Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sean Payton Press Conference Transcript 5-27-2010

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Thursday, May 27, 2010

Transcript provided by the New Orleans Saints

Opening Statement:

“We finished up our first of three (weeks of) organized team activities today. The players will be basically off besides the rookies until next week and we start off the minicamp on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and the following week we’ll pick back up with the OTA’s.”

Can you talk about the difference in your feelings last May and this May?

“It’s different. We’re a more experienced team. It’s been a shorter offseason. With that challenge, we’ve tried to push some of the dates back. We’re all anxious to see this draft class and the rookies themselves and the additional free agents we signed; how they transition. How they fit into this team. I’d say we’re more experienced and with winning a Super Bowl certainly more confident.”

Having achieved what you did last year, do you feel you’re a better coach?

“I think each year you look to improve. I think that there are benchmarks you look to accomplish and certainly all of us when we get in this whether it’s high school, college or professional want to win a state championship or win a BCS National Championship or a Super Bowl title. Those are goals that you set, but more importantly for yourself, you set those for your team. I think most of us feel that experience through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl is one you have now. You also recognize how difficult the challenge is. I don’t know if that’s answering your question or how you want it answered, but the goal is always to win.”

How much Jammal Brown and Pierre Thomas did you expect them to not be here, specifically with Jammal?

“I think it’s pretty common this time of the year. I think every year there’s a player or two. There hasn’t been any dialogue. In Pierre’s case, I haven’t talked to Pierre, so I don’t want to speak on his behalf, but we’ve had great attendance. I think each year, it’s part of a little bit of the landscape of what we do. It hasn’t been unusual or uncommon. In fact, it’s fairly common for us just as it is for other teams.”

Would you like to sign Jammal Brown to a long-term deal?

“We’ll see. Number one, it would be inappropriate for me to be talking about us wanting to sign someone or not wanting to sign someone when that’ dealing with a player’s contract. He’s a guy that has certainly played well for us and done a good job. I haven’t’ had any dialogue. Mickey (Loomis) and the representatives will go about their course of business, just like we always would during this time of the season.”

Would you consider trading him at some point?

“I just don’t think it’s the right discussion right now to discuss players’ contracts or trades or any of that, so if there’s something to report, we’ll announce it. We’re really focused on the guys that are here. We’ve had real good participation. It was good to get back on the field this week. Really this was the first time since Miami, so the work Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday was good.”

That being said, do you appreciate the approach that a Lance Moore or Roman Harper have taken by being present while not having signed their tender?

“Yes. I’ve said this earlier; you go back with Jahri (Evans) a year or two ago. Every year it’s a little bit of what you have to deal with. You’re trying to from a coaching aspect, to get some new things in and make sure the players are in shape. The main thing focus in May, even before May in April is really getting their bodies in the best shape, that the guys that are injured are going through the proper rehab, giving them the best chance so that when they start training camp they’re healthy and they’re mentally and physic ally ready to compete for jobs and ready for full uniform, because right now they’re just in helmets.”

Has Malcolm Jenkins made an official move to safety?

“He has. We’ll move him around. He’s working at free. He’s a guy that has good versatility. He can come down and play in the box. He can play in the safety position, in the nickel packages. Gregg (Williams) and those guys will do a great job of utilizing his skill set, but he’s doing well and working primarily at free safety.”

How much can a guy like Clint Ingram learn from people like Darren Sharper and Will Smith just being around here the first week?

“For anything, when a player comes from one program to another in our league, he’s getting acclimated. For Clint, the focus is the rehab. Certainly the mental reps, these guys that aren’t able to take the physical reps are still watching film and they’re listening to the installs. There is a little bit of a learning curve, yet he was with Gregg a year and a half ago in Jacksonville, so there will be some carryover.”

Would Jammal Brown have been healthy enough to practice?

“Yes. Without having seen him recently, I think he is someone that is fully healthy and recovered, from the timeline of what he had done. I would say yes, no question.”

How does the draft class look this first time with the full team participating in workouts?

“They’re doing well. There’s a lot being thrown at them, a lot more than at the first rookie camp a few weeks ago. Patrick (Robinson) had a good first practice Tuesday and made some plays on the ball. All of them are trying to acclimated and get as much of the offense or defense learned as possible. It’s hard without the pads on, especially some of the interior positions. We’ve been pleased. It’s hard to single out someone after these three OTAs because their reps drop a lot from the rookie camp, the amount of snaps they’re getting. They’re hanging in there. They’re in the weight room. They’ll be here the better part of next week. They have some catching up to do in regards to the training aspect of it.”

Can you talk about your meeting with Joe Horn this week at the Saints Hall of Fame Golf Tournament?

“I knew he was playing and I had just come in after we had finished. His group was shortly behind us, maybe a minute or so. It was good to see him. It’s been a long time. As I’ve said before, he’s an awfully engaging personality, one that’s easy to gravitate to. He was a part of this rebuilding program. His accomplishments certainly prior to us getting here and during the ’06 season (were tremendous). It was good to visit with him. He looks like he’s in real good shape. It wasn’t a pleasant surprise because I knew he was playing and hopefully we’d have a chance to say hello.”

Were there any impressions from specific newcomers, veteran or rookie?

“I think the one thing that’s interesting is how they carry their pads and we’re not in pads yet. In training camp, they put their pads on and they’re in a full uniform, you’re always anxious to see how they carry their uniform. Because of the process they go though, you have a pretty good handle on what they run and what their strengths and weaknesses are. You do see some things when you go through the rookie minicamp and through the course of these workouts, whether it’s with the first round pick or someone you signed after the draft. There are a number of things. The long snapper out of TCU, (Clint) Gresham is a guy who had a lot of velocity. It helps the competition level of your team. We brought in a corner, a center, a left tackle, and quarterback. Sean’s (Canfield) getting a lot of work right now with only three quarterbacks and you go on and on with those positions, you just hope you’re not just improving your team, but developing the competition with the guys ahead of them.”

Do you think that it has helped your team by a lack of roster upheaval and changes to the coaching staff?

“With the coaching staff, you never take that for granted. We’ve lost a handful of coaches in the past to colleges or other jobs. Sometimes when you play this late in the year as we did in the postseason, you worry, because your staff is one a lot of people are attracted to. I think we have a great staff. I don’t ever take that for granted. Someday, a lot of these guys are going to really progress into better positions. In regards to our roster, you go into the offseason. You’re hopeful you can fill some needs. We lost Scott (Fujita) early in free agency and Mike Bell. Those are always difficult losses, because those are guys you won with a year ago, but I think the minute we finished playing in Miami, there’s that reality that you’re not going to have the same team back. I think it’s important to evaluate closely and not get maybe misguided to think everybody returns and you pick up where you were at. You’re always trying to improve and we’ve had some attrition and I think we’ve picked up some key pieces in some guys like Alex Brown. We mentioned Clint (Ingram) and some of these other players. It’s just finding a role for them and finding a vision for the role that you had when you signed them. I think it’s important that you have a clear vision for the player.”

What do you think of Alex Brown?

“He’s athletic. He can collapse the pocket. He’s pretty quick off the edge. He’s someone that’s acclimated himself pretty well. I think he’s a good teammate. A lot of our background information that we had gathered said that much so, being around him and the player’s being around him, I think he’s a quick study. Those are all things that I think we'll help him.”

Are you still considering bringing in a veteran quarterback?

“We’ll see. We’re a little restricted in regards to free agency signings or signings of unrestricted free agents in regards to the final four rule, but there’s still a lot of time here before we break, really a month. We’ll evaluate that. Whether we go to camp with three or not. I’d probably lean towards four if we could, but you’re limited with your camp numbers. We’ve taken three before to camp. We’ll keep looking at it and seeing how these younger guys are doing in the meantime.”

Could Chase Daniel be Brees’ backup?

“It’s hard to tell. You want him to compete for that position. I think you’re going to ask me, can he be a backup? The key is that you want to give him those opportunities and yet you realize it’s his second year. He’s receiving a lot of work right now; he and (Sean) Canfield are getting a lot of snaps. That’s what they need.”

Is Daniel a guy that you’d like to give a lot of work to going into the preseason?

“Yes. He’ll get a lot of snaps and he’s someone that we evaluated off of tape from Washington a year ago and we liked some of the things that we saw. He’ll get a lot of snaps this preseason.”

What intrigues you about him?

“He’s a good foot athlete and has picked up our system well. He’s a little bit of an unknown. He ran the scout team last year with Mark (Brunell), but he is someone that makes plays with his arm and feet. He’s been a guy that has had a lot of success throughout his career.”

Do you think Jammal Brown and Pierre Thomas will he here next weekend when it’s mandatory?

“Again, I can’t comment or predict. Usually there is a difference right now. We are in a voluntary aspect of a program. I don’t know. I think both those guys are competitors. Both those guys stay in shape and work hard.”

Do you see anything different in Darren Sharper this year?

“His role is hopefully the same. The key is going to be the rehabilitation of the injury and getting back into his playing shape. Without speaking for him, his battle is getting himself healthy and back on the field. That’s really where his challenge lies. He does have good instincts, a way of being around the ball and good ball skills. I think more importantly than anything else is battling the health issues.”

Have you thought about addressing with your team, the pitfalls of trying to repeat?

“We’ve discussed that. I think that we’ve put up charts. We’ve just discussed history, that would be a number of topics. Today, we received the penalty stats from a year ago. You take these days and opportunities. Really that topic was the first topic we brought up in the offseason program, history as it pertains to winning a championship, what are the challenges and trying to identify them and then as coaches and players and a group collectively of battling that challenge. That’s the thing that gets your blood going a little bit and getting you excited about the upcoming year is knowing that it’s been difficult. I think we have a smart enough locker room to understand the challenges and it will be another season.

Is there any specific data for that?

“What we specifically tried to do was to go back five years and look at our league and expand past our league to some other sports, but the theme of it was what the hurdles are the next year? Certainly the length of season is different. Your schedule is different. You’re coming in the next year and nobody in your division or anybody outside your division is going to take you lightly and you certainly view it as a big game. I think equally as challenging are those internal battles when you have success. I think that’s something you have to look at always.”

Was there a moment when you thought your 2009 season could be special?

“I thought we could be pretty good in training camp. You don’t know how the injuries can shake out in the preseason. We won our third game in Buffalo. It was a game where we played well defensively and we ran the ball well in the second half to get the win. The two road wins early were important. Philly and Buffalo. When you start the season 3-0, those numbers as you research them are pretty good as it pertains to getting into the postseason. I think that you’re always guarded a little bit, but I think there was certainly a confidence level and it was a different team from the year before.”

Can you talk about the Cardinal game in the playoffs?

“The Cardinal game was significant because we were really struggling going into that game. We had lost a tough game to Dallas and lost to Tampa Bay and had a big lead. After the Tampa loss, we kind of hit that crisis in our season where we had to really battle through that. I think going to Carolina, we made the decision to sit tight with our players and get ready for Arizona. There was X amount of pressure to play well in that game because we had lost three games in a row, so I think that was important. That game gave us some renewed confidence. I thought we were a little fresher and better rested.”

Drew Brees Press Conference Training Camp Transcript 5-27-2010

Drew Brees Press Conference Training Camp Transcript 5-27-2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Transcript provided by the New Orleans Saints:

What has it been like balancing all the things that have been thrown at you since winning the Super Bowl?

“I think just about every player on our team had their high school jersey retired and a street named after them in their hometowns; all of those things that are great things. But certainly there comes a time when you have to get back to work and you have to start thinking about how you can go out and accomplish the things that we’re still setting out to accomplish and hit that level of success that we experienced last year. As much as we want to sit here and say, ‘We’re just going to build on what we did last year and take it where we left off and continue to go up from there,’ the fact of the matter is that every year is a new year and every team is a new team, regardless of how many guys you have coming back. We’re lucky in that we only lost three starters from last season, when you talk about Charles Grant, Scott Fujita and Mike Bell – who contributed quite a bit in the running game last year. We have a lot of returning starters and a lot of returning veterans.

“But the fact of the matter is that circumstances change; for some guys, they’re getting a little older. For young guys, that’s a good thing; they become a little bit more veteran, a little bit more experienced. I think there’s a fine line there where you can take the experience from last year, you can take the success from last year and the confidence that was built and that’s all a good thing – you want to carry that forward and continue to build on that. But what you also have to understand is that we are building a new team and that it is a new year. I felt like we had a great draft; we’ll watch and see how these new guys are going to fill in. Some of them might end up being starters and some others might contribute a lot, although they might not be a starter.

“There are plenty of things from last year that we can look at and say that we were good at it but we can be better. And there are some other things that we weren’t very good at and we need to get much better at it. I think the philosophy is still that we have not arrived by any means. Yes, we accomplished the pinnacle of success in our business but it was just one year. The fact of the matter is that when this season starts, or even right now as we sit here today, there are 32 teams out there that feel like this is going to be their year. What I do feel like we have is a great window of opportunity because we do have a lot of the pieces of the puzzle in place that we’ve built here over the last four years and there’s an expectation level and a bar that we’ve set for ourselves. By no means can we relax or think that we’re entitled to anything because if anything, everyone is gunning for us and it’s going to be harder because we have the bull’s eye on our chest and I think people know the type of team that we can be but the fact of the matter is that we have to go out and prove that every week.”

If you were and oddsmaker, would you make the Saints the favorites?

“I think if you were just going to look at the returning starters and talent level and all those things, you’d say the Saints are a favorite. I think just about every year you’d look at the team that won the Super Bowl the year before and if they have most everyone coming back then you’d say that you don’t see why they can’t do it again. I look at our team and I say I don’t see why we can’t do it again. But that doesn’t mean that we’ll just walk out on the field and expect people to lay down for us and it’s just going to happen. We still have to put in the type of effort in the weight room, on the practice field, in the film room; everything that we do to prepare, we have to even take it to the next level because we know that in every game on our schedule this year, the other team is looking at it and circling the New Orleans Saints as a team that they would love to beat. Because I know that’s the way I approach it. If there’s a team coming to town that might have won our division the year before or won their conference or won the Super Bowl – that gives you a little extra pep in your step.”

Sean Canfield talked about receiving his state championship ring from you when he was in high school in San Diego. Do you remember that? What have you seen from him here so far?

“It’s hard to believe that I was in the NFL at the time and giving him his high school CIF Championship ring and now we’re playing on the same team. I’ve been impressed with him. I’ve been around him now for a week-and-a-half; we had a week of just weight training and conditioning and a little bit of throwing together and then these three practices this week. But I think he has picked up the system pretty well. He’s making quick decisions; he’s delivering the ball accurately; he’s getting in and out of the huddle. He’s doing all the things that you want a young quarterback to do. He’s creating a tempo and a rhythm and playing with confidence. He’s a pretty low-key, mild-mannered guy, but I like what I’ve seen from him so far.”

Coach Payton said that he spoke to the team this week about the difficulties the team might face going into this season. What kind of sense have you gotten from your teammates of how you fill face the trials of being defending champions?

“It’s interesting because as we were going into the playoffs last year, there were times where we’d be out at practice on in the meeting room and Sean would ask, ‘Who in this room has ever been the one-seed?’ and very few people would raise their hands. And then he’d ask, ‘Who has ever been to a Super Bowl?’ and very few people would raise their hands. A lot of us were going into uncharted territory last year, going into the playoffs as the one-seed and hosting the NFC Championship and going to the Super Bowl and winning the Super Bowl. So these were all things that we really have had to learn as we have gone along here. This offseason I’ve tried to talk to as many people as I can who have won the big one and then had to come back and try to repeat and maintain that level of success and it’s difficult. In fact, a lot of times it’s more difficult to stay at the top once you’re there than it is to rise from the bottom to the top. There are challenges there but they are ones that we recognize. I think the teams that falter are the ones that maybe don’t recognize that or don’t pay attention to that but we’ve put a lot of emphasis on those things.”

Who were some of those people you talked to? Were they other quarterbacks and did they have any specific advice for you?

“I have my mentors and I have people that I come across that I ask those questions to. I won’t name any specific names, but there were other quarterbacks and other players that were part of other successful teams, and not necessarily in football but in other sports. But the fact is that it’s within that realm of sports and within that realm of a team game where you have to find ways to not only motivate yourself but to motivate your teammates and keep your eye on the prize and always be ready for that next challenge. There’s the thought that you’re only as good as your next performance. I’m always thinking about that there’s always respect to be earned and things to be gained and you do have to earn that on a daily basis from everybody.”

Was there a point in this offseason where after all of the appearances and celebrations that you were ready to get back on the field?

“Absolutely. I’ve had some wonderful opportunities this offseason and have gotten to meet a lot of great people and do a lot of neat things while at the same time spending time with my family and my son, all of those things that I want to do in the offseason. The thing that suffered most was golf – I haven’t played as much golf. But that’s OK; I hope we have a lot more offseasons like this where we’re coming off a very successful season. We all need that time to relax and to get away and to recharge the battery and to do some of the things that we’ve done, but you start to feel when it’s time to go back to work. We played an extra five weeks so we were in mid-February and it was our first break and so then we didn’t start back up again until mid-April, which I thought was a very good move by Sean because I think the recovery part of anything is probably the most underestimated. That can be just after a hard-fought game or in this case you look at it in the bigger picture of an entire offseason. The last thing he wanted to do was to bring guys back too early when our minds and our bodies weren’t ready for the grind again, because then we’re not going to get out of it what we need to get out of it. So we needed to get away and rest ourselves mentally and physically and do what we needed to do and then come back focused. We always push our mini-camps and OTAs back to late May and what I’ve found with that is that guys are chomping at the bit by the time we step on the field like we did on Tuesday. It’s fast, guys are flying around, we’re installing the offense, the defense, putting in new wrinkles and competing against one another and that’s fun and exciting.”

Was there a time last year that you thought you had a special team?

“I’m lucky because I’ve been a part of a lot of great teams and what I feel were just special groups of guys. I still talk to so many guys that I’ve played with over the years and I think that says a lot. It started around this time with Gregg Williams coming in and doing what he did with the defense and us understanding what we needed to do on offense to get better. I’ve said before that last year was the most competitive offseason that I’ve ever been a part of when you talk about OTAs, mini-camp, preseason, training camp – and I felt like that prepared us so well for the season. And I feel like we’re starting off again that way this year. Every time you step on the field, you’re out to prove something. You play with a chip on your shoulder; it’s competitive. We talk about finishing strong. We did that last year and we’re doing it again this year because when you have that mentality, it just breeds confidence and swagger. Plus our defense has proved that they can play at a very high level and our offense has proved that we can play at a very high level so the thought of competing against what we feel like is the best, when you step on the field on game day we feel like we’ve already seen everything we can see from our defense so it should be easy and they feel the same way when they step on the field.”

When you get the platform that you got as a Super Bowl champion, do you embrace it?

“Absolutely. We’ve been given a great platform as professional athletes to influence a lot of people, especially kids. Certainly now when we accomplished what we accomplished, as NFL Champions, World Champions, we know that a lot of people saw what we did and recognize us for that and we have opportunities to go out and represent the city and talk about the city and about our team and it sheds a really great light on New Orleans and all the things that are important to me. I’ve really tried to take advantage of that. That week after the Super Bowl, getting to go on Ellen and Oprah and David Letterman and go to Disney World and to get to talk to so many people about us winning that championship for the city of New Orleans and everything that New Orleans has been through and yet here was New Orleans coming back stronger than it ever was before. I think it put such a positive light on the city and the people and those were all good things.”

Has there been any downside for you personally? Perhaps decreased privacy?

“Like I said, just that the golf game has suffered. That’s about it. There’s not a whole lot of quiet time, so I guess you could probably link that to privacy or that kind of thing. It’s hard to go somewhere and just relax unless I’m in my own home. But I guess that’s a good problem to have.”

What did you learn from Jack Nicklaus?

“I learned how to hit shots on really windy days. He invited me to play in his Pro-Am foursome at the Honda Classic at the PGA course there in West Palm Beach and hadn’t picked up a golf club since June and this was in mid-March. So I was scared; here I am about to play with the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus, and I haven’t picked up a club in seven or eight months. So I get up there on the first tee and of course it was lined with people and I was just thinking, ‘Just don’t hit someone in the head.’ So I striped one down the middle and then I birdied 18 and that was about all that mattered. Everything in between was OK, but it was a really windy day. The wind was blowing 20-40 miles per hour at times and I was having trouble hitting the green at times. At one point on the 13th hole, I had hit a great drive so I was sitting about 130 yards out and the wind was blowing hard in our face and kind of right-to-left and Jack came up to me and told me, ‘Let me show you something.’ He dropped three balls in the fairway and he started describing how when you’re hitting shots into the wind, you want to keep the ball low so it’s less influenced by the wind so go ahead and club up one or two a couple, depending on how strong the wind is, and choke down on the club. And then he showed me to open up the face a little bit and gave me this technique of how to hit shots into the wind. So I’m listening and he goes ahead and hits the three balls that he had set on the ground and put them all up within 10 feet and made it look easy. As he’s talking and as he’s coaching me up, the gallery starts to assemble around us and the media comes up and we have cameras, and then it’s my turn as the apprentice to show his teacher that he’s coachable and I’m looking around at all the people and thinking, ‘Don’t mess this one up.’ So where I normally would have hit a pitching wedge, I took an 8-iron and choked down and did everything he said and knocked it up there to about five feet and went up and made the birdie putt. It was just the greatest moment. Here was Jack Nicklaus teaching me the art of the shot into the wind and I hit it just like he said and then made the birdie putt. It was like, ‘Man, this game’s easy.’ What was neat about it too was that it was the first birdie of the day for our group and for every birdie that we got, the tournament was making a donation to his foundation so it made a couple of thousand dollars for his foundation; there was extra incentive there too.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Saints Add Experience to Linebacker Corps

The Black and Gold made another move to strengthen an area of their defense that has been depleted via free agency by signing Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Clint Ingram.

The New Orleans Saints lost starting linebacker and unrestricted free agent Scott Fujita to the Cleveland Browns and surprised many by not addressing this need in the 2010 NFL Draft.

According to's Brian Allee-Walsh, Ingram is still recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery and won't take part in the Organized Team Activities and Mini-Camp in June.

Ingram signed a one year deal with the Saints.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mike Detillier Post-Draft Interview Part II

College football analyst, NFL Draft guru and WWL 870 AM contributor Mike Detillier offers his take on the Saints' NFC South rivals' drafts, ex-LSU player and Saints draftee Al Woods's future and other matters related to the Black and Gold.

TOK: How would you rate the Saints’ NFC South competition’s drafts?

MD: I like what I saw from Tampa Bay, but they also had the most holes to fill. Gerald McCoy and Brian Price are two really good young DT’s. The Bucs have the right young quarterback in Josh Freeman and now they have added Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams to the lineup at wide receivers. Both are big, real physical guys after the catch. They also got some help late in the draft for their special teams. That special teams was good last season, but they lost a ton of those players in free agency. I would give them an A.

In Carolina Jimmy Clausen will compete for a starting spot as a rookie with Matt Moore. Jimmy has talent, but I want to see if he is a real leader on and off the field. I like Tony Pike also, the strong-armed QB. from Cincinnati. Brandon Lafell is a good fit for the Panthers. He is a big, real physical end and if he can concentrate better he has a chance to contribute quickly. Armanti Edwards is a project player at wide receiver, but he is real athletic. I also really like OLB. Eric Norwood from South Carolina and if Ole Miss’ Greg Hardy is healthy he is a really good pass rusher, but he has been bothered by the foot injuries. But they had no first round pick because they dealt that off to select Everette Brown last season. He is OK, but he isn’t close to being the type player Julius Peppers was for them.

The thing that disturbs you about Carolina is that they have basically done nothing in the free agency market the last two seasons and I like John Fox a lot, but this seems to be the end of the road for him there. Much like Jim Mora’s last seasons in New Orleans. I would give them a B-.
Atlanta really helped themselves out picking up Dunta Robinson from Houston. He didn’t look quite right last season, but that was no surprise after coming off of a major knee injury, but if he is healthy he is a good cover guy.

Sean Weatherspoon will start Day 1 for them at outside linebacker. He is a terrific player. DT. Corey Peters is a solid rotation player for them. Joe Hawley is their center for the future and I like Mike Johnson, the offensive guard from Alabama.

What they needed more of was depth in the secondary and another top pass rusher. I give them a C, but we all know that they are the main competition for the Saints in 2010 in the division and their schedule is pretty favorable.

I really like Matt Ryan. I hate to say it because he plays for the Dirty Birds, but he is one of the two best young quarterbacks in the game right now. Ryan and Mark Sanchez from the Jets. Sanchez has a really good defense to back him up, I can’t say that right now about Ryan.

TOK: Which player drafted do you think the fans will see on the field more?

MD: This is close, but it will be either CB. Patrick Robinson in the nickel sets and that will probably be about 40% of the time and TE. Jimmy Graham.

Graham is some kind of athlete and once he starts to get it football wise he will really be something in the redzone early on.

TOK: Are TE Billy Miller’s days with the team are over now that they drafted TE Jimmy Graham?

MD: I know Drew Brees really likes him, so I wouldn’t rule that out. Remember that this position has been riddled with injuries the last couple of seasons, so I wouldn’t rule out his return, if an injury happens.

TOK: Were you surprised with the selection of an offensive lineman with the second round pick?

MD: Totally, but it was a value pick. Brown is a really good athlete, he excels in protecting the QB., and once he physically gets stronger, especially in the upper-body, he will compete for a starting spot at left tackle.

That won’t be this season, but it will happen. Brown was my 31st best player and the Saints got him at 64. I had a NFL director of player personnel chief tell me just yesterday that he thought that Brown would be a Jason Peters-Philadelphia Eagles type starting left tackle in the league.

TOK: Can one assume that OT Jammal Brown will be traded sooner than later?

MD: I have always felt as though Jammal Brown will be traded before the training camp sessions start. Get some value, trade-wise, right before training camp starts. There are a few teams that will have plenty of interest in Jammal, if he is healthy.

I’d like to also talk a little about Jahri Evans. He is the best in the business right now. Jahri is a terrific run blocker and a superb pass protector. The baton was passed from Alan Faneca and Steve Hutchinson to him last season on the field and now it is passes in the getting paid category also.

He is also a great lockerroom guy. Every year in my draft book I quiz about 12 to 13 NFL scouts, director of player personnel people and a couple of assistant coaches also and they felt overwhelming that he was the best offensive guard in the business. He actually finished in the poll as the 35th best overall football player in the NFL.

The comments about him were all about how he was the best today at the guard spot, but there were a large number of those comments made about the other guard on this team, Carl Nicks. I think he is a Pro Bowl caliber player also. This is the best guard tandem in pro football, no question about it.

TOK: The Saints selected Al Woods and many felt he is a project player and that he wasn’t well coached at LSU. Your comments?

MD: He is a project player, no question. Al is a nice guy, really a nice guy off the field. That may be part of the problem also. He is not the nastiest guy on the field. He plays too clean, a little too high off the snap and he just doesn’t have that mean streak in him as a player.

He has everything you want in a defensive tackle from a size, strength, power, and movement skill standpoint, but he lacks great football instincts and he doesn’t play with a good low center of gravity. He is a little slow to react to what is breaking down in front of him. That hesitation is the difference between being a great player and an ordinary guy in this business.

He was not well coached until his senior season at LSU and that is partially the problem, but I know that won’t be the case in New Orleans with Bill Johnson. Bill is one of the best in the business and if anyone can get it out of him it is Johnson.

Al is a good guy, but I think he really lacks great instincts to be a really terrific NFL player. He may end up being a rotation guy, but it is rare to find someone who wasn’t really productive at the college level and then all of a sudden be a top-flight NFL player.

TOK: Is that the difference between this staff and Jim Haslett’s staff, the way they coach?

MD: Coaching is one thing, teaching is another. The difference is that Sean Payton has assembled a really good group of teachers. Some guys can draw up all these plays and schemes on paper, but they can’t get it to work on the field.

This staff teaches constantly. That is the big difference. There is a big difference between coaching players and teaching players and this staff’s real strength is their ability to teach players and get the very most out of them. That really is the “X” factor in college and pro football today.

TOK: Will quarterback Sean Canfield spend most of the 2010 season on the roster or the practice squad?

MD: He looks like a practice squad guy to me. He is very efficient throwing the short stuff, but I want to see him throw the deep out patterns and the longer medium range throws.

Sean didn’t make those type throws in college. I spoke to Mike Riley about him and he thinks a lot of him, but he never really seemed to be able to effectively throw the longer stuff once he suffered the shoulder injury. Now, it has been a few years since the major shoulder surgery and we will be able to see if he has that arm to get the ball out deeper.

He is going to have a tough time beating out Chase Daniel. This team needs a solid veteran quarterback for insurance, just in case something happens to Drew.

Saints Add Three Receivers, Cut DT

From the New Orleans Saints:

For Immediate Release: Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis announced Thursday the team has signed free agent wide receivers Larry Beavers, Roy Hall and Andy Tanner.

Beavers is a 5-10, 186-pound product of Wesley College who first entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent signed by the Carolina Panthers in 2009. The Annapolis, Md. native was a return specialist in college, holding the NCAA all-division record with 13 touchdowns (10 on kickoffs and three on punts) for the Division III school in addition to 28 receiving scores. Beavers caught two passes for 31 yards for Carolina in the ’09 preseason with a 24-yard kickoff return and four punt returns for an average of 2.8 yards before being waived prior to the regular season.

Hall (6-3, 240) is a three-year veteran who has seen his early career limited due to injuries. A former fifth-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2007, Hall has played in seven career regular-season games with one catch for nine yards and five special teams tackles. The Lyndhurst, Ohio native and former Ohio State Buckeye played in three games in ’07 before his rookie season ended with a shoulder injury. He spent the entire 2009 campaign on Indianapolis’ injured reserve list. The 26-year-old wideout, who was waived by the Colts earlier this month, has played in one postseason game in his NFL career, making one tackle on special teams.

Tanner, a rookie from Division II Midwestern State, participated in the Saints’ rookie minicamp on a tryout basis last weekend. The 6-0, 183-pound native of Rockwall, Texas played in 38 collegiate games, catching 120 passes for 1,716 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was named first-team All-Lone Star Conference as a senior, leading the Mustangs with 75 receptions for 1,186 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Loomis also announced that the team has released defensive tackle Rodney Leisle. The 29-year-old, who was originally a fifth-round pick of the Saints in 2004, played in 18 games over four seasons with New Orleans. He played in one game for the Saints in 2009 before ending the season on injured reserve with a knee injury.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rookie Moves: Saints Add Two, Cut Two

From the New Orleans Saints:

New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis announced Wednesday the team has signed WR Montez Billings and LB Sam Maxwell after the two players participated in the club’s rookie minicamp over the weekend on a tryout basis.

Billings, a 6-1, 181 pound wideout, comes to New Orleans following four years at Auburn, where he finished with 55 catches for 645 yards and one touchdown. In 2008, he finished second on the Tigers in receiving with 24 catches for 277 yards. In 2007, he had 28 grabs for 321 yards with one touchdown after moving into the starting lineup midway through the season.

Maxwell, 6-2, 244, was a four-year letterman at Kentucky who moved into the starting lineup at strongside linebacker as a senior in 2009, setting a school record for interceptions by a linebacker with six picks, ranked second in the Southeastern Conference overall. He recorded 80 tackles, including 5.5 stops for a loss, two forced fumbles and seven pass defenses. In four years with the Wildcats, he made 138 stops, one sack, seven interceptions, three forced fumbles and 11 pass defenses. Maxwell graduated with a degree in family science.

Loomis also announced that the team has waived LB Jason Beauchamp and WR Chris Bell. Both players had previously signed with the club as undrafted free agents.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mike Detillier Post-Draft Interview Part I

The Onside Kick is pleased to present its latest interview with college football expert, WWL AM radio contributor and NFL Draft guru Mike Detillier.

In this installment, Detillier offers his take on the Saints' number one pick, the recent re-signing of free safety Darren Sharper, the Black and Gold's linebacker corps, second-year defensive back Malcolm Jenkins's role in the 2010 season and the Saints free agency moves.

Due to the length of the interview, it has been broken into two parts.

TOK: How would you grade the Saints draft?

MD: When you add the acquisitions of Alex Brown and Jimmy Wilkerson, two really good players, via free agency, I would give them a solid B. You filled “need” spots at defensive end, added cornerback depth, a good young tight end prospect and you added 2 future starting type people along the offensive line with Charles Brown and Matt Tennant.

The Saints still need to address better depth at halfback, outside linebacker and probably a veteran quarterback. There are some people out there in the free agency market at both halfback and linebacker. Man, the quarterback spot is another story.

It’s scary to think what would happen if Drew Brees went down for any length of time. But to be honest Indianapolis is in the same spot. The one area I still think this team needs to also upgrade is at defensive tackle, but overall they got good value and they addressed needs, short term and long term.

The Saints found out that picking last is totally different than picking early or in the middle of the draft.

TOK: Would you say that the Saints used the 2010 draft primarily to cover 2011 expected needs?

MD: To a certain extent, especially across the offensive line, but picking CB. Patrick Robinson in Round 1 was to upgrade the team this season. TE. Jimmy Graham can help this team this season. It’s a real fine balance to walk on. You have to trust what you grade out and pick “need” spots, but also you have to look at things this season and beyond.

TOK: How surprised were you that the organization drafted a cornerback with its first round pick?

MD: It wasn’t what I thought they would do early, but once you think about it the choice made sense. This defense really played poorly when Randall Gay, Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer went down to injuries during the season. Good one-on-one cornerbacks are as hard to find as top pass rushers. In this defense it is essential to have multiple really good match-up cornerbacks, especially in a league that uses three wide receiver sets about 40% of the time.

I think the world of Tracy Porter and I am convinced he is one of the top two or three young cornerbacks in this league today, but he has missed time each of the past two seasons due to injuries.

It is hard to find even above-average NFL style cornerbacks after the season starts and remember last season the team had to go out and sign Chris McAlister and Mike McKenzie for a stretch. It was obvious both players’ talent had diminished.

Then there is the Darren Sharper factor. There is no doubt that due to the one-year deal with Sharper and the fact that he is coming off of a much more serious knee surgery than we had known about also factored in.

Remember that Reggie Bush had that microfracture knee surgery and he was well into the season before we saw him at full strength. Malcolm Jenkins will work at both cornerback and free safety, but I feel as though he will more the majority of the time at free safety. He is the free safety of the future and maybe even a good portion of this season. That really is his best spot for the pros. Jenkins has the ball hawking skills you want at free safety, just like Sharper has, and Usama Young doesn’t have those skills playing the ball well in flight. Moving Malcolm to safety takes away another matchup cornerback from the roster.

When you add it all up you can see why this made sense.

TOK: You felt on draft weekend that whenever Darren Sharper would sign it would be a short term, but did it surprise you it was back in New Orleans?

MD: I really believe due to the age and injury factor I felt it had to be short term deal, but I was glad he was back in New Orleans. To be honest I thought he was gone. We knew that he hadn’t got a great offer from anyone yet, until Jacksonville stepped in late, but I really couldn’t see him sign on with the Jaguars. They aren’t a team that is close to being really good. If that offer was from the New York Jets or the Minnesota Vikings than that is a different situation, but it wasn’t. For whatever reason I thought the Dallas Cowboys would come in late and snag him. I am glad they didn’t.

He brings so much to the table, football wise. He is savvy and Darren is still a good football player, if healthy. He also is a good teacher of the game to the younger guys. He works on certain techniques with them and he is constantly talking to them about watching for certain tip-off details. He is a super mentor to the young defensive backs.

TOK: Would the Saints have drafted either DT Dan Williams or DE Jerry Hughes had fallen to them?

MD: Either one, but you didn’t have that choice. Yes, I am convinced they would have selected either one, Williams or Hughes, ahead of Patrick Robinson.

But we all saw that there is a lot of water to go in the pond before you select at #32, but I would like for them to pick there again in 2011.

TOK: The Saints did not draft a single linebacker or a running back though these were considered positions to address due to free agency losses. Why do you think they took no action in the draft?

MD: I thought that they would address the running back issue via veteran free agency. I think a lot of Justin Fargas, who the Oakland Raiders released earlier in the year and he would be a great “fit” player here. But money and his health are issues at the present time and they just signed P.J. Hill, who they had last season and I was impressed with Hill. He lost a lot of weight and he ran hard between the tackles. He also showed a little more speed and quickness than the P.J. I saw at Wisconsin. What he needs to work on is catching the ball better and improving his pass protection skills and techniques.

I am a big believer that you never have enough good runners on the team and it is a position that gets nicked up quite a bit.

I am surprised about the linebacker position. They have brought in Clint Ingram for a visit and there certainly are some ties to him with Gregg Williams and his stint in Jacksonville. The same is true if they would pursue a trade with Washington for Rocky McIntosh. I would be surprised if they didn’t upgrade the linebacker spot before training camp starts. Something seems to be brewing at the outside linebacker spot.

TOK: Are the Saints right to have so much confidence in their current linebacker corps?

MD: Vilma is a terrific football player and Shanle is a good starter also. Jo-Lonn. Dunbar is a good prospect. He is smart, very instinctive and a really good openfield tackler. He has started a few games, but can he hold up for a 16-game season and does he match up well in coverage spots?

We are fixing to found out about those issues, but I do feel as though he is going to get some strong competition.

Jonathan Casillas is very athletic, he has 1st rate range and he covers well. He is not real big though and he needs to get much stronger to take on and defeat blocks at the point of attack better. Jonathan is smart and what sticks out about him to me is how well he matches up in coverage spots. Let’s see how well he handles the physical side of the game.

With Stanley Arnoux we didn’t see him at all last season because of the Achilles injury. I spoke with him late last season and he told me he couldn’t wait to get back on the field and that he was about 90% and this was in early January. When he was initially selected Gregg Williams said he would play the weakside spot. In college Arnoux was super smart, very instinctive and he was a very tough little guy out on the field. He is not real big, 6-0, 235, but he is a playmaker and he fully understands the game.

What I want to see is how well he takes on and shed off blockers when running plays are directed right at him. He also looked a little stiff in coverage, but the Wake Forest coaches loved him and he seemed to always be in the thick of the action.You have a lot of incomplete resumes there, but it will be the most watched position in training camp.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Saints Head Coach Sean Payton Rookie Camp Media Availability Transcript

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Saturday, May 8, 2010

Provided by the New Orlens Saints

Opening Statement:

“We’re three practices in with these guys. We had two yesterday, two today, one more tomorrow. The overall progress has been good. They’re in pretty decent shape. I think today was a break from what they were used to. We keep giving them as much as we can from an install standpoint. There are four groups of players here; the draft picks, the free agents we signed, there are a number of guys here on a tryout basis and there are also five guys on our roster that were part of our program a year ago.”

Can you talk about the civil suit filed last week?

“I really can’t. With respect to the process, that’s the position I’m in. I understand the questions surrounding it, yet I’m not at liberty. I think as time goes forward, we’ll know more and more.”

When would you discuss your side of it?

“I just think there needs to be steps and when you have a civil suit, those become probably more complicated. Nonetheless, that’s the thing that’s challenging.”

How much of your time has been given to that issue as opposed to dealing with the team recently?

“Fortunately most of the time and attention has been for us in this offseason in regards to workouts, the roster, the signings of guys like Jahri Evans and Darren Sharper and this camp, which is always the second weekend after the NFL draft. That’s where our focus is.”

Have you addressed this with the players?


The perception is that in the NFL is that Vicodin might be available in a candy jar for people like players and coaches. Can you paint a picture for us?

“I appreciate the question. It would be wrong for me to try to paint any picture. That would be inappropriate and it wouldn’t be a smart thing or really the right thing to do.”

Can you talk about how this camp ranks with some of the prior rookie minicamps?

“I think number one of the draft picks, just the one Charles Brown is coming off a hamstring injury. He’s been a little bit limited with regards to what we’ve been able to do. We kind of knew that coming in. He’s been on top of things from a mental reps standpoint. He got some work in the a.m. practice yesterday. It’s still something he’s recovering from and is going to have to continue to recover from. In regards to the other guys, that transition is happening pretty fast. Patrick (Robinson) is out there, lining up at left corner, getting the calls down with the rest of these draft picks. Jimmy Graham from Miami, the tight end is getting a lot of work. Certainly when you look at the center (Matthew) Tennant, (Al) Woods from LSU and (Sean) Canfield, those are the guys who we’re probably a little bit more familiar with because they were drafted. At this stage, at this camp every year for us, we’ve been able to find a veteran like Billy Miller, who was able to work out for us at this camp in 06 for us on a three day tryout and ended up playing here for quite a while. Our scouts on both the college end and pro end, do a lot of work grading all of these guys to get them to the next step. Our process has been that once they get here we go by what we see. We point out that a few years back it was Pierre Thomas who was able to beat out a draft pick (Antonio Pittman). I think that’s vital in the process of just winning football games and creating that right environment in our locker room. That’s something we take very seriously.”

Does Charles Brown just have a hamstring injury and not a knee injury?

“No, the issue with Charles is just the hamstring. It’s something that happened in his offseason getting ready for the draft, so I think we knew before his arrival that was something he was going to be recovering from. I don’t think it’s something that’s going to hold him back too long.”

Is quarterback something you are looking at closely at this cam?

“Yes. I like when you are in a setting like this, you really begin to look at new faces and you try to go in and really evaluate what you see. Sean (Canfield) was a guy we’ve seen some good things from and there are some things we liked that he did and is doing well. These other guys are here in good physical shape and ready for the opportunity. That’s been impressive, watching them operate, getting in and out of the huddle. Those are some of the more difficult things, can you get the play out of the huddle, can you get to the line of scrimmage with the proper snap count and all the other things that go into the mental aspect of getting the snap from center and running a play.”

Quarterback wise, can you talk about how difficult it actually is finding the next Drew Brees through a coaching and evaluation process?

“You’re always looking and there’s no exact science to finding that guy who you feel can win for you in this league, so you’re looking always to develop. Sean’s somebody that when it came to selecting him, we felt that he had some of those characteristics that are important to play in that position. He is someone that has come in here for a little more than a day and a half and handled it pretty well.”

Is it a tougher position to evaluate?

“I think people would say it’s one of the tougher positions to evaluate because you’ve seen the position get more attention. It’s probably one of the more difficult positions to play with everything that’s asked of it. All those other things go into why so many of these guys in the first round haven’t made it and why Tom Brady was drafted in the sixth round (and made it). I know other positions are talked about like that, but quarterback would be at the top of that list.”

Is it easier to go into the playoffs without the talk of an undefeated season?

“I think the focus is that you start anew in regards to the season. You’re in sudden death here. The focus is strictly on one game and playing your best football. The guys will have a break to get away from here and then focus on that specific opponent and away you go. That’s the way you have to handle it.”

Did your relationship with Doug Marrone help facilitate the decision to invite Greg Paulus to the camp?

“He’s a real good story. Doug’s someone who’s been there (Syracuse) one year. As you go through the process, you get that type of insight, because we worked with him for so long. Early on, he’s done a good job of making decisions and locating the ball. He’s pretty interesting.”

Can you talk about JaMarcus Russell now that he has cleared waivers?

“Not having really had a chance to see a lot of film. We played him a couple of years ago…I’m sure he’s going to look for that opportunity. Our league provided that. Outside of that, I really haven’t’ had a chance to study him a lot. Certainly after being the first pick in the draft and his release after three years, it’s been newsworthy and that next opportunity for him is going to be important.”

Is bringing him in something you’ve discussed at all?

“I don’t think so right now. I don’t think that’s something we would.”

Are you still considering some of the veterans that you brought in?

“Yes. No question we are. Depending on who that player might be with the free agency rule in place, it limits you. But I think that’s something that we’ll still look at and consider.”

What is Darren Sharper’s status now? Did he have microfracture surgery?

“He had a procedure done and if you took microfractures and put them in the right column and just a simple scope in the left, from all the feedback we have gotten and in staying in touch with the doctors, it’s probably closer to somewhere in the middle. It wasn’t as significant as that, but there still was a little bit of that procedure and it will require a little bit of a longer rehab, which is what he’s doing now. He was in town this past week after he signed rehabbing and he’ll continue to do that and get himself ready. I think a realistic framework of when we’d expect him to be out practicing would be for training camp as opposed to the minicamps.”

Is it similar to what Reggie Bush had done last year?

“I wouldn’t be able to make the comparison and yet in regards to the time expectancy I think there are some similarities.”

What have you seen from Jimmy Graham in these first few practices?

“He can run and he has real good hands. He’s a big target. He’s willing to learn and he has been pretty impressive just in these three practices. If you were watching, he’d be a guy that has stood out. He’s done some things where you realize that he’s an extremely gifted athlete. He has a lot of work to do and he knows that, yet he’s willing to learn and he’s smart and he has that span and that size that you’re looking for. He has handled these three practices pretty well.”

What have you liked so far from Patrick Robinson?

“Patrick is sudden. He’s put his foot in the ground a few times and you can see his speed. He has long arms and good ball skills. He’s someone that yesterday made a few plays on the ball and you guys soon enough will have a chance to see him. It’s very early for those guys so I’m as guarded as anyone in regards to an early evaluation. But he’s handling the install well. There’s a lot that Gregg (Williams) and the coaches are putting in, as we are on offense, and he’s pretty bright. He’s done some good things.”

Have any of the free agent players in here made an impression on you?

“What we’ll do is meet after this second practice today and talk about the whole group that’s here, not just the free agents, but also the tryout guys. As you watch the tape, there’s a few of them – Junior Galette has done a good job of getting off on the ball. The biggest challenge is trying to evaluate them just in helmets. They’re not in full pads, or any type of pads for that matter. You’re looking for guys that know what to do and that are beginning to do what you’re coaching them to do. I think the thing that can be the biggest challenge for some of these guys is the mental aspect of getting lined up and being able to give themselves a chance to compete. Generally when they struggle learning it early, it’s tough to have a chance.”

What do you see as Malcolm Jenkins’ role this season?

“I think with Malcolm we have flexibility. I said at the end of last year, going through the season he’s someone that has great toughness, good range, exceptional ball skills and he loves the game. So we have flexibility with him and he’s going to get work at safety. But he can come down and play over the slot, he can come down and play outside. We were pleased with his first year and his progression into what we’re doing here. He’s a quick study and that along with his physical traits are good things to have and have helped him.”

What have you seen from Al Woods so far?

“Al has jumped in here. He has good size and a good presence about him. The defensive tackles and the guards on offense are probably the hardest to evaluate because of the type of drills we’re running. You’re going to see those guys, along with the linebackers and fullbacks, be able to define themselves a little bit more as we progress into full uniform. But we like the body size on the player and he’s someone that is continuing to get better and I think that’s important for him.”

There’s an idea that Patrick Robinson’s interception totals were lower later in his college career because opposing offenses were staying away from him. Is that accurate?

“That can happen to some degree. If you look at some of the better corners in our league they don’t have the same hit ratio or attempts their way because of what they’ve been able to show prior. I can recall a few years ago playing Oakland, I don’t know if threw at (Nnamdi) Asomugha one time because of the respect of what he can do as a corner. That becomes a little bit of a challenge when you begin to gameplan. You see that happening with a few players in our league – Darrelle Revis with the Jets is another guy that can really make it tough to go his way. So at the collegiate level, I’m sure when you begin to evaluate your options offensively attacking Florida State’s defense, you might have liked your matchup away from a player like Patrick. But I think his production will come and young players like him are going to get thrown at early and often here and I think he’ll be ready for the challenge.”

Could Malcolm Jenkins play strong safety?

“I think what’s happened in the past few years is that nature of what we knew as strong and free safety has bled together a little more than it was 10 years ago or so. What Gregg and our defensive staff is going to ask either safety to do is at times play down in the run front and at times play back. But I think initially you would look at him as a free and begin there, but he’s going to have to do a lot of the same things we ask our strong to do.”

You were able to put a statement out last week. Is there anything you want to say on Joe Vitt’s behalf?

“It would be inappropriate for me to speak on anyone’s behalf. He’s someone I think a lot of and having hired him in our first year here, he has as much to do with this Super Bowl run that we had as anyone in this building. But I don’t think that would be fair, nor would it be right or appropriate.”

You talked about letting the process play itself out. Have you been given any indication as to how long that may take? Could it linger into the season?

“Again, even if I had been it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment on it.”

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Loomis Reels in Another Big One

Jahri Evans is far, far away from Bloomsburg.

New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis nailed down an important though not prominent piece of the team’s offense by signing Pro-Bowl guard Evans to a seven-year contract worth $56.7 million.

Evans, who had refused to sign the team’s restricted free agent tender offer of $3.168 million for one year, becomes the highest paid guard in league history and one of the highest paid members of a Saints squad, which already has one of the highest paid running backs in the NFL.

The Black and Gold’s offensive line has been rightly credited for much of the team’s success this season, buying quarterback Drew Brees ample time to make throws and opening holes for the team’s new-found running attack.

In 2010 they had the distinction of being named the first ever Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award recipient, an accolade given to the NFL’s best offensive line.

With the huge deal with Evans done, the Saints put their money where their mouth is concerning their commitment to retain key young talent and protecting the franchise player.

This is good news for Brees and better news for fellow guard Carl Nicks, whose contract ends after the 2010 season.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Saints Add Their Fourth Back?

The New Orleans Saints added what might be the last key piece of their offensive juggernaut by bringing in a running back who is no stranger to the organization.

P.J. Hill, who played at Wisconsin, had signed with the team as an undrafted free agent shortly after the conclusion of the 2009 NFL Draft. Hill impressed in the 2009 preseason, rushing for 128 yards and 3 touchdowns on 26 carries.

However to put Hill’s numbers in perspective 83 of those yards and 2 of those touchdowns were against the Oakland Raiders. Despite his strong preseason performance, Hill was unable to crack the Saints regular season 53-man roster though he was signed to the practice squad.

From there Hill was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles to their active roster but was then released and joined their practice squad. The Washington Redskins signed Hill from their division rival’s practice squad but was waived. Which was how the Saints got him back.

Hill, who stands 5’10” and weighs 218 pounds according to, has been described as a “bowling ball” type running back.

Hill will vie to fill the roster spot made vacant when running back Mike Bell joined the Eagles. Though Bell was a restricted free agent, the Saints declined to match the Philadelphia’s contract offer.

The Saints had initially tendered Bell a low-ball deal that did not include draft pick compensation, an indication that the Black and Gold were not interested in retaining his services.

Running back Justin Fargas, who had been released by the Raiders, visited with the Saints in March though an agreement between the team and seven-year veteran power back was not reached.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sharper IS Back

The SharperWatch is over and the Black and Gold faithful shouted “Amen!”

Free safety Darren Sharper, arguably the most popular player on the New Orleans Saints roster after quarterback Drew Brees, signed a one-year deal to stay with the team.

Sharper had visited with the Jacksonville Jaguars though the future Hall of Fame inductee opted to stay in the Crescent City, something number 42 said he wanted to do all along.

While Who Dats were ecstatic to hear the news, tight end Jeremy Shockey, who has been very vocal about his desire to see the veteran defensive back return, tweeted that it made his year.

Despite being an “old” 34, the free safety must have sipped whatever Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was drinking in the off-season. Sharper had the best season of his 13-year tenure in the league with nine interceptions (tying his career best in 2000 and 2005), retuning three for touchdowns (a career best) and 15 pass deflections (another career best).

In terms of pro football posterity, Sharper is currently tied with Ronnie Lott for 6th all-time with 63 interceptions and is 18 picks shy of Paul Krause’s record. Sharper’s 11 interceptions returned for touchdowns ranks him second on the all-time list behind Ron Woodson’s 12.

Sharper is also close to matching/exceeding Woodson’s other record of note, all-time interception return yards, 71 yards below Woodson’s 1,483 career INT return yards. Bear in mind that Sharper racked up 376 last season including two 90+ interception return yardage games.

Sharper’s decision to stay with the team affects several team angles.

First and foremost, the Saints secondary isn’t going to be as much of a question mark going into the 2010 season.

Cornerback Malcolm Jenkins might not be shifted over to free safety, which seemed a certainty after the Saints’ selected Florida State cornerback Patrick Robinson in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

On the other hand, the Saints lost their best UFA wiggle room. Had Sharper signed with another team, likely at a premium, the Saints could have inked another mid-level unrestricted free agent. I don’t expect too much wailing and gnashing of teeth over this opportunity cost.

Under the NFL’s “rule of four”, the four teams that played in the conference championship games cannot sign an unrestricted free agent until they have lost one and then the first year contract cannot exceed that of the departed player’s agreement with the new team.

The Saints filled their lone unrestricted free agent opening when they signed Tampa Bay Buccaneer defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson.

But the most interesting angle has to do with the Saints’ secondary.

Not including undrafted free-agents and other “camp bodies”, the Saints have a number of defensive backs on the roster, including free safeties Usama Young, Pierson Prioleau and Sharper; strong safeties Chris Reis, Chip Vaughn and Roman Harper; and cornerbacks Jabari Greer, Randall Gay, Tracy Porter, Leigh Torrence, Jenkins and Robinson.

Vaughn had spent the entire last season on the injured reserve list after tearing meniscus in his left knee.

Short of the team “optioning” Robinson to injured reserve (not uncommon for the Saints with young players), the team is going to part ways with at least one of their veteran defensive backs and maybe two, since the return of Vaughn and the selection of Robinson in the draft means that there’s less space available in the area that was the team’s defensive strength in 2009.

It’s obvious to see why Young “tweeted” his relative displeasure with the selection of Robinson since the draftee might have cost the converted cornerback his spot on the roster.

One other angle is Sharper’s durability.

Times Picayune sports reporter Jeff Duncan tweeted that Sharper underwent microfracture knee surgery this year, which drove down the market for his services and undermined his ability to demand a long-term contract and/or a deal with big guaranteed money.

That said, Sharper was a virtual bargain when considering his 2009 productivity as a whole. The leadership and ball-hawk skills sparked a Saints secondary that compensated for a relatively weak front-seven defense against the run by finishing off opponents in the regular season, post-season and Super Bowl.

Even if Sharper has a far less successful 2010 than he did 2009, the one-year contract (no terms have been released yet) is at worst a reward for the valuable service he rendered in shaping the greatest season in the franchise’s history.

It’s also a reward for the fans that have seen a number of favorites let go over the past year.

Welcome back Sharp.