiculous three point plays.

Then, things took a turn for the worst. The Redskins came out of nowhere and found a way to win the game down two scores with 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter and that was when we began to get treated like Al-Qaeda supporters. Outside of the stadium the things that were said to us were so rude and offensive (and of course the token: you should have drowned in Katrina) my wife vouched to never travel to an away game again. There were several times I feared for our well being and health. The things that were said and done to us were obscene at times, and most of it is unfit for me to share on a blog that kids might read. Suffice it to say it was really really bad. I'm not one to fisticuff, but preservation and self defense was on my mind.

I know what some of you are thinking. "Well, you go to an away game wearing Saints gear - what do you expect?". "Big deal, they said mean things to you". My wife and I are thicked skinned and we are not easily offended AT ALL. This was different. I've been to Carolina in a Saints uniform. I've been to Atlanta. I've been to other venues, too. I don't know if the fans were more charged than usual by the late game heroics, or if the further north you go the more brutal the fans are; but by I don't consider myself a violent person in the least yet I found myself thinking: "How can I allow this man to say these things to my wife and not punch him in the face?". I'm a Saints season ticket holder and have attended many games over the years - I have NEVER seen anyone treated 25% as bad in the Superdome.

I notice we play them again on December 6th this season and I think it's pretty safe to assume there's no way I'll convince my wife to go again. As a matter of fact, I doubt I would go back without 2 male Saints fans in better physical shape than me. I will be watching that game, though, and I won't feel one bit sorry if we pull a Spurrier-esque playcalling strategy up 50 in the 4th quarter.

I learned two things that day:

1. The NFL is not a family environment. You can't enjoy games with your wife/kids on enemy turf and feel 100% safe that they won't be treated very poorly.
2. I hate the Washington Redskins.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saints Nation: The Saints are lucky to have Will Smith

Will Smith had a career low 3 sacks last year in what was generally described by many as a very disappointing year. While his performance was guilty of a serious regression, there was constant talk that Will Smith was playing at less than 100% the whole season. This article claims he was battling a sports hernia (the same injury that kept Jeremy Shockey on the sidelines for several games) and that he played the 16 game season suffering as soon as week 1. The article also goes on to say how respected he is in the locker room. Smith signed a contract last off season of 6 years and worth up to $70 million. It's pretty impressive, if you ask me, that the guy got that kind of money and decided to play through a major injury instead of mailing it in. I don't care what anyone says, the guy is tough, and the Saints are lucky to have him. With that kind of guaranteed money he could have easily taken the attitude that he has nothing left to prove and refuse to play through pain. How many NFL athletes have been guilty of that very crime? The injury was bad luck, but this article further illustrates that the investment the Saints made was sound. I wouldn't bet against Will Smith bouncing back in 2009 and regaining the form that once sent him to the Pro Bowl.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Saints Nation: Are Saints better or worse without Reggie Bush?

There's been talk that maybe the Saints offense actually plays better without Bush in the lineup so I decided to dig deeper. Saints Nation has run the numbers, and here is what we came up with:

Reggie Bush played in 9 games in 2008 and missed 6. 

Team Rushing Yards per game:

With Reggie the Saints average 109.7 yards per game
Without Reggie the average is 101.2 per game

Team Passing Yards per game:

With Reggie, 331.3 per
Without Reggie, 347.8 per

Points per game:

With Reggie, avg 28
Without Reggie, avg 35.2

Turnovers:

With Reggie 2 per game
Without Reggie 1.3 per game

So while the Saints as a team do run for more yards when Reggie has been active, they also throw for much more and also score a good deal more (all while turning the ball over less) when he is inactive. It certainly sounds like the Saints offense is better off without Reggie on the field, right?

In the words of Lee Corso, "not so fast my friend". While some of those numbers (especially points vs turnovers)  seem like glaring differences, the Saints average playing the 17.4th rated defense PER GAME when Reggie was active. By comparison, the average defense they played when Reggie was absent was 25th. So yes, the Saints offense performed better against the competition without Reggie in the game, but they did so against weaker competition. Bottom line is results are inconclusive, but throwing Reggie under the bus based on the facts seems unfair.
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Saints Nation: A look at the Saints' current depth chart

Now that the draft is about a week away, let's look at the current (unofficial) depth chart according to Saints Nation going in:

QB: Drew Brees, Mark Brunell, Joey Harrington
HB: Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, Mike Bell, Lynell Hamilton
FB: Heath Evans, Darian Barnes, Olaniyi Sobomehin
WR: Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Adrian Arrington, Skyler Green, Courtney Roby, Biren Ealy
TE: Jeremy Shockey, Billy Miller, Dan Campbell, Darnell Dinkins, Buck Ortego, Kolo Kapanui
C: Jonathan Goodwin, Nick Leckey
G: Jahri Evans, Carl Nicks, Jamar Nesbit, Tim Duckworth
T: Jammal Brown, Jon Stinchcomb, Zach Strief, Jermon Bushrod

E: Will Smith, Charles Grant, Bobby McCray, Paul Spicer, Jeff Charleston, Rob Ninkovich, Josh Savage
DT: Sedrick Ellis, Kendrick Clancy, Brian Young, Hollis Thomas, Roderick Coleman, DeMario Pressley, Remi Ayodele
OLB: Scott Fujita, Scott Shanle, Dan Morgan, Troy Evans, Jo-Lonn Dunbar
MLB: Jonathan Vilma, Mark Simoneau, Marvin Mitchell, Anthony Waters
CB: Jabari Geer, Tracy Porter, Randall Gay, Jason David, Usama Young, Leigh Torrence
FS: Darren Sharper, Pierson Prioleau
SS: Roman Harper, Chris Reis

K: Garrett Hartley
P: Glenn Pakulak
LS: Kevin Houser

That's 70 players total currently on the roster. Find more information on these players here.

lagniappe: Fleur-de-Lis Fever did a piece on the best draft class in Saints' history. Reading this article makes me feel like the 2006 class really might be our best ever.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fans have spoken: Saints to draft Malcolm Jenkins 14th overall in 2009 NFL draft

Receiving 61% of the vote in the Saints Nation poll, Malcolm Jenkins is the front runner to go 14th overall to the Saints (at least in the minds of Saints fans). A distant second was running back Chris "Beanie" Wells with 20% of the vote.

I AM GLAD WE AGREE!

Please weigh in on the new poll below: What matchup in 2009 are you most excited about?

Thanks to the Godfather of Blog for the sweet picture of Jenkins on draft day. Let's just hope he's still available at 14!

Chargers fan's opinion on Anthony Waters

I caught up with a longtime friend and a super Chargers fan who gave me his opinion on Waters.
Thanks to Oddjob for the comments:

"He's a backup at best. I think the Chargers gave him every opportunity to succeed last year, especially with all of our injuries at linebacker, and he never contributed. When he was cut in February, the paper also alluded to some off-field issues being a contributing factor. That same paper also labeled him the biggest draft pick bust in the AJ Smith era. That label is pretty bad when we still have Buster Davis on the roster".

Yikes, does this remind anyone of Courtney Watson? Well, the guy's best season was 3 years ago at Clemson, so he'll really have to show the Saints something pretty special if he doesn't want to be a distant memory very soon.

Lance Moore injures shoulder... blessing in disguise?

Lance Moore has injured his shoulder in the weight room and will need surgery to repair the damage. The timing is pretty interesting because he has till Friday to either sign the Saints tender or sign an offer sheet with another team. The immediate gut reaction is certain to be: here we go again, we haven't even gotten to the draft and already we've suffered a big loss. I'm actually thinking the opposite. Not to worry, Sean Payton says in the article above he'll be good to go by training camp.

Should Moore sign with another team, the Saints would then have the right to match it or decide to let him go and accept a 2nd round draft pick in return. I just can't see anyone giving up a 2nd round pick in the draft next week for a 5'9" receiver with an injured shoulder. I was doubtful Moore was going anywhere before this news, but if teams were interested in signing him: this latest piece of news should scare them off.

In preperation for next week's draft, Saints add linebacker

With the draft a little over a week away, the Saints signed free agent linebacker Anthony Waters. With only 4 picks in the upcoming draft and team officials clearly in full on draft mode, this is an interesting move. The former Clemson star was injured most of his senior year with a torn ACL after leading the ACC in tackles his junior year. He still managed to get drafted in the 3rd round by San Diego based on his upside but never panned out due mostly to injury setbacks. I'm not going to talk about his stats with San Diego because you can research that pretty easily and it's clear he did close to nothing. While he's likely just a camp body, it does tell us two things: 1. We shouldn't expect the Saints to draft a linebacker with one of their 4 picks in the draft (which means they feel comfortable with the current crop) and 2. Jonathan Vilma's primary backup at MLB isn't locked up by any means.

The Saints now carry 4 Mike Backers: Vilma, Mark Simoneau, Marvin Mitchell and Anthony Waters. It remains to be seen if Simoneau will stay due to his fairly significant salary and his last season being spent almost entirely on IR. If he ends up getting cut due to training camp struggles, Waters could give Mitchell a run for his money.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Strief and Torrence re-sign

Backup offensive tackle Zach Strief and backup cornerback Leigh Torrence have been re-signed each to one year contracts. Check out the report here. While neither player is a starter, this is good news as I believe both are solid contributors that will make the team's 53 man roster.

This leaves starters Jahri Evans and Lance Moore as the remaining unsigned yet tendered restricted free agents. Both guys have till 10:59pm Friday to either sign with another team or accept the one year deal they have been proposed by the Saints. Evans has been offered $2.792 million and Moore has $1.545 million on the table. Should either sign with another team, the Saints would have 7 days to match the offer sheet or let the player go. Compensation for Evans, should they choose not to match, would be a 1st and 3rd round draft choice. The compensation for Moore would be a 2nd round pick.

Obviously Evans and Moore are the two guys we should be concerned about here, but it is highly unlikely anyone will give up a 1st and 3rd for Evans. Moore, on the other hand, is a little more dangerous of a proposition. Teams have been reported to have interest in him and may consider giving up a 2nd round pick to get him. With the Saints' current financial cap position it may be difficult to match the money some teams could throw at Moore. Stay tuned as we should know more by week's end.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The schedule has been released!

Start making your travel plans, Saints fans. The Saints schedule has been announced. Check it out here!

Ignoring the preseason (which always means nothing), the schedule looks very promising on a number of fronts. First off, the Saints face the Detroit Lions at home to start the year. That's the same team that went 0-16 last season and it's the same team the Saints beat 42-7 several months ago. That is a huge way to start the season and the Saints have to take advantage of it. 

The Saints then get road games @ Philadelphia and @ Buffalo to follow. Those will both be tough games and hopefully we can split them. The bottom line, though, is we're going into very COLD territory in the middle of September. I'd prefer that to a trip to the east coast in the pits of December in desperate need for a win. We'll then face a Brett Favre-less Jets team (that is assuming he doesn't un-retire again) at home. That's a pretty good 4 games to start the season and I think 3-1 is very attainable. My only gripe is we then get a bye week and I would prefer to take advantage of one much later in the season.

Following a week off, the Saints host the Giants in a terrific matchup against an NFC powerhouse. We'll get a chance to measure up against the best and see how we fare, and we'll get a chance to do that at home. The dome will be rockin' for sure. We'll then go to Miami to play an overachieving Dolphins team. The following weekend we'll get our first of 3 nationally televised games playing host to the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football. I think 5-2 through this point is also very attainable. 

Following the Monday night game the Saints will play at home again. Travel after a Monday night game is always brutal, so this is another advantage as we play host to the Carolina Panthers. Following this, we're looking at a road trip to a domed stadium (Rams) and warm weather (Tampa Bay). I think we should realistically expect a 1-2 stretch with these games which would put us at 6-4. 

The Saints then host their next Monday night game, against another powerhouse in the New England Patriots. Once again, they'll get a chance to measure up against the best and do so at home. A huge opportunity. One thing I like about the trip to DC (against Redskins) following the Monday Night game is that I think the Saints are still bitter about last season's meltdown @ Washington and will be motivated to get payback. The Saints then go home to face the Cowboys on a Saturday night game on NFL Network, before hosting Tampa Bay and closing out the season at Carolina. I'm hoping we split those 4 games and my initial reaction is: It is entirely possible the Saints end the season with a 10-6 record. Before you get all up in arms about that record, consider that the Falcons, Panthers and Buccaneers all are included in the top 5 hardest schedules in the NFL (which is based on their opponents' records in 2008). The coldest game the Saints will endure is Washington DC on December 6th. By comparison, Atlanta has to go to New York on December 20th, Carolina has to go to Foxboro on December 13th AND New York on December 27th, and Tampa has to go to Seattle on December 20th. Brrrrrrr, sounds cold! I think this is a terrific schedule and we are in GREAT shape.   

Saints would be foolish to go running back at #14


Does it bother anyone that talk of the Saints drafting either running back Knowshon Moreno or running back Chris "Beanie" Wells is picking up steam? It should. If the Saints pass on an available Malcolm Jenkins at #14, they are ignoring a glaring deficiency that has plagued them for years. Jenkins is clearly a player that can help them. He's physical, he's got terrific instincts, and he's got an extreme amount of potential at a position the Saints are desperate to improve. Moving away from Jenkins for a moment, it is most important that the Saints draft defense with that 1st pick. At #14 the Saints will be able to select SOMEONE with tremendous talent. Their defense was #23 in the league last year and their offense was #1. Period. One side of the ball needs the help.

The main reason people want to see the Saints draft a running back: the struggles to convert on short yardage situations. My take: GET USED TO THOSE STRUGGLES. The Saints are the #1 offense in the NFL, but that comes at a cost. Their offensive line is built to primarily promote the passing game. The label the Saints get as "soft" or "finesse" has a lot to do with how much they throw the ball. They are not a traditional power I formation type offense that pounds it up the middle every play and occassionally throws to keep the defense honest. Teams with that type of offense are excellent at converting on third and short. They're also not as dangerous on every single snap. This offensive line relies more on technique, quickness and deception. They are not the type of offensive line that will maul you over. While Reggie Bush is clearly not built to convert on 3rd and shorts either, my point is that the team's struggles in short yardage situations have more to do with the offensive line and less to do with the running backs.

There is no question the Saints could use a more powerful back, and there's a few other draft picks and a free agency period that can help address the issue. But Pierre Thomas is a pretty tough customer and Heath Evans is versatile enough to get scrappy yards when necessary.

Bottom line: if they Saints pick Wells or Moreno, they are passing on 1st round talent on the defensive side of the ball. In my opinion, based on the struggles of the past two seasons, that would be insane.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Grading the Saints last 5 drafts


With the NFL draft fast approaching (April 25th is the date), it's time to re-visit how our beloved Saints have fared in the exercise the last 5 years.

2004 Draftees:

1. Will Smith, DE, Ohio St.
2a. Devery Henderson, WR, LSU
2b. Courtney Watson, LB, Notre Dame
5a. Rodney Leisle, DT, UCLA
5b. Mike Karney, FB, Arizona St.
7. Colby Bockwoldt, LB, Bringham Young

Grade: B-

Will Smith and Devery Henderson have both signed extensions in the past couple years and are productive players with prominent roles on the team. Smith was also selected to the Pro Bowl during his fairly solid career to this point. Karney was a fabulous fullback during his tenure with the Saints but was released this off-season before signing with the Rams. Watson, Leisle, and Bockwoldt were largely busts and Leisle is the only one of the trio still in the NFL (Cardinals).

2005 Draftees:

1. Jammal Brown, OT, Oklahoma
2. Josh Bullocks, FS, Nebraska
3. Alfred Fincher, LB, UConn
4. Chase Lyman, WR, Cal
5. Adrian McPherson, QB, Florida St.
6. Jason Jefferson, DT, Wisconsin
7. Jimmy Verdon, DE, Arizona St.

Grade: D

Brown alone gives this class a passing grade. He's been to a couple Pro Bowls and has been a very solid player for the Saints, anchoring a successful offensive line. The rest of these picks were very very poor. Bullocks lasted till this offseason, leaving the Saints for the Bears, but he was highly inconsistent during his time with the team. Lyman was on injured reserve by his first practice and is no longer in the league. McPherson was a popular choice among fans, but never amounted to anything on the field. Verdon is out of the NFL. Fincher (Redskins) and Jefferson (Falcons) are fighting for their careers.

2006 Draftees:

1. Reggie Bush, HB, USC
2. Roman Harper, S, Alabama
4. Jahri Evans, G, Bloomsburg
5. Rob Ninkovich, DE, Purdue
6a. Mike Hass, WR, Oregon St.
6b. Josh Lay, CB, Pitt
7a. Zach Strief, T, Northwestern
7b. Marques Colston, WR, Hofstra

Grade: A

Bush was an obvious pick to make, but so far he hasn't lived up to the hype. Still, Bush has been a dangerous player and a good addition. Colston and Evans were pure strokes of genius, and they are both bonafide starters. Harper is still a starter, and Strief is a dependable backup. Ninkovich has come and gone, but has a chance to make the team this year. Mike Hass has done little and was released, but is with the Seahawks to date. Lay is out of the league.

2007 Draftees: See this article for more information

Grade: F

2008 Draftees:

1. Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC
2. Tracy Porter, CB, Indiana
5a. DeMario Pressley, DT, NC St.
5b. Carl Nicks, G, Nebraska
6. Taylor Mehlhaff, K, Wisconsin
7. Adrian Arrington, WR, Michigan

Grade: B

This grade is tough because we've only had one season to watch them play. Ellis, Porter and Nicks have all cracked the starting lineup and look very good so far. Mehlhaff was a complete disaster. Pressley and Arrington are still on the team, but they are fighting for roster spots this offseason. I reserve the right to change my grade next year.

Happy Easter from Saints Nation!


Happy Easter to all, I hope you have a joyful and safe one! Thank you for your support of Saints Nation and Geaux Saints!!

A few links for you to enjoy today:

The New York Times released this article today, detailing the Saints' offseason and predicting their move with the 14th pick. They predict Malcolm Jenkins or Vontae Davis.

NOLA.com has been lobbying harder and harder for the prediction that the Saints will reach at 14 for Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno.

This recent article posted over the weekend calls for the Saints to trade down their pick at all cost.

In rival news, it looks like Byron Leftwich will be the new starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Finally, get excited, because the NFL has announced we are now TWO DAYS AWAY from finding out the 2009 NFL schedule!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Top 10 plays of 2008


By request of gmg74 from the nola.com forum, I present you with the top 10 plays of the 2008 Saints season. Despite a rough 8-8 season with a run that ended just short of a playoff birth, the Saints had many memorable plays that electrified the season.

10. Week 1 vs. Tampa Bay: Down 13-10 in the 3rd quarter against the Bucs following a Tampa field goal, the Saints started their ensuing drive pinned back at their 16 yard line. On that first play, Drew Brees drew the defense offsides with a long snap count and took a shot downfield with the free play he inherited. Devery Henderson beat Ronde Barber to the ball and raced 84 yards to the end zone, giving the Saints a 17-13 lead. That would be the longest reception of Henderson's career to date. 

9. Week 1 vs. Tampa Bay: In that same game later in the 4th quarter, Tampa was driving down 24-20 and in need of a touchdown. With 44 seconds remaining, the Bucs' last chance would be at the Saints' 24 yard line working with 4th and 6. Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia would throw on a slant route to Antonio Bryant that Scott Fujita would step in front of for the game sealing interception. The Saints would beat their division opponent to start the season with a promising 1-0 record.

8. Week 12 vs. Green Bay: Get used to this one, Saints fans. There were lots of memorable moments in the 51 point effort the Saints put together on Monday Night Football. With the Saints down 7-0 early in the 1st quarter, Drew Brees hit Lance Moore on a short slant route. Moore would dart 70 yards past the entire opposition to tie the game at 7-7. Many times during Moore's early days on the Saints, people would comment during training camp that he beat old Saints speedster Michael Lewis in foot races. Not sure I believed it then or now, but there was no question watching him turn that 5 yard pass into a 70 yard TD that he was the fastest man on the field. 

7. Week 12 vs. Green Bay: Why throw 1 70yd TD when you can throw two in a game? This time the score was 38-21 and the game was pretty well in hand for the Saints. What happened was one of the prettiest plays of the season. Brees dropped back to pass, and with no one open he was flushed out of the pocket. On the dead run, he found Marques Colston and led him perfectly. Colston was covered well on the play, but managed to break loose of his defender with the time Brees bought with his feet. Colston stretched out his hands for the ball and ran 70 yards to give the Saints a 45-21 lead. We'll be coming back to this game later in case you can't get enough of it, don't worry.

6. Week 15 @ Chicago: With the Saints down 21-7 in the third quarter and desperate for a big play to get them back in the game, a huge boost came from Pierre Thomas. Thomas, a native of Chicago who played collegiate ball at Illinois, broke a few tackles and blasted his way 42 yards to the end zone which would jump start a Saints comeback and close the gap to 21-14. The Saints would lose the game in overtime, but that was one of the toughest runs of the season.

5. Week 17 vs. Carolina: Left for dead at the start of the 4th quarter, down 30-10 to the Panthers, the Saints would mount the most furious of efforts with 21 straight points that would give them the 31-30 lead with 3 minutes to play. Carolina would drive down and win the game 33-31 in the closing seconds, but the Saints made a game of it with their best comeback of the season. The 21 point swing was capped by a beautiful 13 yard pitch and catch from Brees to Lance Moore.

4. Week 5 vs. Minnesota: Who can forget Reggie Bush's electric performance on punt returns? We could easily make each of his returns part of the top 10. The Saints found a way to lose this one, 30-27, but Reggie Bush deserved the win with his heroics. Bush started his superhuman performance with a 71 yard punt return in the 3rd quarter which trimmed Minnesota's lead to 20-17. That play featured the most bone crushing of blocks by Jo-Lonn Dunbar, which will probably be seen on NFL highlight films for decades. On Bush's following punt return, he would break loose again only to be tripped up by the 50 yard line. Had he not slipped, he would have gone for another 6 points without question. The Saints would settle for a field goal on that drive to tie the score at 20. Then the Saints defense would get another stop, and Bush would runback his next punt return 64 yards for another touchdown to give his team a 27-20 lead. What a freak of nature, and what a performance. The only words that could ever aptly describe what Bush did that Monday night in front of a national audience: truly unforgettable. 

3. Week 14 vs. Atlanta: Pierre Thomas was the man of the day. He posted a 102 yard effort on 16 carries with a TD and also scored a TD on a pass from Drew Brees. But those numbers were only trumped by how he found a way to win this game for the Saints. Down 25-22 with 7 minutes left, Pierre Thomas took Atlanta's kickoff 88 yards to the Atlanta 16. A few plays later, he bulldozed over several Falcons for a 5 yard touchdown run to give the Saints a 29-25 lead. The Saints defense would then get a stop, and the Saints would get the ball back with 3:15 left. Thomas had runs of 9, 3, 2, 5,  and 4 yards to help the Saints run out the clock and claim the victory. The last run came on a 3rd and 3 which gave the Saints their final first down and left the dirty birds with no chance of regaining possession of the football. Lots of plays to choose from, but the 88 yard kick return started it all.

2. Week 8 in London vs. San Diego: The Saints won this game 37-32 on a terrible field with absolutely zero defense the entire game. Both teams torched each other with big play after big play, as they combined for over 850 yards on the day. But it was the most unlikely of heroes that would clinch this game for New Orleans: The Defense. Down 7 with the ball on the New Orleans 32, a previously flawless Philip Rivers floated a pass intended for Chris Chambers downfield. Chambers seemed open, but linebacker Scott Shanle soared in the air and managed to tip the ball up and into the waiting arms of teammate Jonathan Vilma. The Saints would get one final scare after taking an intentional safety as Rivers threw a hail mary pass into the end zone for the win, but the Saints managed to escape. The Saints put on a great show once again in front of a national audience, but their defense surprised us all by creating a huge turnover when it counted after getting badly embarrassed all game.

1. Week 12 vs. Green Bay: With 7:37 left in the 3rd quarter and the score 31-21 in favor of the Saints, Deuce McAllister plowed 3 yards into the end zone in front of the home crowd. This would be his 54th career touchdown, which would be a new Saints record. McAllister was a consumate professional on and off the field, a leader in the locker room, a warrior at game time, and one of the truly great people in the game. Oh, and arguably the greatest Saint of all time. The moment was without question one of my most special memories as a Saints fan. The entire crowd cheered his name for several minutes after the score, and even Deuce struggled to hold back his emotions. Deuce was greeted by his sideline to many congratulatory offers, including a big hug from Sean Payton. We'll miss you #26, you were the greatest.

Hope you guys enjoyed the great memories of last season, and let us hope for many more in 2009!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

When can we stop missing John Carney?

During his career with the New Orleans Saints, a career that lasted 6 years, John Carney was the model of consistency. He always came prepared and fit, and won over the hearts of many Saints fans. Now a New York Giant, Carney became this past season at 44 years of age the oldest Pro Bowler in NFL history. Carney will turn 45 in April, and he sports a 82.6% career success rate on field goal tries over 20 seasons. Even more impressive is the fact that he connected 35 out of 38 field goals last year, for a success rate of 92.1%. No wonder this guy keeps hanging around; no one is more accurate and he is a difference maker in a league where so many games come down to the final 2 minutes.

When the Saints let Carney go, the reasoning seemed sound enough. Carney, while incredibly accurate, had clearly lost power in his leg necessary for being effective on kickoffs. As a result, the Saints in 2006 spent 2 roster spots on kickers so that a stronger legged Billy Cundiff could handle kickoff duties. The luxury the Saints had prior to 2006 was that Mitch Berger, the punter, could also serve as a decent kickoff man. With Berger no longer on the team and a new rookie punter in Steve Weatherford who wasn't as versatile, Carney's lack of power became an issue. Sean Payton decided that he wanted a kicker that could handle both chores so that he didn't have to sacrifice the extra roster spot. The Saints decided during the 2007 offseason to trade for Olindo Mare who would succeed Carney as the new Saints kicker. While Mare's leg strength was every bit as impressive as advertized, that leg strength was at the cost of accuracy on field goals. Mare made 10 of 17 kicks for the Saints before he was injured and replaced by a handsome fella named Martin Grammatica. Grammatica had a strong season after replacing Mare, converting on all 5 tries. The following season, however, Grammatica had significant struggles -- especially during crucial situations. He went 6 of 10, including two heart breaking misses that cost the Saints 2 early season losses. Grammatica was then replaced by rookie Taylor Mehlhaff, who went 3 for 4 but missed an extra point, and was so bad in practice that he completely lost the faith of the coaching staff early on.

And this brings us to Garrett Hartley. Granted, 13 kicks is a small sample size and he could follow in the footsteps of Grammatica, who followed up a perfect half season with a disastrous start to the following one. But Hartley connected on all 13 kicks he attempted in 2008 and showed a solid ability on kickoffs. There is lots of promise in this young kicker, who seems very reliable and hopefully can stick around longer than his 3 predecessors.

All in all, Carney converted on 83.3% of his kicks while in New Orleans (150 out of 180) and has converted on 90.4% of his kicks in the 3 years since he has left. By comparison, the Saints 4 kickers since Carney have combined to make 75.5% of their kicks. If you take Garrett Hartley's perfect 13 kicks out of the equation, the Mare/Grammatica/Mehlhaff era combined for a woeful 66.7 conversion percentage. So they basically missed 1 in every 3 kicks. Yikes.

Hartley's addition, for the time being, has given me a slightly elevated blood pressure during field goal attempts... but I'll take that any day over the cardiac arrest threat the past 3 kickers gave me. Here's to hoping Hartley can build on his fabulous start and finally help us move on from the glory days of John Carney.

Fans have spoken: Dan Morgan to start at WLB


Thanks to all of you who have voted, Dan Morgan has won the saints nation poll for starting WLB this season. Suprisingly, he won this pretty easily getting 65% of the vote despite sitting out a year and returning from retirement. Clearly the Saints fans believe he's primed for a return to glory. Incumbent starter Scott Shanle got 15% of the vote, promising youngster Jo-Lonn Dunbar got 10% and another 10% felt a new addition (rookie or free agent) would be the starter. Here's to hoping for a successful and HEALTHY season for Dan Morgan. There is no question the guy can play some serious ball when he's playing with confidence. Please check out the new poll on the right side and vote for your pick as the #1 Saints choice at #14.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

10 plays that killed 2008


Below you'll find some of the harshest memories from last year we can't soon enough forget. When you look at how many games come down to the final minutes in the NFL, you really have to play close attention to how you're losing games. For the Saints, it was missed field goals, poor pass rush, and bad pass defense. Seems like we've taken steps towards rectifying each this offseason. Here's to hoping we can avoid as many of these painful plays in 2009. Without further wait, I give you the 10 worst plays of 2008:

10. Week 7 @ Carolina: Reggie Bush fields a punt just before halftime, and runs around in circles trying to avoid getting tackled. It results in him getting chased harmlessly out of bounds for a 7 yard return -- but causes him to injure his knee. Bush misses the rest of the game, and the following 4 weeks. Upon his return, he makes almost no impact and is clearly not the same. While the offense performed fine in his absence (which is why I didn't list this higher), Bush was having a terrific season prior to this injury and seemed like he was finally starting to live up to his hype.

9. Week 17 vs Carolina: With the Saints leading 31-30 with about 3 minutes to go and the Panthers pinned at their own 17, a mighty Saints pass rush delivered a massive blow to Jake Delhomme. Just before he was sacked, Delhomme heaved a desperation hail mary type pass into triple coverage. Steve Smith, at 5'9", out jumped every Saint to haul in a 40 yard pass which would prove to set up the winning field goal heroics for Carolina. While the game was mostly meaningless, it epitomized the Saints season and was yet another painful reminder that Jake Delhomme owns us.

8. Week 5 vs Minnesota (part A): The score was tied at 27-27, after Reggie Bush miraculously got the Saints back in the game with 2 punt returns for touchdowns. Martin Grammatica missed a 46 yard kick with 2 minutes left that would have given the Saints a 3 point lead. We'll come back to this game.

7. All season?: Jeremy Shockey suffered from a misdiagnosed sports hernia. While perhaps one play cannot be associated to the injury, it was a source of frustration all season. Shockey tried to play through pain numerous times, and often the Saints would have been better off with him sitting out. He had costly fumbles, dropped passes, no speed and badly missed blocking assignments on crucial plays. Even more troubling, Shockey never found the end zone all season long. There were some patches here and there where you could see how good he can be when healthy, but overall he did more harm than good over the course of the season.

6. Week 13 @ Tampa Bay: With the score tied at 20, the Saints inherited the football on their 17 yard line with 2:33 to go. Inexplicably, the Saints ran the football 18 times all game in a driving rain storm (the Bucs ran 34 times). True to their gameplan despite being deep in their own territory, the Saints came out throwing once again, and Drew Brees was intercepted at the Saint 17 to set up Tampa's game winning field goal. Brees threw another bad pick for good measure on the ensuing drive.

5. Week 2 @ Washington: With the game firmly in the Saints grasp, up two scores with less than 6 minutes left, the Redskins pulled off an unlikely comeback. First the Redskins closed the gap with a nice long drive. Then, they stopped the Saints on a crucial 3rd and short to get the ball back. With the Redskins running out of time and deep in their on territory, Jason Campbell connected with Santana Moss for a 67 yard touchdown pass which would give them a 29-24 lead and ultimately the win. On that play, Tracy Porter was badly beaten with no help over the top. Saints fans around the world could be heard saying "just don't get beat deep" prior to that play.

4. Week 3 @ Denver: With the Saints trailing 34-32 with 1:55 remaining in the game, the Saints failed to covert on 3rd and inches. This forced them to settle for a 43 yard field goal attempt. Martin Grammatica set up to kick it, and missed it by a mile.

3. Week 1 @ Cleveland: A huge blow to the offense early in the season, as Marques Colston tore thumb ligaments in his right hand. He would miss 5 weeks, and return too early against Carolina in week 7 to look completely invisible.

2. Week 5 @ Minnesota (part B): I come back to this game because if you could pick one game that crushed our season hopes, this was it. Absolutely heartbreaking. Tracy Porter, a young rookie who had shown a tremendous amount of ability and promise at cornerback, broke his arm and would miss the rest of the season in this game. Later in the same game, with a depleted defensive backfield, Kevin Kaesviharn ran into Bernard Berian and committed an unforgiveable pass interference penalty on a 3rd down play 42 yards downfield. It set up Ryan Longwell's game winning 30 yard field goal that broke a 27-27 tie.

1. Week 15 @ Chicago: In overtime with the Bears facing a 3rd and 7, Kyle Orton threw the ball downfield and Roman Harper was flagged for a 38 yard pass interference penalty. That set up Robbie Gould's sudden death clinching field goal and ended the Saints chances at a playoff spot.

Monday, April 6, 2009

I hope the Saints are ready to deal with 6 years of Kellen Winslow Jr.

In the first regular season game of the Saints' magical 2006 season, the Saints found a way to win in Cleveland against a very bad Browns team 19-14. The Browns team managed to keep it interesting as the Saints' new offense was trying to learn how to play together. Marques Colston and Reggie Bush were rookies with prominent roles in the offense, and Drew Brees was in his first year as the Saints' starting quarterback.

What I remember very clearly about that game was that Kellen Winslow Jr., the butt of many football related jokes I made that summer, looked scary good. The "solja" who tore his ACL poppin' wheelies in a parking lot on his moped managed to come off the injury to post a solid 8 catches for 63 yards and a touchdown. As much as I disliked his personality based on the few times I saw a microphone shoved in his face, that was the day I recognized that the kid has game. His career since that day has taken off and he's become one of the biggest receiving threats in the game at his position.

Today, Winslow signed the largest contract for a tight end in NFL history with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Of course, of the 6 years he signed on for and the $42.1 million he could make, probably only half of it will become a reality. That said, we as Saints fans will now have to deal with this guy twice a year, and that is not something we should take lightly. What concerns me most is how bad our pass defense has been in years past. For our sake, let's hope that Dan Morgan comes in healthy, and lays a hard hat on Winslow.

All that said, I'm glad the Bucs spent all that money on this guy with, ahem, impeccable character. Better them than us, because they'll be stuck with the cap hit when he goes all T.O. on them. Until then, better find a guy that can cover him!

Monday Mailbag: Running backs, Mike McKenzie and Adrian Arrington
















See the mailbag results below. Thanks for the questions guys, and please keep them coming at saintsnation@gmail.com! I will field them every Monday.

Stanley H from Virginia wrote:
How will the running back situation play out next year with Deuce gone, Reggie carrying an injury history and Pierre Thomas still unproven? Is there a chance Deuce comes back on a smaller deal to get some goal line work? Who will get the lions share of the carries?

Also, why is Mike Karney so dreamy?

heart,
Stanley

My Take: Well Stanley, heart right back at you buddy. I’ll have to ask my wife why Karney is so dreamy, because I’m not sure I can answer that accurately or appropriately. As for your excellent question about the running back situation, it’s definitely a good one. Let me answer the second part to your question first: There is no way Deuce will come back. Unless you count the possible deal he’d sign 1 day before he retires as a Saint, he will not be playing for New Orleans again. I’m sure someone will take a chance on him if he proves he’s recovered from his injuries, but you could tell over the course of the season that Sean Payton grew annoyed with the loyalty the fans and media had towards Deuce. I think Payton sometimes viewed that as a distraction. Right now I think the Saints backfield will feature Reggie in a similar role to what we’ve seen in years past, and Pierre Thomas carrying the load. I think you can expect 10-15 carries a game for each guy, with Reggie playing more often on passing downs. There will be lots of special design pass plays for Reggie, but the Saints are not going to feature him as a 20-25 carry guy – maybe ever. If your question is who is the unquestioned starter – I think it’s Pierre Thomas with Reggie getting a lot of playing time. Remember the draft is close by, and free agency is in full swing… so don’t be shocked if the Saints add a power back. In fact, I would almost expect it. A lot of experts have the Saints drafting Beanie Wells 14th overall, and while I don’t agree that’ll happen, it’s certainly not out of the question. The reason I don’t think they’ll draft Wells is they’ve already gotten a fabulous running back in Pierre Thomas without drafting him AND they’ve already spent a 1st on Bush. I think there’s already a lot of money tied up at the running back position to spend another 1st, and the Saints believe they can find a good runner other ways which they’ve already proven they can do. Even if they don’t draft Wells, there are lots of power backs available in the latter parts of the draft and also in free agency. They’ll make an addition one way or another. Heath Evans is currently tabbed for the short yardage situations, I would think, unless they find someone better suited to run them. Don’t forget Mike Bell runs with a good amount of power too, and could be a surprise making the 53 man roster.

Elizabeth from Baton Rouge wrote:
Mike McKenzie – major loss or needed change?

My Take: Thanks for your email, Elizabeth, I think this is a great question. My answer is: both. Mike McKenzie in his prime was unquestionably the TOP performer on the Saints defense. He shut down opposing receivers and was terrific in both run support and coverage. I don’t think the Saints currently have a cornerback on their roster that is better than McKenzie was in his prime, so we certainly haven’t replaced him. From that standpoint McKenzie is a major loss, and from the way our backfield has been playing as of late that is evident. That said, a change was also needed, due mostly to his very serious knee injuries. When he shattered his knee cap last year he was already having a hard time bouncing back from a torn ACL the previous season, and 2 severe knee injuries at his age is impossible to rebound from. More so than Deuce, even, I think Mike McKenzie is completely done and I’d honestly be surprised to see him on someone’s roster come week 1. If you look at the corners currently on the Saints roster, the good news/silver lining is that I think we have more depth than ever at the position. We might not have a certified stud like McKenzie was, but between Greer, Porter, Gay, David, Young and Torrence we’ve got 6 guys who can legitimately play the position. This means we can probably absorb a minor injury or two more than ever at this position (provided it’s not as serious as what Tracy Porter or McKenzie suffered last year) and should be in decent shape at the position. I don’t think people realize how serious the loss of Mike McKenzie is though, Elizabeth. I think our best hope is that Jabari Greer turns out to be a solid pickup (and not someone who gets lost in our defensive scheme like Jason David did) as our #2, and that Tracy Porter continues to improve and turns himself into the next Mike McKenzie. That’s a tall order, but it’s not impossible.

Bill from New Orleans wrote:
Do you think Adrian Arrington has any shot at starting?

My Take: Bill, thanks for participating. The short answer to your question is no, he has no shot. The long answer is that Adrian Arrington has been a fan and coach favorite, no doubt, and I think he’s a popular pick to move up the depth chart if he can stay healthy. Be careful, though, because the guy has not yet played a single down in the NFL and he was drafted in the 7th round. He had a MAJOR injury last year, and he’s going to have to get through the entirety of camp and preseason healthy if he wants a chance to make this team. I think it’s questionable at best whether he makes the team, so forget the starting lineup. Lance Moore is the clear cut #2 for the Saints behind Marques Colston, and Henderson is firmly entrenched as the deep threat #3 slot guy. I think Robert Meachem, as inconsistent as he has been, is also a guy Arrington will have to surpass. If he can get through the periods I listed above healthy, I think he will definitely make the roster and stands a decent change to snag the #4 spot ahead of Meachem. Barring injury or Lance Moore leaving the Saints, I think the top 3 spots are not going to change. Those guys are proven commodities, and Arrington is anything but. Side note, many people like to compare Arrington to Colston because of their similar draft placement. That’s something to be careful about, too, because Colston is an abnormality. Not many 7th round picks make it even 3 years in the league, and especially when they have season ending injuries before their first season even starts. Finding guys like Colston in the 7th round is like finding a needle in a haystack. Arrington has shown promise so I’m not closing the door on him, but he’s got an uphill battle for sure. That being said… for every Robert Meachem and Jonathan Sullivan, there’s guys like undrafted Pierre Thomas and Colston. Arrington could become a serviceable player in the league, and could make you look like a genius for liking him.