Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Saints Nation: Kevin Houser released by Saints in shocking move

While I did write THIS ARTICLE suggesting long snapper Kevin Houser's job might be in jeopardy, the news today that he was released was nothing short of a shock for me. You have got to be kidding me. In the first linked article I was quoted as saying "the Saints would be making a mistake letting him go", and I believe that to be true. This is a huge mistake for many reasons. Of course we were slapped with the age old adage of "the NFL is a business". Not the first time I've heard that one. Surprisingly the release was not to give the job to youngster Rob Ninkovich, but to sign a 37 year old veteran for approximately $130,000 more in Jason Kyle. Mickey Loomis claims the move is a "upgrade to the kicking game". Please. Kevin Houser has played 9 years with the Saints and has never fudged a snap. Not once. If Kyle, or Ninkovich, botched one snap during the regular season I will go ballistic.

This is the stupidest move the Saints have made all season, and it rivals the move they made letting John Carney go for Olindo Mare years ago. You're telling me some 37 year old is so much better than Houser (who is 30) that he's worth releasing the guy who's NEVER made a mistake? I'm sorry, I don't buy it. And how long can this guy possibly play? 2 more seasons? 3? I'm not really sure how the Saints benefit from this move at all from a professional standpoint.

Coming back to the "NFL is a business" standpoint, I'm getting pretty sick of teams hiding behind that excuse. I was a big fan of Deuce, Mike McKenzie, Hollis Thomas and Brian Young. I also understand why they were released. They are all veterans with good tenures that played well for the Saints but were too banged up to continue making a difference. What's more, their cap figures and salary were so elevated the Saints couldn't afford to keep them around with their injury limitations. That's all understandable, and that's the part of losing players you grow attached to as a fan I can live with. What I can't live with is cutting a guy in his prime who's been performant, consistently healthy, a pillar in the locker room, and pillar in the community and an all around good person. You know what? I don't even care if Jason Kyle is that much better (which I don't think he is). I'd rather have the "weaker" player based on what he's done for us and how much NFL life he still has in him. It makes me sad that the right thing to do makes no difference here. It's not like the Saints are putting themselves at risk by keeping Houser, he does have an impeccable 9 season track record. Where is the loyalty? And before you tell me the "NFL is a business" again, consider that we've cut Houser for a guy we don't know that's 7 years older (close to retiring) for $130,000 more. 7 years his senior for 100k more? How is that a "business" decision? I could have lived with a promising rookie long snapper taking his job, or even Ninkovich, but this I feel awful about. I'll say it again: if there is one botched snap during the regular season I will go ballistic.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Saints Nation: Previewing the 2009 Saints' Regular Season (part 2)

Below is the preview of weeks 9 through 17. If you missed the preview of the first 8 weeks, CLICK HERE.

Week 9 vs. Carolina (11/8): I was shocked when the Panthers signed Jake Delhomme to an extension this offseason and gave him a RIDICULOUS amount of bonus money for signing. I guess we can look forward to seeing him for a long time despite the fact that he singlehandedly threw away postseason last year. Can't really blame the Panthers when it comes to how he plays against the Saints, though, because he's owned us.

2008 Rankings: 10th in offense, 18th in defense
2008 Record: 12-4
Last Meeting: 33-31 Panther win in New Orleans. Gut wrenching.

It's been an exceedingly quiet offseason for Carolina, other than the Julius Peppers fiasco. He ended up signing a 1 year deal this week, so we'll be seeing him again. Ken Lucas is gone, but the rest of the team we can expect to be similar to last year.

Week 10 @ St. Louis (11/15): The Rams were absolutely abysmal last year. Just terrible. A must win.

2008 Rankings: 27th in offense, 28th in defense
2008 Record: 2-14
Last Meeting: 37-29 Rams win in 2007 @ New Orleans.

La'Roi Glover, gone. Torry Holt, gone. Brian Leonhard, traded. Pisa Tinoisamoa, gone. Orlando Pace, gone. The Rams have completely revamped their team so it's hard to know what to expect. What we do know is they'll likely plan to build their team around veterans Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson, and those two have had enough success in their careers to be considered dangerous.

Week 11 @ Tamp Bay (11/22): New regime in Tampa with the Bucs letting go of John Gruden. All sings point towards Luke McCown getting first crack at the starting QB job for this season. Should be interesting and I have a feeling this might be a rebuilding year for them. I certainly hope so.

2008 rankings: 14th in offense, 9th in defense.
2008 record: 9-7
Last Meeting in Tampa: Bucs won 23-20 in a game the Saints really should have had. The Saints passed too much in the rain, and turned it over at critical times. Easily Drew Brees' worst game of the season.

Kellen Winslow is the new tight end for this team which is something to prepare for. Also added to the mix are Angelo Crowell, who played very well in Buffalo last year, kicker Mike Nugent, Byron Leftwich and Derrick Ward. Gone are Hilliard, Dunn, Galloway (thank God) and Derrick Brooks - so many veterans that have hurt the Saints over the years.

Week 12 vs. New England (11/30): On Monday Night Football against Tom Brady's Patriots. The dome should be rockin', and this will give the Saints a chance to see how their measure up against the elite of the league. We'll have a pretty good idea of our Superbowl chances after this one.

2008 Rankings: 5th on offense, 10th on defense.
2008 Record: 11-5
Last Meeting: Patriots won 24-17 in 2005

Brady should be all healed up and playing, barring another injury or setback. Rodney Harrison is gone, so we won't have to worry about him hitting Shockey or Colston over the middle. Veteran Shawn Springs and Saints killer Joey Galloway are new additions.

Week 13 @ Washington (12/6): Check out THIS ARTICLE for an idea of what I think about the Skins.

2008 Rankings: 19th on offense, 4th on defense.
2008 Record: 8-8
Last Meeting: 2008, Redskins won 29-24

Nothing would make me happier than watching the Saints win this game by 50.

Week 14 @ Atlanta (12/13): This will be a return to the Georgia Dome. See week 8 for details on the Falcons.

Last Meeting in Atlanta: Falcons won in 2008, 34-20.

Week 15 vs. Dallas (12/19): Another chance for the Saints to play in front of a national audience. Terrell Owens is gone, but otherwise Dallas showcases a similar team to the one they had last season.

2008 Rankings: 13th on offense, 8th on defense.
2008 Record: 8-8
Last Meeting: 2006, Saints won 42-17

Dallas will be looking to bounce back up to the elite after what they surely consider a disappointing season. Roy Williams (the safety) was surprisingly let go, and they are replacing him with a guy the Saints were interested in in Gerald Sensabaugh. Matt Stewart, Keith Brooking and Jon Kitna are now noteable Cowboys.

Week 16 vs. Tampa Bay (12/27): Tampa will come back to visit the Saints in the Superdome. See week 11 for details on the Bucs.

Last Meeting in New Orleans: Week 1 of 2008, Saints won 24-20.

Week 17 @ Carolina (1/3): Carolina will host the Saints at Ericson Stadium. See week 9 for details on the Panthers.

Last Meeting in Carolina: Panthers won in 2008, 30-7.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Saints Nation: Previewing the 2009 Saints' Regular Season (part 1)

Below you'll find a short preview of each regular season matchup the Saints have in 2009, just to get you revved up for the upcoming year.

Week 1 vs. Detroit Lions (9/13): The Saints will host in week 1 the Lions who went 0-16 last year. Dating back to 2007 they've lost 17 consecutive regular season matchups. This is a gimme and must win for the Saints. Last year behind 532 yards of offense, the Saints beat Detroit 42-7. The Lions has since drafted Matt Stafford at quarterback, but it is unclear if he'll start over Daunte Culpepper for the first game. As the 30th ranked offense in the NFL last year, this should be a good way for the Saints' new defense to start. On the defensive side, The Lions ranked dead last last year as well as points given up, so it's a terrific matchup for the Saints and their potent offense. The Saints really cannot afford to lose this one. The Lions figure to be slightly improved defensively with the offseason additions of veterans Philip Buchannon, Grady Jackson, Larry Foote, and Anthony Henry - but it should still be a weakness.

Week 2 @ Philadelphia Eagles (9/20): The first major test of the season, as the Saints travel to Philly. The Eagles were a playoff team a year ago, and quarterback Donovan McNabb is fresh off a 2 year extension signed in the offseason. With the McNabb-Westbrook offensive duo, it always figures to be a difficult task stopping them... but the Eagles may be weaker than in years past. They've lost several key players and veterans and have done little to replace them this offseason. Gone are: defensive leader Brian Dawkins, o-line anchors Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan, and contributors L.J. Smith, Sean Considine and Correll Buckhalter. The Eagles still have a solid core of players but it will be difficult to repeat as the league's 9th offense and 3rd defense. Last time the two teams played in 2007, the Eagles won 38-23.

Week 3 @ Buffalo Bills (9/27): Back to back road games will be tough on the Saints early in the season, which is why that gimme Detroit game is so important to win. Buffalo ended last year at 7-9 but were very dangerous, especially early in the year. They started 4-0 and 5-1 before falling apart behind spotty quarterback play. Despite a mediocre season the Bills have decided to go into 2009 again with Trent Edwards as their guy. The Bills were the 25th offense and 14th defense last year. The Saints haven't played Buffalo since 2005 when they won 19-7. Bills star running back Marshawn Lynch should be serving the last of his 3 game suspension for this game, so the Saints will likely face Dominic Rhodes who was added as insurance for the Bills backfield. The high profile addition of the offseason for Buffalo was of course Terrell Owens, so the Saints new and improved backfield will have their hands full covering him.

Week 4 vs. New York Jets (10/4): A late season meltdown cost the 9-7 Brett Favre led Jets the playoffs last year. The Jets have since let go of Favre and drafted rookie Marc Sanchez of USC to fill his shoes. The Jets were 16th in both offense and defense last season. The last time these two teams played in 2005, the Saints won 21-19. The Jets' biggest addition of the offseason was Lito Sheppard, though they also got special teams ace Larry Izzo, backup running back Jason Leonhard and re-sign a lot of their key players.

Week 5 BYE

Week 6 vs. New York Giants (10/18): Huge test for the Saints as they face the 2007 Superbowl champions. Eli Manning is back at the helm, although he won't be with Plaxico Burress as his favorite target anymore. The Giants were 7th in offense and 5th in defense last year, posting a very solid 12-4 season. They also added some very solid players to their defense this offseason with Rocky Bernard, Michael Boley, Chris Canty and C.C. Brown. The last time these two teams played was 2006, which ended with a 30-7 Saints win. This game will be the first one back for defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant after serving their suspensions.

Week 7 @ Miami Dolphins (10/25): The Saints lost the last matchup between these two, 21-6 in 2005. The Dolphins had the 12th offense and 15th defense last year (25th against the pass, though) which lead to an improbable 11-5 season and playoff birth. This was an incredible transformation from the previous year when they ended the season 1-15 and it can be in large part attributed to Bill Parcells' offseason moves as well as the terrific play of quarterback Chad Pennington. This will be another very tough game for the Saints. The Dolphins stayed put for the most part with their roster, though they did add Will Allen and bring back former Miami icon Jason Taylor.

Week 8 vs. Atlanta Falcons (11/2): This will mark the first time the Saints face a division opponent in 2009. The Falcons were 6th in offense and 24th in defense a year ago. When they visited New Orleans last year the Saints won a terrific game 29-25. As if the Falcons weren't scary enough on offense with budding star quarterback Matt Ryan, bruising runner Michael Turner, and emerging threat Roddy White, they've also added arguably the best tight end in the NFL in Tony Gonzalez. Defensively they went mostly via the draft in trying to improve on their struggles of a season ago, notably adding Peria Jerry and William Moore, as their first 5 picks were defensive players. They also signed linebacker Mike Peterson to replace Michael Boley.

Check back tomorrow for the preview of weeks 9 through 17.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saints Nation Fans Have Spoken: Pierre Thomas is most underrated player

48% of the Saints Nation fan voters picked Pierre Thomas as the most underrated player on the current Saints roster. Tight End Billy Miller ended second with 22% of the vote, and Offensive Tackle Jon Stinchcomb ended third with 12%. Thanks for your participation in the poll, and please vote in the new Saints Nation Poll on your right: Who will lead the Saints in interceptions for 2009?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Saints Nation: Who is stupid enough to even consider Michael Vick?

The sweepstakes for "Who is stupid enough to even consider Michael Vick" aren't going to start anytime soon. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has reportedly claimed HERE that he's starting to think about the possibility that he'll maybe consider thinking about perhaps letting Michael Vick play in the NFL again. Don't worry people, I know how to write, that's just how cryptic the comish is being. But seriously, who is that stupid?

The Saints? Ha. No way. Seriously, we've been through this. Sean Payton hasn't passed on using Reggie Bush in the single wing, only so Mike Vick could. I'm not shooting it down again. This picture is the closest Brees will ever get to Vick again. I'm pretty sure Drew said to him right before this picture was taken: "Hang your head in shame, I have no respect for you".

The Vikings? Oh wait, they already have Brett Favre. Sort of.

The Raiders? Ok, yes, they really are that stupid. Heck, Dan Snyder of the Redskins will probably give him his second $100 million contract, for like 3 years.

Come on people, why are we still talking about this guy? He was an overrated Quarterback with drug habits, terrible character, and horrible accuracy throwing the ball. Spending a year in jail made him AT BEST worse of a football player and better as a person. At best. Goodell isn't going to let him play in 2009, which means he'll be a free man with nothing to do for a year. Think he'll stay out of the headlines? Think he'll keep his nose clean? I don't. Even if he does, do you think he'll be working out every day and getting better at football? I don't.

Any team that signs this clown is not only inhereting a PR nightmare, they're taking away a roster spot of a much more deserving player. Moving right along...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Saints Nation: Dealing with another year of Julius Peppers

Julius Peppers finally signed the one year Franchise Tag tender the Panthers imposed on him. That's good for $16.7 million to play this year. $16.7 million!!!! Click HERE for the story on Peppers. Personally, it makes me sick because I was really hoping we wouldn't have to face him twice a year anymore. Peppers has desperately pleaded with the Panthers to trade him this offseason. This doesn't mean they won't trade him still, but now the Panthers hold all the cards. They can keep him for a year at that $16.7 million contract, they can trade him to the highest bidder, or they can re-negotiate with him and sign him to a longer term deal. There's a big difference in the NFL between trading a player that wants out and trading a player who is content. The latter typically yields a much bigger return. The article linked above suggests Peppers is now in a good place with the Panther organization. Again, this plays into the hands of the Panthers who can now ask more in return for any bidder. My hope was they would end up giving up Peppers to an AFC team for a 2nd round pick because of his constant whining to leave. That would have been perfect. That scenario seems further and further from possible. Peppers, when he tries, is the best defensive end in football. He's had patches of bad play from time to time, but it never seems to be against the Saints. Never. The guy has completely owned us for years and is a big reason why the Saints have been relatively unsuccessful against the Panthers the past 5 years. Looks like we're headed towards another year of playing him twice, which is too bad.

Here's a look at how he's performed in recent history against the Saints:

12/28/08: 33-31 Panthers win, Peppers= 3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass defended
10/19/08: 30-7 Panthers win, Peppers= 3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass defended, 1 forced fumble
11/25/07: 31-6 Saints win, Peppers= 1 tackle, 1 interception, 1 pass defended
10/7/07: 16-13 Panthers win, Peppers= 6 tackles, 2 passes defended
12/31/06: 31-21 Panthers win, Peppers= No Stats
10/1/06: 21-18 Panthers win, Peppers= 4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass defended, 1 forced fumble

Lagniappe: Congrats to the LSU Tigers baseball team for winning the College Baseball World Series! 2009 National Champs.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Saints Nation: Focus on LSU Baseball

As a big LSU fan, I'm going to take the day off from the Saints. Normally I would never do such a thing and this site is 100% dedicated to Saints news only, but the LSU Tigers are down to a winner take all matchup tonight against the Texas Longhorns in the College Baseball World Series with the series tied at 1 game a piece. The winner of tonight's game will be crowned as national champs. As Saints fans I urge us to rally behind our local college sports team in this big matchup. Good luck to them and Geaux Tigers!

Lagniappe: A good read on Reggie Bush and his aspirations this season - CLICK HERE

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Saints Nation: La'Roi Glover calls it quits

Former Saint and defensive tackle La'Roi Glover has officially decided to retire at the age of 34 after spending 13 years in the NFL. Glover made his big break into the NFL with the Saints and played in New Orleans from 1997 till 2001. The best season of his career came the same season as the Saints' first playoff victory in franchise history, as he posted 17 sacks for the 2000 season. He also posted 10 sacks for the Saints in 1998, and played in 6 Pro Bowl's during his career (twice as a Saint). Glover also played for the Raiders, Cowboys and Rams. Glover wasn't the biggest or fastest player at his position, but he always had tremendous pass rushing ability, thanks to his heart and his high motor. Glover is also a member of Saints Nation's All Time 53 Man Roster (team here). He was a great one and Saints Nation would like to thank him for all the great memories, as well as wish him luck for his career outside of football. 

Monday, June 22, 2009

Saints Nation: Could Kevin Houser's Job be in Jeopardy?

Kevin Houser has been the Saints long snapper on punting and kicking units for 9 seasons. Since being drafted in the 7th round out of Ohio State in 2000, Houser has played in every single game for the Saints. He's been a reliable member of the team, and his name rarely ever comes up because he's been so consistent. As a long snapper your duty is taken for granted a lot of times and your failures are magnified. It's remarkable that in 9 long seasons, Houser has never made a critical error that's put him under the microscope. Houser is currently the longest tenured Saint, and is also a leader in the locker room. Per the dialog I had with Times-Picayne reporter Jeff Duncan (which you can read HERE), Houser is "a great all-around guy and, as the most-tenured Saint on the roster, someone that others can go to for advice and information. He's a registered financial broker and helps a lot of players with business tips". Without question the Saints count on him, and he is in integral part of the team.

The competition that Houser is facing this season is a little trickier than years past. Backup defensive end Rob Ninkovich was a 5th round draft pick for the Saints in 2006 and he also has long snapping ability. Ninkovich was released in 2007 and had a stint with the Miami Dolphins before coming back to the team that drafted him last year. The advantage Ninkovich has, first and foremost, is that he can play a position besides long snapper and help the team in other areas, so the Saints wouldn't have to sacrifice a roster spot on a guy who exclusively long snaps (like Houser) if they gave Ninkovich the job. While Houser has beaten out Ninkovich for the job before, this season is different because starting defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant are both suspended for the first 4 games due to a failed drug test (story here). The Saints are thus extremely thin at defensive end early in the season and will need all the depth they can find. Even if Ninkovich gets beaten out at long snapper, he'll still have a chance to make the squad through the first 4 games at end. The danger for Houser is that if the competition is close enough in training camp between the two long snappers, the coaching staff may opt to give the job to Ninkovich and take advantage of his versatility in case they get any thinner at end. Houser will need to prove that he's that much better as a long snapper, though admittedly it's something he's more than capable of showing.

Should be interesting to see how this plays out. One thing is for sure: should the Saints release Kevin Houser, he will not take long to land another job as an NFL team's long snapper. He is that good, and the Saints would be making a mistake letting him go.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Saints Nation Fans Have Spoken: Bobby McCray to lead team in sacks for 2009

Yet another Saints Nation poll closes, and this time 53% of you picked Bobby McCray as the man who will lead the Saints in sacks. Will Smith came in second with 17%, and Sedrick Ellis finished third with 12%.

The big suprise was that Charles Grant finished dead last with 3% of the vote. Shows how much confidence Saints fans have in him these days after his career had gotten off to such a great start. Hopefully he can come across this and it will motivate him to do what he hasn't done the past 3 years (read: get to the quarterback). Thanks for your participation and please vote in the new Saints Nation poll (on the bottom right hand side): Who is the most underrated Saints player currently on the roster?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saints Nation: Stories about Saints

Lots in the news to read about. Here's a few links I'd recommend checking out: 

The Sporting News talks about the revamped Saints secondary (CLICK HERE)

NewOrleans.com talks about the progress of backup running back Mike Bell (CLICK HERE)

Former Saint Donte' Stallworth is suspended indefinitely by the league. Thank goodness we got rid of him (CLICK HERE)

Great story on how the Saints helped the city of New Orleans recover from Katrina (CLICK HERE)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Saints Nation: With Minicamps Done, Focus Turns to Signing Rookies

With minicamps and OTA's now completed, the Saints players can relax for the next 6 weeks until training camp starts on July 31st. While this period is typically a lull for fans, one thing we do have to look forward to is the impending rookie signings. Before the newly drafted players can come to training camp, the Saints will need to ink them to presumably the first contract they will ever sign in their lives. Only 4 players currently on the roster do not have contracts with the Saints, and those are rookies: Malcolm Jenkins, Chip Vaughn (both pictured), Stanley Arnoux and Thomas Morstead. Morstead and Vaughn's contracts should be pretty straight forward as they are lower draft choices eager to prove themselves on the field. This means we can expect both to be signed well prior to training camp and in the coming weeks. It could be a little dicier for Jenkins, as a 1st round pick that will ask for a hefty sum, and Stanley Arnoux who is already out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.

1st round picks are notorious for arriving to camp late, often times severly late, as the organizations and the player's agent try to come to terms on a fair wage for the player. In Jenkins' case, I believe he will arrive on time, but you never know with some of the agents out there. In recent history, Reggie Bush was slightly late arriving to training camp and so was Robert Meachem, as their deals were delayed. Bush got away with it, Meachem suffered greatly. It is without question in Jenkins' best interest to be there on the very first day because there's a lot of depth at cornerback and a lot of solid players he'll be competing with for playing time.

Arnoux' case is a little trickier. The only player in recent Saints history who suffered a major season ending injury PRIOR to signing their rookie contract was receiver Chase Lyman in 2005. The Saints did the right thing back then and gave him a contract anyway, only to let him go at the start of the 2007 season (Lyman went on IR in 2006 as well suffering another ACL tear). All signs point towards the organization giving Arnoux a contract as well, but the team does have the option to not offer him a contract in which case Arnoux would be eligible to re-enter the draft next year. While an Achilles injury is a terrible one and is very difficult to come back from, Arnoux is still young and I'm sure the Saints will want him around for next year once he recovers.

Come back to Saints Nation for updates on the rookie contracts as soon as they become available.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Saints Nation: OTA's complete, Saints headed for vacation

The Saints have one final practice this morning, and then they'll take some much deserved time off till training camp which commences on July 30th. With the exception of Stanley Arnoux (Achilles tendon tear) and Alex Fletcher (kidney issue), who are both out for the season, the Saints escaped OTA's relatively healthy with only a few bumps and bruises. The rest of the team should be full go, or close to, by the start of training camp.

Word is practice this morning has already been moved indoors with a heat index of 110 degrees. Yikes!

Per Twitter:

Jeremy Shocker, claims "otas are going great" and that he hit the town last night. Hopefully he stayed hydrated. He's headed to Miami for the vacation.

Malcolm Jenkins and Chip Vaughn were out with teammates last night for "Rookie Night". Not sure what that's all about, but based on the amount of rookie hazing they've complained about this week we can all imagine lots of scenarios .

Darren Sharper is pointing out that being an NFL player is a 10 month out of the year job.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Saints Nation: Amit's Take - Analyzing the Saints Secondary

Saints Nation welcomes Amit to the writing staff as he tackles the secondary changes in his first post:

A year ago, I would have said that the Saints secondary wasn’t worthy of being trusted. I wasn’t wrong, as the porous secondary surrendered the big play all too often. The secondary blowups started from week one against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and continued all the way through week seventeen against the Carolina Panthers. The 23rd ranked pass defense was a major Achilles’ heel for the team, and was in large part responsible for the Saints not making the postseason.

Last offseason, the Saints made only three upgrades to the secondary by signing Randall Gay and Aaron Glenn and drafting Tracy Porter. Randall Gay proved to be a reliable if not solid corner, and Tracy Porter was a pleasant surprise in the secondary…until Week 5 when he dislocated his wrist against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football. Beyond those two players, the performance of the other players was spotty at best.

This offseason, Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis made it a point to improve the secondary. The signing of Jabari Greer to a four year $23 million contract was the first of many moves that the Saint's front office made in an effort to improve the pass defense. They followed up that move by choosing not to re-sign FS Josh Bullocks, who just seemed to get lost in the back end play after play. Following that was the release of CB Mike McKenzie, a controversial move given that McKenzie was a consistent playmaker in the Saints defense. But McKenzie's massive contract coupled with two major knee injuries made him a financial liability. The Saints also signed FS Darren Sharper, S Pierson Prioleau, and released S Kevin Kaesviharn. Finally, they drafted CB Malcolm Jenkins and S Chip Vaughn.

Let’s compare the 2008 Saints secondary to the current Saints secondary:

2008 Secondary

CB Starter1 Mike Mckenzie(after game 2) (WOULD BECOME INJURED)

CB Starter2 Tracy Porter(5 games, then JD) (WOULD BECOME INJURED)

CB Nickel Randall Gay(started after MM injury)

CB Dime Jason David(started after TP injury)

CB Depth Usama Young, Aaron Glenn (injured), Leigh Torrence

S Start Kevin Kaesviharn (1st half of season), Josh Bullocks(2nd half), Roman Harper

S Depth Kevin Kaesviharn, Josh Bullocks, Chris Reis

2009 Secondary (as of now)

CB Starter1 Jabari Greer

CB Starter2 Tracy Porter

CB Nickel Randall Gay

CB Dime Malcolm Jenkins

CB Depth Leigh Torrence

CB Depth Jason David

S Start Darren Sharper, Roman Harper

S Depth Pierson Prioleau, Chris Reis, Chip Vaughn, Usama Young

Quite a difference from a year ago. To give some perspective, Jason David went from starting last season to practicing with the third team at minicamp last week.

Clearly, the Saints made some great moves in their secondary in an attempt to prevent other teams from passing all over them. But perhaps the biggest move they made was signing defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Not only will Gregg Williams’ scheme improve the pass rush which in turn will help the secondary by limiting the amount of time the quarterback has to throw, but Williams also has a reputation for making players more aggressive. The secondary may give up the big play every once and awhile, but they will create the big play (turnovers) more often.

The front office made a frantic effort to improve the secondary, and hopefully their efforts will push the Saints deep into to playoffs and into the Super Bowl. We will see.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Saints Nation: Fletcher is out, Leckey is injured; centers dropping like flies

Very sad news coming from Saints camp today as Alex Fletcher has been moved to the reserved/retired list with a kidney issue Sean Payton described as "fairly serious". The promising young rookie free agent center out of Stanford's condition is apparently made more serious due to the fact that he only has one kidney, according to THIS ARTICLE. Alex Fletcher was kind enough to participate in a Q&A session with Saints Nation earlier this offseason which you can read HERE. By all accounts Fletcher is a very hard worker and good all around guy that was immediately a solid addition in the locker room from a character standpoint. Saints Nation would like to extend him the best wishes in a quick recovery. Separate claims have circulated that he has to "retire immediately" and that his problems are "career threatening". Hopefully he can prove those harsh claims wrong and find success playing the game he loves. As Saints fans I'd like to collectively send positive thoughts Alex' way and maybe we'll see him back in Black & Gold. Keep fighting the good fight, taking care of your health first and foremost, and good luck Alex.

The article above also mentioned that backup free agent veteran center Nick Leckey had ankle surgery to remove bone spurs which could sideline him past the start of training camp. Out of nowhere Jonathan Goodwin has very little depth behind him, and Jamar Nesbit was moved to center to take snaps with the second unit today. The Saints did apparently sign free agent center Digger Bujnoch to fill in while Leckey recovers.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Saints Nation: The top 10 "Most Valuable" Saints

Click HERE for an article on the Saints top 10 players. You have to respect a site that mispells "Jahari Evans" :)

It's Jahri, people. Anyway the article has pretty good thoughts, with Stinchcomb a surprise at #8. Not sure I agree with Ellis at #3, he's valuable but he's done nowhere near enough at this point to be labeled a top 3 player on the team. Also interesting that Lance Moore, Will Smith and Jeremy Shockey were left off this list. A year ago Will Smith would have been in the top 3. Here's my top 10 list of "Most Valuable" Saints revised:

1. Drew Brees: Pretty obvious. (mvn's pick was Brees)

2. Jonathan Vilma: He's the captain of our defense and clearly the best player on that side of the ball. Without him the Saints would have been 32nd last year overall. I expect a huge year from him. (mvn's pick: Vilma)

3. Jammal Brown: I know some of you don't like him, but when you've got a 2 time Pro Bowl left tackle protecting the blind side of the franchise's most valuable asset, I call him pretty valuable. (mvn's pick: Sedrick Ellis)

4. Pierre Thomas: He's going to carry the load this year and he'll finally be the team's full time starter. He's not as exlposive as Bush but he's more reliable and makes less mistakes. (mvn's pick: Jammal Brown)

5. Marques Colston: The Saints need him healthy and on his game this year. The offense suffered in short yardage situations without him. Shockey ended up being a disappointment and Brees needs that sure handed target over the middle to keep the chains moving (mvn's pick: "Jahari" Evans)

6. Will Smith: It all starts with him on the defensive line. If he can be productive and return to his old form, the defense as a whole will play better. Last year he suffered playing through an injury and his performance dropped. If he can come back healthy he's still a premiere defensive end that can play the run and pass rush with impressive ability. Missing the first 4 games is a big blow. (mvn's pick: Colston)

7. Darren Sharper: He's a newcomer and there's no guarantee he'll start, but he is one of the best free safeties of all time. His ability to play the back end successfully could be the difference between a top 15 defense and another season of consistently giving up huge plays. With the amount of youth in the backfield, he'll also be extremely valuable in mentoring his teammates and teaching them how to play. (mvn's pick: Pierre Thomas)

8. Jahri Evans: In my opinion he's the best offensive lineman on the team. Brown gets more credit because good left tackles are really few and far between, but Evans should have been in a pro bowl by now. The success of the O-line these past years is as much because of him as anyone else. (mvn's pick: Jon Stinchcomb)

9. Bobby McCray: with Smith and Grant gone the first four games, he'll be a starter. Even when they come back, McCray is still clearly the best pass rusher on the team. The major area that plagued the Saints all of last season was poor pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and lack of turnovers. Both of those things can be rectified if McCray plays more and plays well. (mvn's pick: Reggie Bush)

10. Reggie Bush: He's the X factor. I feel like anything the Saints get out of him in a game is almost like bonus at this point. The offense is solid and good enough to run efficiently without him, and we've seen that, but Bush adds an element of flash that has to be accounted for. I'd give his season last year a B grade, but it was A+ prior to his injury. I think we've all figured out by now what Bush can and can't do, so the key is not trying to turn him into something he's not. Bush is a terrific situational role player that is extremely dangerous on any given play. Having game breakers like him is never a bad thing but hopefully the years of using his abilities incorrectly are behind us. (mvn's pick: Greer/Jenkins)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Saints Nation: Usama Young and Jammal Brown earn degrees

NOLA.com published a story today that can be read HERE, reporting that Usama Young (pictured) and Jammal Brown received their college degrees after completing the required remaining hours they needed. While both are enjoying significant financial success and playing in the prime of their NFL careers, it is applaudable that they've gathered the discipline to finish what they started in their studies this offseason. Congratulations to both guys, as our team is better off for having these intelligent and now more educated players. In this day and age where athletes often leave college early to reap the benefits of a professional career at a younger age, it's pretty impressive these guys haven't let the success go to their heads. It's a very responsible decision on their part to complete their education, and it is cool to see. Much like last year we can also expect these two to be key contributors on the field for the 2009 Saints.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Saints Nation: Saints' Depth at Defensive Tackle

I've been meaning to write about the Saints' depth at defensive tackle for a while now, so thank you to Amit for requesting it. Please don't hesitate to make REASONABLE requests anytime, I'll be happy to give you my 2 cents on any Saints topic, whatever that is worth. You can either comment below or email me at saintsnation @ gmail dot com.

Right now the two unquestioned starters at DT for the Saints are 2nd year phenom Sedrick Ellis (pictured as #98), and a guy who would rival Scott Shanle as the most underrated Saint in Kendrick Clancy. I don't think those two players are going to blow anyone away, but they are solid players that can be very productive. Ellis especially is only going to get better and his ceiling definitely includes a pro bowl birth. Clancy is a very solid veteran who has been around a long time, and while he flies mostly under the radar with fans he's also very seldom the target of negativity. The depth behind those 2 guys is what worries me, and I honestly believe that defensive tackle is the thinnest position the Saints have going into 2009.

Rod Coleman, currently the #3 DT, has had an accomplished 9 seasons in his NFL career featuring double digit sack seasons 3 times (2002, 2004, 2005). Coleman sat out all of last year and did not play a snap (after only playing in 5 games for 2007), so while he's had lots of success we have to assume his best days are behind him. Hopefully he doesn't catch Dan Morganitis because the depth behind him is even thinner (literally and figuratively). To his credit I believe he still has loads of ability at 32 and can help the Saints in limited reps. The danger comes if something happens to our starters and Coleman is thrust into a more prominent role where he has to play full games. Behind Coleman the Saints also have DeMario Pressley, Remi Ayodele and rookie Earl Heyman. Pressley was a rookie last season that showed promise but went on IR for the entirety of last year before the season started. Hard to count on a guy that has been unable to suit up in a small sampling, but hopefully he can stay healthy and help the Saints. Ayodele is nothing more than a journeyman backup, and Heyman is a long shot to make the team. The final player who is mentioned last, but not least, is defensive end Paul Spicer, who has the ability and versatility to move inside if needed.

The Will Smith/Charles Grant 4 game suspension throws a big wrench into how the rotation at DT works. With both players out, Spicer is thrust into the starting role at DE alongside Bobby McCray. What this means is he is less available to fill in at defensive tackle until Grant and Smith return in week 5. Based on this the Saints really can't afford any injuries at the defensive tackle position whatsoever. The Saints released veterans Hollis Thomas and Brian Young this year and overall those were good decisions based on their health, age and price tag. But those moves left the Saints incredibly vulnerable at the position behind Ellis and Clancy. We have to hope Coleman can regain his magic of the mid 2000's for a limited number of snaps and hope/pray that nothing happens to the starters. Pressley could probably give the Saints a quality number of reps if needed, but behind him the quality really starts to drop. You'd love to have Spicer rotate in as the #4 DT in certain situations (especially pass rushing downs), but that's not realistic until Grant and Smith come back. Coleman and Ellis have solid pass rushing ability, and Ellis/Clancy/Pressley are all solid run stoppers, but don't be the least bit surprised if the Saints track the waiver wire for a veteran defensive tackle they can add during preseason as cuts get made. My opinion is that no position is currently less thin for the Saints. Injury/Suspension is something they can least afford at DT, and this position worries me more than most. Be on the lookout for a signing at this position before week 1 unless some of these backups come out of nowhere and show the Saints something incredibly promising.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Saints Nation: Scott Shanle is the most underrated Saint?

Scott Shanle has had his place in the starting lineup for 3 years as a Saint, and all signs point to him holding on to that place again this season. While some of the the defense's struggles the past couple seasons have led fans to target Shanle as the culprit, it's at least arguable that his performance has been steady and good enough to keep his job secure. Despite repeated threats from a weak spirited Dan Morgan and constant attempts for upgrades each season (via free agency and the draft), Shanle has been untouchable in the starting lineup. You have to respect a guy when each offseason we assume he'll be replaced, and each season he's once again heading his position. Here he is again as training camp approaches, and he remains the starter. This depsite the fact that a new defensive coordinator was added in Gregg Williams who evaluated the performance of all his new players. Obviously he was pretty happy with the play of the linebacking core last year as Scott Fujita, Jonathan Vilma and Shanle are all back. Here is how Shanle's stats have broken down the past 3 years:

2006: 97 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 defended pass (16 games)
2007: 68 tackles, 0 sacks, 1 defended pass (14 games)
2008: 87 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 defended passes (16 games)

So after a weaker year in 2007, Shanle regained his 2006 form last year and had a pretty productive season. He was also given more responsibility than ever last year as a pass defender, and filled that role admirably. His most memorable moment last season was his defended pass against San Diego in London, as his tipped pass landed in the hands of Jonathan Vilma for a game sealing interception.

While you can give the defensive line grief for lack of sacks and the defensive backfield grief for giving up big plays, the Saints linebacking core is as good as it's been in years and certainly better than it EVER was during the Haslett era. Fujita-Vilma-Shanle is a very solid core we should be grateful for having. Those guys aren't going to head anyone's list as hall of fame candidates, but they're good enough to lead a successful team if the other players around them carry their weight. Fujita and Vilma have been safe from any blame for the most part, but for some reason Shanle is the popular target of negative comments. Shanle has been a steady performer for the Saints, and the criticism he receives from fans is unfair. He is certainly not the reason for our lack of success on that side of the ball the past few years. It will be great to see how productive he can become in this new scheme. His under the radar performance, his dependability and his leadership skills make him the most underrated player on the Saints' roster in my opinion.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Saints Nation: Malcolm Jenkins on twitter

A few of the Saints players are on twitter, and you can follow them if you have a page of your own. Most of them aren't that entertaining to follow, but I thought I'd pass on this update that I got today from Malcolm Jenkins' twitter page HERE: "being a rookie sucks... off to practice, with breakfast for the whole secondary"

HAHAHA! Too funny.

Other twitter accounts for the Saints:

Jeremy Shockey

Pierre Thomas

Courtney Roby

Chip Vaughn

Darren Sharper


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Saints Nation Fans Have Spoken: Marques Colston to lead the Saints in receptions for 2009

Marques Colston won the Saints Nation poll: Who will lead the Saints in receptions in 2009. Seems like a pretty reasonable consensus given his 215 receptions in just 3 seasons as a Saint. Colston claimed 44% of the vote followed by Reggie Bush with 32% and Lance Moore with 14%. Thanks for your participation and please vote in the new Saints Nation Poll: Who will lead the Saints in sacks for 2009?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Saints Nation: Dan Morgan retires again!?!?

Are you kidding me with this guy? I'm going to stop short of calling him a coward, because I don't want him to hunt me down and break me in half. After all, he was an amazing football player for a short time. What I won't do is hide the fact that I've never been so terribly unimpressed with this player. Dan Morgan was a superstar player during his prime, and when the Saints added him I felt like we were in for a major upgrade at linebacker. Last year, very early on, Morgan decided his heart wasn't in the game anymore and he retired. At the time I was disappointed, but I also understood. The guy rivaled Steve Young in the amount of concussions he suffered and he's probably already caused long term damage to his brain with the beatings he took. I felt sorry for the guy because he cut what was a terrific football career short, but he did so for his own well being and for his family. I can understand that. Fast forward to today, and I read THIS ARTICLE. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice... I think we all know how that goes. For this guy to have the audacity to pull this stunt once, then come back claiming "I miss football, I'm ready to make it up to the Saints" only to pull the same stunt again? Unbelievable. I don't know how serious his injury was but by all accounts it was a strained calf. If a minor calf injury is enough to derail this guy's football spirit, I'm sorry but he doesn't have the mental makeup to compete in a low stakes poker tournament. Did he really think he was going to go through the entire season without any bumps and bruises after injuries have been the calling card of his career? You're not getting any younger, Dan.

While admittedly disgusted, I will say at least this is happening now. We can avoid the investment in Morgan of giving him 1st team reps and putting any more energy into mistakenly believing he might help us. The bad news is the upgrades I was hoping for at weakside linebacker with Morgan back in the fold and Arnoux drafted didn't pan out. So now we're back to Scott Shanle with Jo-Lonn Dunbar as a backup. Scott Shanle must have a voodoo doll because as mediocre as his play has been from time to time, no one can touch that guy's spot in the starting lineup. Hopefully the Saints sign someone to cushion the blow. As for you Dan Morgan, I don't know where your head is at, but I wish you the best. I think you handled this terribly, and as a Saints fan I know I speak for many when I say: good luck and please don't bother coming back. Based on the comments made by Sean Payton that he got up and left after the injury, and that he hasn't spoken to him, it looks like Dan Morgan didn't even have a heart to heart with anyone or explain his situation. He just blew the Saints off, again. If he applies that same spirit and ethic with what he's doing next (apparently he owns a restaurant in Charlotte), I have no doubt that endeavor will fail as well. What a lame development, and I'm honestly mad at myself for not seeing this coming.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Saints Nation: Bullet Points from Mini Camp (2)

-- There's lots of talk about how this is Roman Harper's year, and that he's going to benefit most from this defensive scheme change. All I have to say is I hope the coaches are right. For all the promise he's shown with big hits and sure tackling (sometimes), he's also been victimized on deep balls as much as the scapegoats Josh Bullocks and Kevin Kaesviharn. There's more coverage depth this year on the team, so the idea is that will allow him to blitz and play more freely at strong. Harper (pictured left) still needs to prove he can play well more consistently.

-- No major injuries so far, which is a good thing (outside of the achilles tendon tear for Stanley Arnoux). Dan Morgan and Scott Shanle have minor calf injuries which have increased the reps for Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Randall Gay, Jammal Brown, Pierre Thomas, Darnell Dinkins, Lance Moore and Dave Cambpell are all dinged up - but they should all be fine. Marques Colston and Reggie Bush have been practicing.

-- The Saints have added a 3-4 package for special plays with Smith-Ellis-Grant playing as the ends, and Bobby McCray coming off the edge as a blitzing linebacker. That was something I lobbied for the entirety of last season. Finally someone gets it.

-- Anthony Hargrove is really turning heads with his pass rushing ability and athleticism. Can he keep his nose clean?

-- Meachem has been looking pretty good, and is in terrific shape. Fans have to feel pretty good about the Saints' receivers, 1 through 4. Not too many teams have 4 solid receivers at their disposal. We know Colston and Moore can play, but if Henderson and Meachem start to become more reliable that is only going to make Brees more dangerous.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Saints Nation: Bullet Points from Mini Camp

- Devery Henderson (pictured) has been said to be catching the ball very well and making a great impression. That's great to see after the promising season he had which rewarded him with a new long term contract. Perhaps he'll get more responsibilities this season. He needs to step up with Lance Moore currently out and Marques Colston limited.

- Dan Morgan injured his calf. Nothing serious, but don't expect the guy to be beating out Shanle any time soon if he gets injured which by the way has been his calling card. Lucky for him, Shanle sat out of a practice with the exact same injury.

- Adrian Arrington is banged up. I know a lot of you think he's the second coming, but after last preseason the guy simply isn't going to make it if he can't get on the field healthy.

- Malcolm Jenkins arrived yesterday after finishing exams at Ohio State. Nice to finally have him getting reps out there.

- Mike Bell is 10 pounds heavier. He claims he is in the best shape of his life and the added weight is muscle, but Sean Payton alluded that he might be too heavy. If he wants any chance of getting that #3 running back spot he may want to listen to what Sean Payton wants.

- Even with Campbell and Dinkins out, Shockey was only working with the 3rd team. Sounds like somebody got punished and is in the doghouse. Not good.

- Thomas Morstead apparently outdrove Glenn Pakulak on almost every punt in practice. Impressive considering how strong Pakulak's leg was last season. The main question will be, though, who's better in games. I wouldn't say Pakulak has no chance because if Morstead outkicks his coverage, it'll lead to big returns. This will be a good battle to keep an eye on.

- Tim Duckworth and DeMario Pressley got into a scuffle because Pressley tackled Lynell Hamilton. Good to see some intensity and guys having each other's back.

- Rob Ninkovich has been competing with Kevin Houser at long snapper. House is the longest tenured Saint, but he might be in jeopardy if Ninkovich snaps well because he would have the ability to play snaps at defensive end as well. You know Sean Payton likes versatility. It would be sad to see a guy like Houser go who has been such a mainstay for the Saints. Hopefully he outperforms Ninkovich but we'll see.

- Sean Payton thinks Heath Evans is a better blocker than Mike Karney? Wow.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Saints Nation: Saints fans should be patient with new defense and applaud Saints' attempt to improve

If you look at what the Saints have done to improve their team in the offseason, intent is there. Gregg Williams has been added to revamp the defense and lead a unit that has cost the Saints dearly the past two seasons. Newcomers that should contribute immediately also include Jabari Greer (pictured), Darren Sharper, Dan Morgan, Rod Coleman, and Malcolm Jenkins. Going into this season no one expects the Saints to be transformed into a top 5 defense in the NFL, we're just hoping as fans they get good enough to stop getting in the way of the best offense in the NFL. One thing that you can count on is the typical Sean Payton type player has good character. The positive about having good character, among other things, is that it's typically accompanied with a high IQ. Hopefully this means the majority of the players on the defensive side of the ball will be quick to pick up Gregg Williams' schemes. That will be the key, ultimately, to how the Saints' season goes. We have to expect that there will be painful mistakes, and there will be a leaning curve based on the big amount of turnover with both the staff and the players. In the end, though, change was needed and change has happened. As fans we have to be grateful for that, and take the bad with the good as the new players learn. Bottom line, the organization is trying to make that defense better. Don't expect it to not be a progressive process, but it should be a lot more promising that what we've seen out of the Saints' defense the past 2 seasons. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Saints Nation: New Orleans Saints season tickets sell out again!

THIS ARTICLE on from Nola.com has announced that the Saints have sold out the season, yet again, for the 4th straight season (all since the return from Katrina). This is a testament to New Orleans truly having the greatest fans in the world. New Orleans boasts less job opportunities, less high profile jobs, and an overall inferior economy when compared to the other major cities hosting NFL teams. The residents of the city and nearby fans from Baton Rouge, Mississippi Gulf and northern/western Louisiana are just that committed to supporting their beloved team. Major props to all Saints fans out there for backing our boys. With a waiting list of now 50,000 people despite 2 straight seasons falling short of the playoffs, imagine what a little more success would do for the ball club. This kind of support means we're doing our part as fans, so it's time for the coaches and players to step up! GEAUX SAINTS!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Saints Nation: RIP Sam Mills

As Saints fans we all remember Sam Mills very well. I stumbled across THIS ARTICLE today and remembered how great the eternal #51 was. Known by a nickname he hated, "the Field Mouse", Mills never allowed his small stature to stop the size of his heart and resolve. I will always remember Sam Mills fondly, even in his defecting years to Carolina where he became a division rival. Wherever he is I know he's still rooting for the Saints to experience success. He was one of the greats we were all fortunate to watch play.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Saints Nation: You might want to consider Drew Brees 1st overall in fantasy drafts

If you play fantasy football, and chances are you do if you are visiting this website, you should know that the trendy move of going with running backs early is something of the past. Teams are starting to rely more on 2 or even 3 backs to carry the load instead of the traditional 1 guy getting the bulk of the carries. This is in an effort to keep their best runners fresh, so the safest bet when drafting early is to go with a guy you know will touch the football on every offensive play. Based on his stats these 3 years under the Sean Payton offense, how can you not consider Drew Brees very early in the selection process? Check out THIS ARTICLE which was released today. It discusses Brees' obvious top notch fantasy value.