Information helps develop knowledge, and when I began to read deeper in the media notes from LSU, I came to learn that both the LSU and Wisconsin football programs are much better than I thought. Certainly there are some numbers that you can twist, turn and spin any way you want to your liking, but some of the numbers can't be compromised.
Take for example the fact that the Tigers are riding a 45 game non-conference regular season win streak which makes them #1 in the nation. In fact, the last non-conference team to beat the Tigers in the regular season was Virginia Tech way back in 2002.
Guess who's at #2? Yup! The Wisconsin Badgers. Since September 7, 2002, the Badgers are an impressive 43-3 in the very same stat as the Tigers are. On top of that, they're riding a 16 game win streak in season opening games dating back to 1997. Only Nebraska and Florida are higher in that regard.
Other things that stand out - LSU is second in consecutive weeks being ranked in the AP Top 25. The Tigers have been among the country's top 25 teams for a solid 82 weeks.
And when it comes to leading the pack in the ever-so-tough SEC, the Tigers can lay claim to that feat! The SEC's winningest team since the 2005 season is the LSU Tigers. LSU has a 95-24 record, with Florida a distant second with an 87-30 mark during that same time frame.
LSU is tied with Boise State for most nine win seasons since 2004, while Wisconsin is tied for second with eight nine win seasons since the 2004 CFB year.
And I'll leave you with this: Since the 2009 season, LSU and Wisconsin have been among the best. The Tigers are 53-13 for 6th place, while the Badgers are 49-18 which is 12th.
It's not just hype to say that this is a game between two of the most success programs in the country - that is the truth and the numbers say so!
Baltimore Ravens (3-0) vs New Orleans Saints (3-0)
Thursday August 28, 2013 7PM Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Last week's results: New Orleans beat Indianapolis 23-17 and Baltimore beat Washington 23-17
Did you know? The Baltimore Ravens are the only 3-0 team in the AFC this preseason. The Saints, Vikings and NY Giants are all undefeated in preseason going into the final game. Baltimore will open their 2014 season next week against the Bengals in an AFC North tilt while the Saints head to the ATL to take on the Falcons.
Noteworthy: OK, let's be real here. The final preseason game may determine the fate of some players that are "on the bubble." The way I feel is that Coach Sean Payton pretty much has his mind made up on his 53 man roster with the exception of a few spots.
The two most recognizable positions that are up for grabs are very important - the back-up to Drew Brees could come down to who performs the best against the Ravens. In the battle are Ryan Griffin and Luke McCown.
"Right now if I had to pick I would go with Luke McCown," said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert. The main reason Hebert would give the nod to the veteran QB is because of experience. "Ryan Griffin has progressed a lot since last season and he's made this battle a tough one. The Saints could very well go with Griffin," said Hebert. Bobby also thinks that the Saints might keep both McCown and Griffin on the active roster.
In another battle, the Saints kicker could be decided over the next four quarters. Derek Dimke and Shayne Graham have both had their good moments during training camp, but both have looked not so good at times, too. "They've been inconsistent. Who knows, the Saints kicker might not even be on the roster right now," said Bobby.
Folks, tonight's game is all about players getting one more shot to show not only their current team what they can do, but as the final cut nears, all 32 teams in the league are well aware of each player's ability. Training camp has become a tryout for all 32 teams in the NFL. Many players that are cut Saturday will be picked up by other teams.
This preseason, the Saints have been able to get more pressure on the opposing QB with 11 sacks. The Saints recorded four sacks in each of their first two games and the Black and Gold D got another three QB take-downs in their win over the Colts last Saturday.
New Orleans also wanted to up their forced turnover total this season. If the preseason is any indication of what is to come, then the Saints will be alright. The Saints are atop of the NFL in preseason with a +5 turnover margin, having forced eight turnovers in three preseason games. And last week the Saints first team defense was more than solid against a very good Colts offense. Before the Colts final drive (13 plays 78 yards) of the first half, the Saints defense held the Colts offense to 54 yards on 14 plays.
This game, the Saints just want to get out injury free and then start to focus on a huge opening game against the Falcons. Earlier this week, I compiled some numbers of what the Saints have done in preseason games:
The Saints have won their first three preseason games in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history
Thursday night's game in the Mercedes Benz Superdome is the only match-up of 3-0 teams in the final week of preseason action.
New Orleans has scored 80 points 26.6 points per game
The Saints have allowed 65 points 21.6 points per game
The Saints offense has 1,130 yards averaging 377 yards per game
New Orleans has been flagged 42 times for 372 yards
The Saints average 14 penalties and 124 yards per game
Drew Brees completed 9-of-15 pass attempts for 128 yards with two TD's and a QB rating of 127.2 in his only action in a preseason game
Saints RB Mark Ingram has carried the ball 21 times for 148 yards averaging 6.8 yards per carry
First of all, let me tell you that I know absolutely nothing. What I write here is just some numbers, facts and a little of my opinion. I've seen the majority of the young players that are the LSU offensive depth chart play in high school, that I do know. The Tigers have a veteran, experienced and proven O-Line. There is also good proven production at RB with the return of Senior RB's Terrance Magee and Kenny Hillard. But after that, LSU's offense is all about the youngsters.
Example #1: At the X&Z positions (wide receiver) the Tigers have nine players total. Seven of those nine are freshman players and four of the seven freshman were in high school a year ago at this time.
Quantavius Leslie is a senior, and the next oldest is sophomore Travin Dural. A few of the best high school football players that I have had the fortune of watching play are in the mix at WR for the Tigers. Redshirt freshman WR John Diarse was an incredible high school player at Neville. Diarse could be huge for LSU. He's young but he's been in the system and he's got playmaking skills that are incredible. I personally thought Diarse was good enough to get a look at QB, but that's why coaches get paid millions, and I get paid to speculate and report.
Trey Quinn is a precise route runner, he can burn you, go over the middle, get yards after the catch, and has every major high school football receiving record next to his name. The kid can do it all.
And then there is the #1 WR in the country from 2013 in John Curtis WR Malachi Dupre. How good is Dupre? He was rated as the top WR in America last season on a team that runs the Veer! You get the point?
Winners focus on winning..... Losers focus on winners
Of course there are the two true freshmen at RB - the nations best high school product in Leonard Fournette and John Ehret star Darrell Williams. I've known about Leonard since he exploded onto the prep scene in New Orleans. Leonard was so sought-after and so good and grabbed so much of the attention that not many people ever heard of Darrell Williams. Folks, Williams is the real deal. Williams is a 230 RB that has great vision and can run over you. I'm being cautiously optimistic when I say that LSU might have the second coming of the Hilliard and James Gang. If you have to ask, that's a damn shame!
I think with the guidance of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and the talent each of these young men possess, I don't see any reason why this group of young skilled players can't go from being good to great.
When the game is over Saturday, I think at least one, if not several of these young stars will have a serious impact on the game. College football used to have the luxury of redshirting players so they could gain some experience before they hit the field. The game has changed and now true freshmen players are expected to come in and have an impact as soon as they step on campus.
LSU has some of those impact players. This group was special in high school. And they have the potential to be great in college. We shall see.
The 2014 New Orleans Saints training camp is in the books. "Overall I think the Saints got in a lot of good work, and they accomplished some of the things they wanted to improve on," said Saints Color Analyst Hokie Gajan.
The Saints practiced for over two hours Tuesday and will now wrap up their preseason schedule Thursday night as they host the 3-0 Baltimore Ravens. Hokie said that there has been real progress towards the Saints goal of creating more turnovers. "I know it's preseason, but you can sure tell that the Saints have gotten better in that department. If New Orleans can keep this up during the regular season that would make the defense even better."
The Saints have forced eight turnovers going into the final preseason game, and New Orleans is ranked 1st in the NFL with a +5 in the turnover margin. The Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert also liked what he saw during Saints camp. "Even in the OTA's you could tell by the coaches yelling on the field that the Saints wanted to create more turnovers. I think the Saints will create more turnovers based on what they are doing in the preseason."
Bobby said that Saints DB Corey White had another productive day, as White forced a fumble by punching the ball out of the hands of WR Nick Toon. Bobby also gave high marks DB Brian Dixon. "Dixon has made some plays this camp and today he broke up two passes. I don't know if Dixon will make the 53 man roster but I do think he will make the practice squad."
The Cajun Cannon said that other new faces that could land on the Saints practice squad include DB Pierre Warren and TE Nic Jacobs. Bobby's notes also had WR Joe Morgan beating S Jairus Byrd for a 15 yard gain from QB Drew Brees.
"I'm more than satisfied with what I've seen. You have to take into account that the Saints did not have OG's Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans and Drew Brees the entire time and Jairus Byrd did not begin practice until the last portion of camp. And all of them were impressive to me. I liked being up in West Virgina and being able to come home and give the fans here a chance to see the team was a good way to wrap things up."
"The addition of Jarius Byrd looks like it is going to be a big one for the Saints. I think the addition of Byrd and what I've seen out of Kenny Vaccaro this camp leads me to believe that the Saints will have one of the best safety tandems in the league this season."
Bobby was also excited about this year's group of free agents and undrafted rookies that have made an impact at Saints camp. "The Saints cut a couple of players (DE Rufus Johnson and DB Rod Sweeting) that were on the team last year because they feel like they have better players now. I think we will once again see some players that were considered long shots or camp bodies that make the team."
As we inch closer to one of the most anticipated games to start the 2014 college football season, I am still reading, taking notes and trying to make a decision on which team has the edge in the LSU versus Wisconsin game. Here's some of what we know so far.
Saturday night's game in Houston features two of the nation's most winningest programs; since 2009 LSU has a .803 winning percentage, which is 6th nationally and Wisconsin is at .731 for 12th place.
The LSU Tigers and Boise State Broncos lead the nation with nine, nine-win seasons since 2004. Wisconsin is right behind with eight nine-win seasons to their credit.
LSU enters the 2014 season with a nation's best 45 straight regular season non-conference wins. The current Tigers streak began back on September 7th, 2002. The Tigers last non-conference loss came back in September of 2002 when Virginia Tech handed the Tigers a 26-8 loss in Blacksburg, VA.
LSU and Wisconsin are ranked #1 and #2 nationally in both wins and winning percentage in regular season non-conference games.
Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon is the nation's second leading rusher. #25 averages 7.8 yards per carry and for his career Gordon gets on average 8.1 yards per tote. LSU RB Terrence Magee averaged 7.3 yards per carry for the Tigers during the 2013 CFB Season.
Today marks my 10th year interviewing Coach Les Miles. Over the course of a decade I have come to expect much of the same conversation on the first day of Coach's Media Luncheon.
Some of the highlights from our chat…Coach Miles says he thinks this year's group of freshmen players will have a big impact on the 2014 season. Les Miles is also very confident about the Tigers O-Line because they have size, they are durable, can run block, pass block and have experience on their side.
Coach told me he expects a Bowl-like atmosphere Saturday night in Houston's NRG Stadium, when his 13th ranked Tigers battle 14th ranked Wisconsin. Coach pointed out how sound the Badgers offense is, but equally gave credit to the UW defense that finished 7th in the nation last season.
Peppered with questions about the Tigers' starting QB, Coach Miles calmly said that he expects both Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings to see action in the Tigers season opener. When I asked Coach Miles what the Tigers need to do to be successful against the Badgers, he told me the Bayou Bengals need to protect the football and win the special team's battle.
"We feel like we have some match-ups that are in our favor in the special teams. In close games, special teams always play a big role,"
Hear LSU's H-Town tilt with the Wisconsin Badgers Saturday here on WWL Radio! Tiger fans, if you're heading out to the game, join Bobby Hebert, T-Bob Hebert and me at Big Woodrow's Bar & Grill (311 Chimney Rock Road) for the "Gulf Coast Bank & Trust TIGER TAILGATIN' SHOW" from 3 till 6pm. Jim Hawthorne brings you LSU's official pre-game show after that…and game time is 8pm…on WWL—the BIG 8-70AM and 105.3-FM.
There will be no fancy gadget-type plays, no tricks, and not much unexpected from the Wisconsin Badgers offense. But what you can expect is good ole fashion smash-mouth football!
If history tells us anything about the Wisconsin offense, then get ready to watch UW run, run, run - and then run, run, run some more! In the last decade, or so the Badgers have been an elite rushing team.
Under first year coach Gary Anderson, the Badgers kept up their successful rushing ways in 2013. Wisconsin finished as the 8th best team in the nation when it came to rushing the football.
The Badgers averaged 284 rushing yards per contest with an average of 6.62 yards per rushing attempt. Simply put, if LSU is to get by the Badgers, they will have to at least slow down a potent ground game.
Wisconsin not only runs the football at a high level, they run the football the overwhelming majority of the time. Of the Badgers 912 offensive plays last season, 557 were rushing attempts.
Fans Traveling to Houston Reminded of Bag Policy: BATON ROUGE – LSU's season-opener against Wisconsin will be ... http://t.co/zbTWdw0eRM
The Badgers rushed the football on average of 43 times per game while passing just 27 times per game. Wisconsin has long had one of the most physical offensive lines in college football, and those big beefy road graders can wear down opponents throughout the course of a four quarter game.
Wisconsin has produced a successful combination of big physical run-blocking linemen and equally physical runners that bear down on opposing defenders. The main horse in the Badgers backfield is one Melvin Gordon.
Called one of the top ten players in all of college football, Gordon has gifted balance of size, speed and agility - he is simply beautiful to watch.
During the 2013 CFB season, #25 rushed for a whopping 1,609 yards and 12 TD's. Gordon averaged nearly eight yards (7.8) per rushing attempt. And for those who think that this Badger does not have speed then you're wrong!
25% (50 of his 205 rushes) went for 10 yards or more and seven carries went for 50 yards or more. Melvin Gordon is considered the best returning RB in the Big Ten and arguably the best in the nation going into the 2014 season.
Gordon also has the luxury and help of another proven runner in Corey Clement. Clement was the third string running back last season for Wisconsin. Clement made the most of his time averaging an incredible 8.2 yards per rushing attempt.
Clement had a respectable 67 rushing attempts for 547 yards with seven scores in 2013. When you factor in that the LSU Tigers are breaking in a new QB and LSU's Offense will be a primary run oriented unit, this game between the Tigers and Badgers could be over quickly if both teams run the football like they are each expected to do.
The fourth and final preseason game is this Thursday night in the Superdome, as the Black and Gold host the Baltimore Ravens - it will be the first of two meetings between the Saints and Purple Birds. Baltimore returns to New Orleans for a Monday Night Football primetime event on November 24th. The Ravens are the lone NFL Team that the Saints have not beaten in the Sean Payton era! Before we get to all that, here's a few things I noted about last night's match-up against the Colts.
The Colts ran 27 offensive plays for 132 yards in the first half
The Saints ran 49 offensive plays for 288 yards and scored 20 points in the first half against the Colts
The Saints Offense scored a TD on their first possession for the second straight week
Before their final drive (13 plays 78 yards) of the first half, the Saints Defense held the Colts Offense to 54 yards on 14 plays
The Saints outgained the Colts 288-132 in the first half
New Orleans rushed for 124 yards in the first half/ The Saints Defense limited the Colts to 38 yards rushing in the first half
The Saints have won their first three preseason games in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history
The 3-0 Saints host the 3-0 Ravens Thursday, the only match-up of 3-0 teams the final week of preseason action
New Orleans has scored 80 points - 26.6 points per game
The Saints have allowed 65 points - 21.6 points per game
The Saints offense has 1,130 yards averaging 377 yards per game
The Saints have 11 QB sacks for minus 72 yards
Saints QB's have been sacked 4 times
New Orleans has forced eight turnovers
The Saints are plus 5 in the turnover ratio
New Orleans has been flagged 42 times for 372 yards
The Saints average 14 penalties and 124 yards per game
Drew Brees completed 9-of-15 pass attempts for 128 yards with two TD's and a QB rating of 127.2 in his only action in a preseason game
Saints RB Mark Ingram has carried the ball 21 times for 148 yards averaging 6.8 yards per carry
New Orleans Saints (2-0) vs Indianapolis Colts (0-2)
Saturday August 23rd - 7pm Kickoff - Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis
Last week's Results: New Orleans beat Tennessee 31-24 and New York Giants beat Indianapolis 27-26
Series History: The Saints and Colts have met a total of 12 times and the Saints lead the series 7-5. The last two wins by the Saints in this series included the Saints 31-17 win over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, and the Saints scored 62 points in a 62-7 win over Indianapolis on October 10, 2011.
Noteworthy: The Saints are 2-0 this preseason while Indianapolis is 0-2. New Orleans beat St. Louis 26-24 in week one of the preseason while the NY Jets beat Indy 13-10.
The Big's Chief's 5 things to watch for
1. Will Jairus Byrd get some playing time? I don't think Byrd has anything to prove, as he has looked very sharp at practice. But a few real game snaps would not hurt.
2. Is the Champ (Bailey) ready to take his first game snap with the Saints defense? Sure, he's going to the Hall of Fame one day, but is Champ Bailey the other starting CB for the Saints this season Maybe we can get a better indication of that this weekend.
3. Can the Saints play a more disciplined game this week? After being flagged a whopping 22 times last week the Saints need to play a game with not near as many flags. 32 flags for 288 yards in two games. What else needs to be said?
4. Return(s) to sender! New Orleans wants to cover kicks at a better rate this season. According to Coach Sean Payton, the Saints were "average" last week in covering kickoffs against the Titans. New Orleans has allowed 299 return yards in two games. Opposing teams are averaging 27 yards per return. That's not that good!
5. Ground Luck! No quarterback in the NFL was knocked down more last season than the Colts' signal caller. Andrew Luck is without question one of the best QB's in the league, but he gets knocked around a lot. Will the Saints be able to pressure the talented QB like they have done in their first two games against the Rams and Titans?
Last week, the Saints forced five turnovers and Hokie would like to see the Saints continue that trend. "We know that one of the thing the Saints wanted to work on and improve at this camp was creating turnovers. I want to see if the defense can be as aggressive as they were last week against Tennessee!"
Obviously Hokie also wants to see the Saints play a cleaner game. After the pile of flags against the Titans, Hokie says that playing a more disciplined game will be important as the Saints move closer to the start of the regular season.
Gajan says he wants to continue to see WR Joe Morgan stretch the field and RB Mark Ingram continue to be active. "Joe Morgan has really come on the last two weeks and I think he's separating himself from some of the others in the group. And Mark Ingram has made plays rushing the football and catching the ball. Can both continue to progress?"
Cajun Cannon's take
He is the founding father of the Who Dat Nation, and trust me when I tell you that no-one, and I mean no-one takes notes and watches a practice or game as intensely as my lovely co-host Bobby Hebert.
With the third preseason game being the closest thing to a regular season game, Bobby thinks the Saints' starting players will see the most action this week against the Colts. "Coaches generally have an idea in their head about how many snaps they would like the front line players to get."
Bobby said he would like to see the Saints get off to another good start this week. In their 31-24 win over Tennessee the Saints scored on their first possession, embarking on a 16-play, 80-yard drive that lasted six and a half minutes.
Can the Saints continue to pressure the opposing team's quarterback? New Orleans has recorded eight sacks for minus -53 yards in their first two games. New Orleans equally had four sacks against the Rams and four more last week versus the Titans. "Consistently getting pressure on the other team's QB is crucial to the Saints defense. I really like the pressure we have applied the first two games. And now if we can do it again this week that bodes well going into the regular season," Bobby said.
Bobby also wants to see the Saints force more turnovers. New Orleans enters this weeks game against the Colts +3 in the turnover margin which is tied for first in the league right now. The Saints forced five turnovers last week against Tennessee.
The New Orleans Saints worked on offensive and defensive sets today as if they were facing the Colts. "Anytime you see coaches holding up the cards, that means they are game planning for the other team," said Saints Color Analyst Hokie Gajan. Hokie said the Saints were trying to simulate game like situations today at practice to give the offense and defense some of the looks that they will each face Saturday night against the Indianapolis.
The Saints kind of had a typical final 'practice before a game' on Thursday. "Nothing fancy out there today. It was basically getting prepared for the third and most important pre-season game."
The Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert is looking forward to the Saints preseason test at Indianapolis. "I think the Saints have had a good week of practice. Saints fans should be excited about seeing Drew Brees and Jairus Byrd this weekend."
Bobby noted that the Saints had their front line starters in the defensive backfield. "For the first time this camp we saw CB's Kennan Lewis and Champ Bailey along with safeties Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro. That is one impressive group out there!"
CB Corey White broke up a pass this morning and then caught an interception later in practice. Fellow DB Rafael Bush nearly pulled off a big interception but Bush was unable to get two feet in bounds and was unable to complete the play.
LB Ramon Humber was active today. "Humber broke up a couple of passes and he was in on some stops. I think the coaches like the way Humber gets to the football," Hebert said.
Bobby also kept an eye on the ongoing battle at kicker. K Shayne Graham missed a 49 yard FG attempt while fellow Kicker Derek Dimke nailed his 49 yard attempt.
Card-carrying members of the Who Dat Nation began lining up before 3pm to get a seat, and once the gates opened around 5pm, the stands at Mandeville High School quickly filled up. "I think the fans really get into the practice. They had some good plays to cheer for, and it was a lively night," said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert. The Saints practiced under the lights for about two hours Wednesday at Skipper Stadium, home to the Mandeville High Skippers.
Our resident pros got a birds' eye view above the field in the press box. Both Bobby Hebert and Hokie Gajan were thoroughly impressed with safety Jarius Byrd: "People can see why the Saints brought him in here. Byrd is one of the best in the game at taking the ball away and making plays. He's going to be a difference maker for the Saints this season," Hebert said.
Byrd, who inked with the Saints this off-season has quickly impressed all that has seen him practice. In front of a packed house, the veteran safety picked off two passes for the Saints defense. Saints Color Analyst Hokie Gajan had this to say: "I tell you, he is the real deal. He made an interception tonight that was one of the best catches I've ever seen on either side of the football." Byrd had two interceptions at practice, including a remarkable catch he made when he picked off Drew Brees. Byrd would also pick off Saints back-up QB Luke McCown.
Hokie said that Saints DE Junior Gallette was very active tonight. "Coach Ryan moved Junior around and the results we solid. Gallette got the best of LT Terron Armstead and he did the same against RT Zach Strief. Junior Gallette is having a real good camp, and I think he's going to have another good year," Hokie said.
Hokie said that after having a few quiet days at practice, WR Nick Toon came to life tonight. "I know that we've been kind of wondering where he has been the last few days, and tonight, Toon had a good practice making a few catches."
Give it up for the host school! Hey, y'all know that I have a sweet spot in my heart for high school football. Well, being back at Mandeville High School only makes me get more hyped about the upcoming season. Before we did "Sports Talk" Wednesday, I was able to watch a few minutes of the Mandeville High Football team.
The Skippers have been one of the best football teams in the area the last few seasons, as Coach Guy LeCompte has built a solid program. I think that the staff at MHS, faculty and administration deserve a little love; Mandeville was a gracious host.
I think sometimes we tend to take for granted that everyone has seen the Saints practice or play a game. That is not the case in all situations. As I walked to my car I could hear many people talking excitedly about how they were able to see the Saints in person for the first time in their lives. I know it was a lot of work to have practice away from their facility but going on the road for a practice meant far more than perhaps any of us will ever know to a lot of people. Tonight, the Saints made a lot of people happy.
The New Orleans hit the practice field at 11AM this morning for their third practice of the week. The Saints will continue preparing for this week's game at Indianapolis with a night practice from 7PM to 9PM at Mandeville High School.
Today, the Cannon liked the physical style of safety Jairus Byrd. "He came up on one run play and had a nice thump on RB Mark Ingram. I think that Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro will be two of the more physical safeties in the NFL," Hebert said.
Bobby pointed out several defensive plays that stood out to him. CB Corey White caused a fumble on a handoff, LB David Hawthorne blew up an attempted throwback screen play and rookie CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste made perhaps the best play of his young career
"Baptiste did a real good job on WR Marques Colston. Drew was attempting a back shoulder throw to Colston, and Stanley Jean-Baptiste got to the ball at its highest point and broke up the ball. It was a good coverage." LB's Kyle Knox and Parys Haralson both had sacks today, and on back-to-back plays #56 Ronald Powell and #59 Rufus Johnson recorded sacks during team drills. "I thought the defense looked good today, but the offense did look better at the end of practice."
Bobby said that the longest pass play of practice occurred when QB Ryan Griffin hit #87 Tobias Palmer. Palmer hauled in a 40 yard bomb from Griffin as the WR got by DB Derrius Brooks.
Bobby also pointed out some offensive highlights: WR Seantavius Jones had a nice 15 yard gain on a reverse, RB Mark Ingram had a 10 yard gain during team drills, and WR Joe Morgan made a nice grab over the middle during 7-on-7 drills. And QB Drew Brees hit WR Marques Coslton for a big 20 yard gain on a seam route.
Saints Color Analyst Hokie Gajan noticed the play of Saints WR Joe Morgan. Hokie thinks the speedy wide out is starting to come into his own this camp. "To me, Joe Morgan is starting to separate himself from some of the other wide receivers he's battling. It seems like he's in a good rhythm. I think he's pulling away from some of the other receivers."
Hokie went on to say that although he's been in limited action at practice, safety Jairus Byrd is a playmaker. "He (Byrd) gets around, and when it comes to finishing a play he's going to make a tackle."
Hokie said that the return of Saints LB David Hawthorne makes the linebackers more of a complete group. "Hawthorne is a very consistent player. You know he's going to make a hundred tackles for you in a season, and when he's in there, the Saints LB's play well as a group."
Hokie said that the Saints offense did not have their best day at practice. "I saw too many dropped balls, busted routes and bad throws today from the Saints offense. It's not that the defense looked great - to me it was more of the Saints offense not looking so good." Hokie thought that as today's practiced progressed, the offense did look better, especially in Red Zone work later in practice.
Otherwise, the legendary Archie Manning was at Saints practice today. He is long considered one of the greatest ever to don a Black and Gold uniform! You could see Sean Payton and Archie talking soon after the team was done stretching. And after the practice, Archie, Payton and Saints GM Mickey Loomis were all enjoying a chat.
Reserve TE Travis Beckum had a whale of a day too... he's a long shot at best to make the Saints roster but had back-to-back TD grabs this morning from back-up QB Ryan Griffin
Some say it's too high, others claim it's too low. Regardless of where you stand when it comes to the LSU Tigers opening up as the 13th best team in the first AP Top 25, to me, that's a sign that respect is being shown to the football program in Baton Rouge.
The Tigers open the 2014 season in less than two weeks as the 13th ranked team in the nation and their opponent, the Wisconsin Badgers are right behind the Bayou Bengals at #14.
The Tigers' #13 ranking symbolizes respect for the program. Why? I personally don't think that there are that many programs in the country that can lose the caliber of players that LSU did and still be ranked that close to the top 10. Hear me out before you get mad.
For those of you think that the Tigers should be ranked above #13, let me quickly point out a few facts. First up, LSU lost their most successful single season passer in school history. Zach Mettenberger was a 3,000 yard passer and a two-year starter at the most difficult position in the game. One of the SEC's best rushers in Jeremy Hill is no longer with the team as the 1,000 yard plus runner is now in the NFL with the Bengals. And not one, but yes, two 1,000 yard wide receivers are not in town anymore as Odell Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry are in the big leagues as well.
Toss in that the Tigers defense, though not as good as they have been in the past, still lost four of the team's best tacklers. And when you look at who the Tigers open the season with (Wisconsin) and face road games at tough places like Auburn, Florida and Texas A&M, I think you would have to say that the #13 ranking is one that shows some love to LSU.
Is that love in the form of the talent the Tigers have back on their offensive line? Is that love in the form of the nation's #1 overall recruit being on campus in Leonard Fournette? Or could it be a little love going the way of the grass smoothie-drinking so-called "Mad Hatter" in the made-for-TV coach Les Miles?
Whatever you think, I truly believe that LSU opening the season at #13 shows some respect to a program that has been among the best in the nation's toughest conference for the last several seasons.
And who knows? If the Tigers can get off to a hot start and come out the gate 5-0 before they head to Auburn and Florida in back to back weeks, LSU should find themselves ranked in the top 10, if not the top five by then depending on what happens to the teams ranked above them!
The unpredictable Louisiana weather put a damper on the Who Dat Nation this morning as the originally scheduled practice was altered was forced to their indoor facility on their second day of practicing at Black and Gold Headquarters on Airline Highway.
"I thought it was a pretty good practice," said Saints Color Analyst Hokie Gajan. Hokie said that the Saints defense continued to look good when facing the Saints offense during the Inside Drill. The Inside Drill focuses on rushing the football and stopping the run. "There was not a whole lot of room for the 'backs to run through. I thought the defense did a solid job of stuffing the run."
Hokie said that TE Ben Watson had a nice practice this morning, and RB Travaris Cadet did a nice job of picking up yards after a reception as well. Hokie feels like the Saints are right where they are supposed to be.
"I'd say they are right on schedule as far as installation and putting in their playbook. So far they have been able to work on just about every phase of the game going into the third preseason contest."
Hokie told me he will be interested to see the Saints face the best QB they have seen thus far in the Colts' Andrew Luck. "The defense has done a good job of getting pressure on the quarterback in their first two games. Andrew Luck is one of the best in the game, and getting consistent pressure on the opposing QB is something the Saints have been working on this camp."
The Cajun Cannon was glad to see #9 back in form again today. "Drew connected with several different players today and he looked good." Brees hit WR Robert Meachum for a 50 yard gain and later #9 would hook up with WR Marques Colston for a 20 yard gain.
"Colston beat CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste. To me right now, Baptiste is the weak link in covering for the Saints secondary," Hebert said.
On defense, linemen Glenn Foster and Tyrunn Walker were both active today. Foster caused a fumble and Walker did a nice job of getting in the backfield as he recorded a sack.
Bobby gave kudos to safety Kenny Vaccaro as the second-year man from Texas had a sack this morning. Other highlights that caught the Cajun Cannon's eye included a nice 20 yard sweep run by RB Khiry Robinson, QB Luke McCown hit WR Robert Meachum for a 20 yard gain, and QB Ryan Griffin found RB Travaris Cadet for a nice pick up.
Bobby thinks that young WR Brandon Coleman had his best practice as a Saint today. "He made a great catch this morning and he was in on a few other grabs today too."
Bobby said that it was nice to see the Saints offense run a good screen play with RB Mark Ingram. "The timing was good, the blocking was executed and Ingram had about a 30 yard gain. It was one of the best screen plays the offense has had this camp."
The Saints will get back to work tomorrow morning with a scheduled 11AM practice. The practice goes from 11AM to 1:30PM and is open to the public.
The Black and Gold held their first practice at their Airline Highway facility this afternoon in front of a big crowd of Who Dats. "It's great to see our boys back home," said Dana. Dana and her family, who are from Watson, LA came to see the Saints practice for their first time in Metairie.
Saints QB Drew Brees was back in action today for the first time in over two weeks, much to the delight of the Who Dat Nation. The Saints practiced for about one hour and fifty minutes under overcast skies. "I thought it was a crisp practice. Sometimes after a game, practices can be a little sluggish. That was not the case today and I think the team got in some good work," said Bobby Hebert.
Brees was able to connect with WR Marques Colston, with Colston making a nice one handed grab during 7-on-7 drills. Brees also completed a long 40 yard pass to WR Joe Morgan. The speedy Morgan was able to get by rookie CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste for a big gainer for the offense.
Bobby said that other offense highlights included QB Luke McCown hitting TE Ben Watson in the seam for a 20 yard gain. QB Ryan Griffin connected with WR Charles Hawkins for a 20 yard gain and hit rookie WR Brandin Cooks for a long TD reception.
"That pass from Griffin to Cooks was the same kind of pass that Cooks missed in the Titans game, but Brandin made the catch this time," Hebert said. RB Travaris Cadet wooed the crowd with a nice 15 plus yard gain. "He (Cadet) made a real nice cut and then went up field for a nice run. The fans liked that run a lot."
QB Luke McCown would later hit WR Nick Toon for a nice 10 yard gain during team drills. On the defensive side of the football, Bobby said that Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro had a nice pass breakup today at practice. "Kenny is having a nice camp. He made good break on the ball and kept TE Josh Hill from making a catch. It was a nice play by Vaccaro."
Bobby said that Saints LB Coach Joe Vitt was not real pleased at times today, as he was yelling at LB Ronald Powell to get lined up correctly. The rookie LB failed to line up correctly and the Saints offense made a nice play on Powell's side of the field.
#91 Kasim Edeball had his best practice of camp. The former Boston College player made back to back impact plays for the Saints defense. "He (Edeball) scooped up a fumble and would have scored. And then he came right back on the next play and sacked QB Ryan Griffin. Edeball had his best practice as a pro player out there today."
The Who Dat Nation got good news - safety Jairus Byrd is expected to practice with the team for the first time tomorrow. "I think we have all been wanting to see how Jairus and Kenny will look back there in the Saints secondary. New Orleans could have two of the best safeties in the game this season."
The Saints also announced some schedule changes to this week's practices. The Saints will practice from 11am to 1:30pm on Monday August 18, Tuesday August 19 and Thursday August 21 at their facility on Airline Highway. Those practices had been originally scheduled to be from 8:50 to 11:40 but the team made changes.
The Saints will have a special night practice on Wednesday August 20th from 7 to 9pm under the lights at Mandeville High School.
They say in life you get what you pay for. When it comes to Saints coach Sean Payton, the numbers say the Saints are definitely getting their money's worth!
At the end of the day, there are all sorts of stats to look at, but the most important stat is wins and losses. I combined the last four season's records from the top coaches in the league. Sean Payton leads the pack on many fronts. Payton is 48-16 in his last four seasons coached, he has led the Saints to the playoffs in each, he has won a Super Bowl during that same time span.
Now there are a few things I must point out. First, the last four seasons that Sean Payton coached were 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013, having served a suspension during the 2012 NFL season.
Going into the 2014 season, Payton is tied with Green Bay's Mike McCarthy as the third-longest tenured coach in the NFL. Payton enters his 9th season as head coach of the Black and Gold this year. Only New England's Bill Belichick (2000) and New York Giants Coach Tom Coughlin (2004) have coached their current teams longer.
When it comes the best overall record in last four seasons coached, that title goes to Belichick. Bill has amassed 51 wins and just 13 losses combined in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 regular seasons. While 51 wins is tops, Belichick has not won a Super Bowl in one of his last four seasons coached. New England lost to the New York Giants in SB XLVI.
Second on the list of most wins in last four seasons coached? Payton. Payton is also one of only three NFL Coaches that has led his team to the playoffs in each of the last four seasons coached. The Patriots Bill Belichick, and Green Bay's Mike McCarthy are the others.
San Francisco Head Coach Jim Harbaugh and Denver Broncos head man John Fox have led their clubs to the post season in each of the last three seasons. Both have been at their respected jobs for just three years.
Coaches that have won a Super Bowl in one of their last four seasons coached include Payton (2009) Green Bay's Mike McCarthy (2010), New York Giants' Tom Coughlin (2011), and John Harbaugh won the title in 2012 as head coach of the Ravens. And last season the Seattle Seahawks beat Denver to capture the title with Pete Carroll leading the Hawks to their first ever title.
Below are the records of head coaches that have won a Super Bowl in one of last four seasons coached. Sean Payton leads the pack with 48 wins.
Sean Payton 48-16 - won Super Bowl XLIV (2009) Mike McCarthy 44-19-1 won Super Bowl XLV (2010) John Harbaugh 42-22 won Super Bowl XLVII (2012) Tom Coughlin 35-29 won Super Bowl XLVI (2011) Pete Carroll 38-26 won Super Bowl XLVIII (2013)
Other notable coaches - Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin and Atlanta's Mike Smith both have 40 total wins in their last four seasons, but neither has won a Super Bowl in that span. And San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh has racked up 36 wins in just three seasons with three straight trips to the NFC Title Game and one Super Bowl appearance. Denver's John Fox is an impressive 34-14 with three straight post seasons.
Anyway you slice it, Sean Payton has been in elite company for quite some time, and oddsmakers are saying that the Saints will once again be among the elite teams in 2014.
The Saints are 2-0 with two preseason games to go. So here is what I classify as the Good, Bad and Ugly in the Saints 31-24 win over the Tennessee Titans.
Ugly: Penalties! Way too many flags, AGAIN! Two were completely unnecessary (from TE Jimmy Graham) and one could argue that the NFL Refs have gotten caught up in looking for too much in pre-season games. But after two games with 32 flags and 288 yards in penalties to their credit, the New Orleans Saints are a sloppy and undisciplined team right now and that's coming from their head coach. "It was painful to watch," said Sean Payton. I fully expect a much cleaner game from the Black and Gold next Saturday against the Colts. After a week of practice where Sean Payton reminds his team of how undisciplined they have been in two preseason games, the Saints have to do better.
Bad: Saints kickoff coverage - Last season the Saints were not a good team when it came to covering kickoffs (26th in the NFL). After two pre-season games, poor kick coverage is a problem that still very much exists. St. Louis averaged 27 yards per kick return in week one while the Titans got 28 yards each time their fielded a kickoff. New Orleans kickoff team has defended 11 kicks allowed a total of 299 yards for an average of 27.2 yards per return. That's too much!
Good: There were several things that I thought were good in the Saints 31-24 win over the Titans. First I'll say that anytime you can force five turnovers that is good, damn good! I thought that the Saints defense once again got after the opposing team's QB at a consistent rate. For the second week, the Saints recorded four sacks. Through two games the Saints have eight sacks for -53 yards. That's real good. And the QB's were very good. Ryan Griffin is 29-of-42 for 358 yards and 3 TD's in two games. And veteran QB Luke McCown was 12-of-20 for 117 yards with 2 TD's and had a rating of 109.8 in the Saints win over Tennessee. The battle to see who backs-up Drew Brees continues. Pass protection has been very good through two preseason games. Keep in mind that two of the best offensive guards in the game today (Jahri Evans & Ben Grubbs) have not played one snap. LT Terron Armstead, LG S Kelemete, C Jonathan Goodwin/C Tim Lelito RG Marcel Jones and RT Zach Strief have given up one sack in 82 pass attempts. To me, that's pretty good!
Quote of the night: Payton said "Obviously, that was painful to watch. I can't recall ever a game with that many penalties. And here is the thing; most of the ones I saw were good calls, so this isn't about a crew calling a lot of penalties, this is about something I have to do a better job with. We will find ourselves at the short end of a game and then wonder about our offseason goals and what happened and we won't know exactly what happened and you'll hear about... in a preseason game, 22 penalties, I've lost track. I have to do a better job in that area and it will start at practice on Sunday."
New Orleans Saints vs Tennessee Titans
Friday August 15th 7pm Kickoff Mercedes Benz Superdome
Series History: New Orleans has played Houston/Tennessee more times than any other team in the preseason, where the Saints have faced the Oilers/Titans a total of 29 times. The series is deadlocked at 14-14-1. These two have also played 13 times in the regular season, with the Titans up 7-5-1 in the series.
Noteworthy: This is the Saints second pre-season game. New Orleans will play in primetime next Saturday night against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium
The Cajun Cannon: The Cannon is watching to see if one of the back-up QB's can take the upper hand. "So far both Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin have had some good showings. Griffin looked better against the Rams. Now I'm looking forward to see who will perform better this week against the Titans," Hebert said.
Bobby is also keeping an eye on the kickers. In what Hebert calls a good training camp battle, Shayne Graham and Derek Dimke have both been inconsistent. "I really think this will go down to the wire. Last week Graham missed an extra point but came back and made two long (48 & 55 yard) field goals. Dimke has put himself in a position to stick around with pretty good kicking during camp. I don't think the Saints will settle on a kicker until the last preseason game has been played."
Bobby also want's to see if DB's Corey White, Patrick Robinson and Marcus Ball can all continue to build on the impressive camps they have had thus far.
Hokie Gajan's Take: Saints Color Analyst Hokie Gajan will keep a close eye on the progression of the Saints RB's. "Last week Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson looked good. I thought overall as a team, the Saints rushed the ball well, but now can they do that on a consistent basis in the preseason?"
Hokie wants to see if the Saints O-Line can build off of last week's effort against the Rams. "When you play without two of your best linemen (Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs) and still rush the ball well, and don't give up a sack, that's pretty good," Hokie said. The Saints O-Line paved the way for 123 rushing yards for an average of 5.1 yards per rushing attempt in a 26-24 win over the Rams last week.
The Big Chief: I think there were a lot of positives you could take away from the Rams game last week. I would like to see the Saints cover better on kickoffs; they allowed five kickoff returns for 134 yards. St. Louis averaged 23.3 yards per return. New Orleans averaged 18 yards on two kickoff returns against St. Louis.
Go marching right in! On their first offensive possession last week in St. Louis, the Saints offense was on fire. Mark Ingram had three carries for 30 yards and the Saints gained 5 yards on their first play, then 7, then 3, then 19 and Ingram rushed for another 6 yards on the fifth play of the opening drive. Then disaster happened. RB Travaris Cadet was tackled behind the line of scrimmage for -7 yards followed by QB Luke McCown being picked off by Rams DE Chris Long. Getting points on the opening drives of games has been a staple in the Sean Payton era.
I believe you play how you practice. Sure there are great ones that can turn it on when the big lights are up, but how you practice is how you play, in my book. RB Mark Ingram has had a good camp, and last week #22 started off with those three carries for 30 yards on the first drive, and then would tack on 53 more yards on five carries giving him a total of 83 yards on eight carriers for 10.4 yards per rush. That's impressive even in the preseason.
He's always got something cooking so don't stop looking! Rookie WR Brandin Cooks has been all that and then some at camp. And last week with his speedy 25 yard TD grab, Cooks served notice that his playmaking skills are something special. Cooks can be a difference maker, game changer and back breaker for other teams for New Orleans this season. And yes, I do think he's going to be that good!
For the last 21 days, the New Orleans Saints have been preparing for the 2014 NFL season at the Greenbrier in West Virginia, and today the Black and Gold held their final practice at the Advocare Facility.
"This was the third straight practice that the Saints went live against each other," said a spirited Cajun Cannon. The Saints offense squared off against the Black and Gold defense in 10 plays on the goal line.
The Saints defense crushed the offense. "For sure the defense won eight of the 10 plays. But I think the defense won nine times," Bobby said. The defense had four tackles for a loss on the 10 plays. RB Khiry Robinson did score on a two yard run, and RB Travaris Cadet got close to the goal line, but there was a dispute between the offense and defense if Cadet broke the plane.
"The defense has done well the last few practices. They were jacked up out there today and you could hear them talking to the offense." Bobby also gave safety Kenny Vaccaro high marks today, as the second year star was very active this morning. Vaccaro broke up a pass on TE Jimmy Graham and also picked up a sack.
DE Cam Jordan recorded a sack this morning too, as did LB Khiry Fort. LB Rufus Johnson had a nice tackle for a loss on RB Pierre Thomas and DB Rafael Bush intercepted a tip pass off fellow defender Ramon Humber.
Offensive highlights included another big showing from rookie WR Brandin Cooks. Cooks hauled in a 50 yard strike from QB Luke McCown and the prized rookie had a 40 yard TD reception from QB Logan Kilgore.
Bobby said the kicking battle could go down to the wire as both kickers have been inconsistent this camp. Veteran Shayne Graham missed a 40 yard attempt this morning but then made two at 48 and 55 yards. Derek Dimke made his 40 yard attempt but then missed the two longer attempts. Bobby says "I think this battle is wide open and it could go down to the last preseason game to see who will be the Saints kicker this season."
The Saints got a lot of work done in West Virginia, and Hebert thinks the Saints may be at the Greenbrier for quite a while. "I think that the Saints may practice up here long term. I know it's currently a three year deal, but the weather was great and the facilities are nice. I could see training camp being up here for a while."
The team will return home tomorrow and take on the Tennessee Titans friday night at 7pm in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Be sure and listen to the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert give a full breakdown of the Saints final practice in West Virginia today on Sports Talk.
As training camp at the Advocare Facility in West Virginia comes to an end, the New Orleans Saints practiced this morning for a little less than two hours. "Today was the hottest it has been," said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert.
The Saints practiced on the lower field, which is a turf surface. After a walk-though, the Saints went live for an eight-play drill with the offense going against the defense.
"Coach Payton wanted to see how the team responded after having a flat practice on Monday," Bobby said. The Saints defense set the tone with two good plays on the first snaps, but the offense closed out the drill with several good gains.
"I would say of the eight plays, the defense won four times and the offense won four." DB Corey White made a nice play, batting a pass down. QB Luke McCown was trying to hit WR Joe Morgan but White came in and batted the ball away.
"Corey White is having a very good camp. He has been consistent and done well the last two weeks at practice," Hebert said. After the eight live plays the Saints then worked on team offense against team defense.
QB Luke McCown hit TE Jimmy Graham for about a 15 yard gain. McCown would then hit rookie WR Brandin Cooks for a 20 yard gain later in the team drill. Bobby's notes also had QB Ryan Griffin connecting with WR Nick Toon for a TD, beating out rookie DB Stanley Jean Baptiste for a score.
Hebert said that Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro broke up a pass on TE Jimmy Graham, and WR Joe Morgan was active at this mornings practice with a couple of nice grabs to his credit.
The Saints defense also picked up some sacks today: "This was the most sacks the defense had in one practice - I counted seven take downs by the defense," Bobby said. LB Parys Haralson had a sack on QB Luke McCown, and DE Cam Jordan took down McCown while DB Corey White recorded a sack coming off a blitz. DB Marcus Ball and DL Brandon Deaderick both had sacks this morning.
Overall, the Cajun Cannon was pleased with what he saw today from the Black and Gold. "It was a much more lively practice and more crisp than on Monday." The play of the day came when fourth team QB Logan Kilgore hit WR Seantavious Jones on a long 55 yard TD.
Get a complete breakdown of today's practice from the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert on Sports Talk at 4pm!
In three weeks the 2014 CFB season will be underway. Every week I'll give you my top ten teams in the nation--NFL Top 10 and SEC Top 10. As a preview - here's how I rank SEC teams going into the season.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide - The Tide have to find a QB, but that's about all they have to do. Ala-BAMA is loaded on both sides of the football. Three play-making WR's are back, three big time RB's are in the backfield and the Bama defense has a lot of future NFL top flight draft picks who are about to rise up the draft boards. Alabama is still the cream of the crop in the SEC.
2. Auburn Tigers - QB Nick Marshall is back; the Tigers are set on offense; and I expect the Auburn to be a little better on defense. Could the SEC Title and national spot in the four team playoff be settled in late November in the Iron Bowl? YES!
3. South Carolina Gamecocks - Remember when the rest of the SEC hated the "ole ball coach" when he dominated everyone down in Gainesville? How things have changed. If the Gamecocks get to ATL and take on Alabama, I suspect a lot, if not the overwhelming majority, will become fans of SC. In what looks to be a hard to predict Eastern Division, the Gamecocks have to be the favorite, don't they?
4. LSU Tigers - You could argue that Georgia or Ole Miss should be here, but I'll go with the team that has the better O-line. A win over Wisconsin should give LSU a 5-0 start and a top 8 ranking, before they hit the road to face Auburn and Florida in back to back weeks in early October. Old school fans will love to watch this team; the Tigers will run, run, run with a good stable of RB's. New school young pups will call it boring. Les Miles calls it winning! Don't be madder at the Hatter!
5. Georgia Bulldogs - With RB's Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall back, the Dogs will be okay. UGA has a brutal start to their schedule, facing Clemson and South Carolina in the first few weeks. Win those two, and the barking dogs between the hedges will be heard around the country. People who know CFB feel me. Those who don't are completely lost right now!
6. Florida Gators - Will Muschamp's seat is as hot as the sandy beaches in sunny South, Florida. How can a man know so much about defense and know so little about offense. I mean, if he knows how to stop one…can't he find someone to run his? The Gators will be among the nation's elite defensive teams again, but can they score 20 points per game on offense? If they do, look out!
7. Ole Miss Rebels - With QB Bo Wallace back and the SEC's best young WR Laquon Treadwell, these Rebels could be special. And if the boys from Oxford could somehow be 4-0, when Alabama comes to town…the brown water, bow ties and beauties will be on full display that day in the Grove. Man, I'd love to be there if that happens. Who knows, maybe I'll win the lottery and show up! Hotty Toddy, baby!
8. Missouri Tigers - QB Matty Mauck could be the league's best QB by season's end. Remember, Mauck was forced into the limelight last season and did a damn good job, when James Franklin went down. After what Missouri and Coach Gary Pinkel accomplished last year, nothing would shock me. Well…maybe!
9. Mississippi State Bulldogs - Okay, Dan Mullen changed the jerseys to read "hail state." MSU has been to four straight bowl games, but is this the season MSU does something special? This program is in dire need of a marquee win. What better way to get it than on the road in late September against LSU? QB Dak Prescott is real good and the Bulldogs defense has a chance to be a lot better.
10. Texas A&M Aggies - No more Johnny, but the Aggies cupboard is not bare. A&M will find some players to make plays. And their defense can't be as bad. Coach Kevin Sumlin has proven in past seasons he's one of the best offensive strategists in the game today. Don't be surprised, if the Aggies do alright.
11. Tennessee Volunteers - Coach Butch Jones served notice last season that the Vols are on the rise. Now Jones is suddenly stockpiling the recruits. If you are looking for some SEC stock to buy at a good price, buy some UT stock. I did!
12. Vanderbilt Commodores - New Coach Derek Mason inherits a Vandy program that has been quite impressive lately. The Doors need a good start. 4-1 after the first five games would be super, 3-2 is ideal. I think Vanderbilt can get back to a bowl again.
13. Arkansas Razorbacks - Coach Brett Bielema is a winner and he's not used to losing. Well, he didn't lose at Wisconsin. Arkansas has a good core of RB's in Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, but is that enough to get the Hogs to a bowl? Say what you want about former Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino, but he did raise expectations for the Hogs program. Now Bielama has to bring them back up!
14. Kentucky Wildcats - Coach Mark Stoops and the Cats from Lexington took it on the chin just about every week last season. To say Kentucky is going to be better this year is easy, simply because they don't have too far to climb. Stoops brought in some JUCO talent to try and help him build things up. My take - outside of four, maybe five wins is asking an awful lot of UK.
Way too many penalties! 10 for 104 yards. Coach Sean Payton said that his team has a lot of work to do, and one thing is cleaning up the penalties, right atop of the list.
Saints ran the ball well! As a team, the Black and Gold rushed for 123 yards on 24 carries with an average of 5.1 yards per carry. The Saints rushed the ball for 30 yards on their first three plays of the game. That was when the ones are on ones.
Mark Ingram did well, and so did K-Rob! Ingram came out the gate fast, rushing for 30 yards on his first three carries. Ingram then added 53 more yards on five more carries for a total of 83 yards on 8 carries. That is an average of 10.4 yards per carry. Khiry Robinson had 23 yards on five carries for an average of 4.6 yards per rush.
Round one goes to Ryan, not Luke. While Drew Brees is healing up, the battle to see who will be #9's back up continues. Round one would have to go to Ryan Griffin. McCown got the start, but an interception gave the upper hand to Griffin. Griffin completed 16-of-23 passes for 179 yards, one TD and Griffin finished the game with a QB rating of 107. McCown was 7-of-10 for 49 yards one interception with a rating of 41.2.
Don't get caught not looking, because he's already cooking! Rookie WR Brandin Cooks gave the Who Dat Nation a glimpse of what is to come, hauling in a pass from Ryan Griffin - he took it to the house on a 25 yard scamper. Cooks has it all folks. I'll just sit back and let him do his thing!
O-Line gets kudos! Even without OGs Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans, two of the best in the game, the Saints O-Line, I thought did a pretty good job. Averaging over five yards per carry is getting it done folks. And the Rams, who have a great front seven and good depth along their D-Line did not get any sacks against the Saints.
The Cajun Cannon's overall take: "You always want to get off to a fast start. The Rams starters played almost the entire first quarter, and I thought the Saints did well against the Rams front line players." Bobby was pleased with the play of the Saints O-Line, he said that TE Josh Hill is a player that Coach Sean Payton likes and Bobby was ok with the play of both QB's in the Saints 26-24 win over the Rams.
"I know that Shayne Graham has to make those PAT's. Yes I know it's a longer extra point but you can't miss those kicks." Graham missed a PAT in the second quarter of the Saints 26-24 win over the Rams. In the first two nights of the first full week of the preseason kickers are a combined 23-of-25 on longer PAT's. The NFL is placing the ball down at the 15 yard line for longer PAT tries the first two weeks of the 2014 preseason.
Okay, since I keep up with the Black & Gold on daily, I'm recusing myself from naming who I consider primetime players for the Saints. I just don't know that I could narrow my list down to a reasonable number of guys. But, after talking to sports analysts who cover the Falcons, Panthers and Bucs, and by using YouTube for highlights, I compiled a list of the best of the best in the dirty, dirty NFC South. Here goes:
Down in the Sunshine State where the Buccaneers play, I think Tampa is loaded with defensive superstars and solid offensive weapons. DL Gerald McCoy is the real deal. McCoy had 9 1/2 sacks for Tampa's defense last season and his new coach, Lovie Smith, says his star DL is the leader of the Bucs D. Tampa Bay LB Lavonte David is on the rise as an elite player in the NFL. In 2013 David recorded 145 tackles, 7 sacks and 5 interceptions. The deadly combo of McCoy and David could be the best DL/LB duo in the league. S Mark Baron is also a rising star. As the former Crimson Tide standout enters his 3rd season in the NFL, Baron will benefit greatly from having Dashon Goldson play alongside him.
On offense Tampa Bay has playmakers in WR Vincent Jackson and RB Doug Martin. But one player who can come in and make an instant impact, is rookie WR Mike Evans. The Bucs combination of Evans and fellow rookie TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be the best WR/TE tandem in the making. Jackson requires a lot of attention and I expect QB Josh McCown to hook up with these talented rookies early and often. Evans has a 6-5 physique, which will prove to be a difficult match-up. And, Jenkins is a hard to defend 6-5 height too. Look out for these two!
Atlanta captured the #1 seed in 2010 and again in 2012, but last season the Dirty Birds looked…well…down-right dirty. Atlanta needs to get better on the O-line and they did so by drafting A&M's OL Jake Mathews. I think the WRs Roddy White and Julio Jones are too good for this team not to be able to move the ball. RB Stephen Jackson may have some gas left in the tank, but rookie RB Devonta Freeman has been thrust into the starting spot due to Jackson's hamstring injury. The Falcons got pretty good results from the 2013 draft investment in early round draft picks CBs Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. Both had their moments and should be better this season. But, if you're looking for an impact rookie on the defensive side of the ball in the South, look no further than big Rashede Hageman. The 6-6 300 plus pounder is a beast. Hageman could very well be mentioned as an NFL defensive rookie of the year performer by the end of the season. I saw him play twice when he destroyed the Nebraska O-line and he stood out in Big Ten play.
BIG CATS from Charlotte, NC
Call me what you want, but if I had Carolina Panthers stock, I'd try like hell to unload it before the season begins. QB Cam Newton was not able to work with a brand new set of WRs this off season; the RBs are a year older; and the main question--can the Carolina defense carry the load again in a division that has gotten better offensively. Without question the best players on this roster are on the defensive side of the football. DE's Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson anchor down both sides of the field, while tackling machine LB Luke Kuechly is one of the best in the game today. The addition of DE Kony Ealy helps stack an already deadly defense. If Carolina is going to be in the hunt in the NFC South, they will need an MVP like effort from Newton. Like I said, I'll stand up and say I'm wrong, if I'm proven wrong. But to me, if you have stock in these Cats you'd be wise to sell, sell, sell!
New Orleans Saints vs St. Louis Rams
Friday August 8, 2014 Edwards Jones Dome in St. Louis
Series history: The Saints have only played two other teams more (Atlanta 87 times) and San Francisco (73) than they have taken on the Rams. The Rams lead the all-time series 40-31 including last season's 27-16 win over New Orleans
Last time: December 13, 2013 the Rams beat the Saints 27-16 at the Edwards Jones Dome in St. Louis. Sean Payton has posted a 16-13 overall record in pre-season games as head coach of the New Orleans Saints.
Noteworthy: The Saints posted a 3-1 mark in the 2013 pre-season with three straight wins over Kansas City, Oakland and Houston. The Black and Gold fell 24-21 to Miami in the final preseason game a year ago.
What to watch: How many starters will play and for how long? It's the first pre-season game so history tells us that the starting players won't see much action in this contest. Other than a series or two I would not expect much from the stars of Black and Gold. However that gives the possible stars of the future to give us all a good look-see.
RB battle: RBs Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas are more complete backs than the rest of the group of RBs right now, but Khiry Robinson and Travaris Cadet have both got explosive first steps, and these RBs get the hard yards. Robinson looks to be a player that can earn more touches this season by having a good pre-season showing. And Cadet can be used in a variety of ways on offense and special teams. Derrick Strozier and Timothy Flanders should both see some action in the Rams game too.
WR separation: Coslton, Cooks, Stills - these guys are safe, but what about the rest of the group? Is Robert Meachum in the plans, Nick Toon, or could someone like Seantavius Jones, Charles Hawkins, Andy Tanner or Brandon Coleman get a roster spot? Regardless of who's playing QB, the WRs will be looking to take advantage of every ball thrown their way.
Can I kick it? Shayne Graham is a proven veteran and youngster Derek Dimke has been impressive this pre-season. Both have rarely missed field goals during practice and the roster spot could come down to who kicks the best in the Saints four pre-season games.
Stepping up in the secondary: So far during training camp players like Corey White, Patrick Robinson, and Marcus Ball have taken turns in making plays during practice and for the "Black and Gold Scrimmage." But can anyone solidify themselves as a lock to make the roster? This has been P-Rob's best camp by far, Ball has stepped up his play and Corey White has a string of four pretty good practices going for him. It will be interesting to see if one or all of these guys can continue to step up!
Hokie Gajan, Bobby Hebert and Jim Henderson gave me a few things that they will be keeping an eye on in the Saints first pre-season game when they battle the Rams friday night in St. Louis.
Hokie thinks that back-up QB Luke McCown has had a better camp than Ryan Griffin. "I know some people see it the other way around, but my opinion McCown looks better. I want to see how both of them look under the lights Friday night."
Gajan said he wants to see Saints LT Terron Armstead go up against one of the premier pass rushers in the league in DE Robert Quinn. "Quinn is one of the best in the business. Armstead would do well to hold his own against a guy like Quinn."
Hokie is also keeping an eye on rookie WR Brandin Cooks, and wants to see if WR Nick Toon can be as good in a game as he has at training camp.
Being a former QB, Bobby is of course keeping a sharp eye on the QB battle. The Cajun Cannon sees this as a tighter-than-usual battle between these two signal callers. "I do think that the back-up to Drew Brees will be decided in the next four weeks. Luke is a veteran that has seen just about everything, and Ryan Griffin has progressed and the Saints obviously like some of his qualities."
Hebert wants to see most how the front line players on the Saints offense and defense do against the St. Louis Rams starters. "We know that in the first pre-season game, the starters don't play long. But what matters most is how the starters look while they are in the game. You don't want to go out there and look bad."
Bobby also says that the Saints RBs give them plenty of options as far as rushing the football and making plays catching the ball out of the backfield. "The check down the QBs do from time to time have netted some good yards at practice. Khiry Robinson, Travaris Cadet and Derrick Strozier can all make plays out of the backfield."
Jim Henderson is looking to see what young players can make their mark on special teams. "With the majority of the staring spots already locked up, the remaining spots will go to guys who can make an impact on special teams."
Jim also is interested to see how the Saints QBs perform against the Rams. "Both McCown and Griffin have had their moments during camp, and the winner of this battle will be decided in the four pre-season games."
On the defensive side of the football, Jim has liked what he has seen out of the DBs. "Corey White has flashed. He's impressed me with his play at practice. I want to see if he can continue to play well in a real game. CB Patrick Robinson could be fighting for a starting spot with his outstanding play during camp."
I think you might want to look and see how the Saints first team defense does against the run. Rams RB Zac Stacey gashed New Orleans to the tune of 133 yards and a TD in the Rams 27-16 win over New Orleans last season.
The New Orleans Saints wrapped up this week's practice with a two-hour session at the Advocare Facility at the Greenbrier in West Virginia. New Orleans will travel to St. Louis tomorrow to prepare for their first pre-season game.
Saints Color Analyst Hokie Gajan observed practice from the stands again today. "I thought it was a pretty good practice overall," Gajan said. Hokie has been impressed with the progress of Saints RB Travaris Cadet: "He's (Cadet) more than capable of replacing Darren Sproles. Cadet understands the protections and he knows what to do out there." Hokie thinks Cadet will have a very good season for the Saints.
Hokie also pointed out that QB's Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin did not have great days. "I thought the QB play was just OK... but I will say that when the Saints began to work on two-minute offense that both Griffin and McCown got better in that period." Gajan thinks that Luke McCown is clearly the Saints back-up QB right now and that Griffin will be the third string QB.
The Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert was impressed with the play of DB's Patrick Robinson, Corey White and rookie Stanley Jean-Baptiste. "P-Rob has had his best camp as a Saints player. Now I want to see if he can continue to play well in the game against the Rams."
Bobby said that Jean-Baptiste is starting to get a better grasp of what the coaches are asking him to do. "He's had a very good last few practices. He made a nice play against TE Jimmy Graham yesterday and today he broke up passes on back to back plays. He's making good strides out there."
Bobby was excited to see RB Khiry Robinson during two-minute drills. On one drive the speedy RB slipped past the Saints LB's and QB Luke McCown hit him with Robinson turning on the speed for a nice gain.
He's adjusted his method somewhat over the years, but his dedication to preparing as hard as possible for each broadcast has never wavered. Jim Henderson will begin his 36th season Friday night when the Saints play at the St. Louis Rams.
"Things have changed some over the years. The information that can be gathered all the way up to kickoff is much more extensive than it was before the internet and social media. Being able to use those tools certainly does help."
I spoke with Jim earlier in the week and asked him to take me through game week and how he prepares to call a game for the New Orleans Saints Radio Network. Jim said that this time of year (training camp) allows him to build a knowledge bank of information that he uses throughout the entire season.
"Training camp is the most access we have with the players and as much practice as we (media) will be able to watch. So some of the things that I see the players do now I use to get more familiar with the players and I use the information throughout the season."
Jim uses each day of the week to prepare different elements; for example, I spoke with Jim on Tuesday of this week and by that time he had all of his flip charts filled out and he was rounding out his depth charts for the broadcast.
Flip charts are used to place the starting line-ups on offense, defense and special teams and Jim uses them during each game. In the final days leading up to his first broadcast of the season, Jim will talk to Steve Savard, the voice of the Rams, and he will comb websites and read various newspapers and magazines that focus on St. Louis.
"I've found that talking to other play-by-play people and members of opposing radio networks has helped greatly. Like myself, many of the people I talk to watch practice and they can give you a take that only someone that has seen practice in person can give."
Jim said that he starts out broadly investigating opposing teams and then narrows his search. Jim has learned that the more information he gathers, the more he knows, and the more he's prepared for a game broadcast.
Henderson said that once all the hay is in the barn and he's gotten all of the information he needs to set up an outline for his broadcast, he then works on his opening monologue. Jim Henderson's monologue has become trademarked, as has his crystal-clear voice and dialect that so many in the business envy.
Jim said his 90 second monologue is completed by Thursdays at noon for a Sunday game. "I try and start with the big story about the game. Depending on who the Saints are playing and what's going on, sometimes the big story is about the opposing team, or a player on the opposing team."
Just like the NFL players, it's also pre-season for the Jim. How is that different? "Certainly you want every broadcast to be your best. But it's preseason for the broadcast team too. There are things that we will learn and iron out before the season begins."
Some of the goals that Jim sets for himself each week include having a set deadline on when he expects to have his flip charts and depth charts completed, his notes from attending weekly press conferences, stats on both teams, his opening monologue and more. And Jim memorizes the skilled players for each offense, the entire starting defense, and all the defensive backs that play in nickel and dime passing situations.
So there is a brief inside look at how the Voice of the Saints plans each of his broadcasts. Jim hits the air opening yet another season of Saints football Friday night at 6:45PM right here on Saints Radio.
"With the 252nd pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints select Marques Colston, Wide Receiver, Hofstra!"
"Who is that?" "I never heard of him before!" Those are just some of the things that we all said (be truthful, now!) when the Saints picked what has turned out to be the best wide receiver in franchise history.
As he enters his 9th season in a Black and Gold uniform, the all-time receiving and TD leader in Saints history is looking smoother than ever. "I try and take care of my body and make sure I'm doing all that I can to be as prepared as possible," #12 said. I was able to spend a few minutes with Marques last week before the Saints "Black and Gold Scrimmage."
The man who was just three picks shy of being "Mr. Irrelavant" has been the complete opposite since he exploded onto the scene in the summer of 2006. With the average career life span of just under three years for players in the NFL, Marques Colston has defied the odds, nearing a double-digit playing career.
Colston begins 2014 as the Saints' all-time leader in receiving yards (8,337) receptions (607) and touchdowns (63). Since the 2006 season, only Larry Fitzgerald (69) and Calvin Johnson (66) have hauled in more pay dirt grabs than Colston. You don't need to Google him to know that he's in elite company!
Now, as the wise man of the wide receivers, Colston is not only still making plays for the Saints offense, he's also helping mold a group of young players at his position. "I think we just come out here every day. I think we have the ultimate professional leader in our group in Drew Brees, and as long as you follow his lead, you are going to be pretty good."
With five more touchdown receptions from QB Drew Brees, Colston and Brees will move into 4th all-time in league history in TD connections between a QB and WR. He has never made a pro-bowl, but he has as much history on his side as any other player that has.
His 168 grabs in his first two seasons in '06 and '07 are the most ever in NFL history by a player in their first two years. I can remember interviewing Marques at Harper Davis Field on the Millsaps campus at his first NFL training camp, and even then, you could tell that Colston was a player with all the skills and smarts to make it.
To me, the reason why Colston is as successful as he has become is due to his constant professionalism and he dedication to hard work. No one gave Colston a shot when he was nearly the last pick in the Draft. He was not supposed to make a NFL Team. And most definitely was not expected to last eight full seasons. But Marques Colston has exceeded all of those so called "could nots" and "would nots!"
Colston is one of three starters on the Saints roster that was drafted in 2006. OL Jahri Evans and Zach Strief were selected ahead of Marques. And now, all three are key veteran contributors on a Saints team that is expected to be one of the elite teams in the NFL. What Colston has taught us is that the expected and predicted don't always shake out as planned.
Nobody expected or predicted that Colston would do what he has, and odds say that what Colston has done may never be duplicated again. And he is the most humble player I've ever talked to, someone that deep down inside you want to pull for, want to do well, make the team and have success.
Marques Colston will go down as the greatest Draft Day steal in Saints history, and one of the greatest late-round picks in the history of the game. A man that was drafted from a college that no longer has a football program is off and running towards what is going to be his 9th year in the NFL.
Marques Colston is a good man, one of a kind teammate and great football player. Marques Colston is smooth as ever!
The most basic play in all of football is the center-to-quarterback exchange. But in the last couple of practices, the Saints have had some issues with the move.
"Once is too many times. But when you see it more than once, then it's a problem that has to be fixed, quickly!" said Saints Color Analyst Hokie Gajan. Hokie said that he thought the Saints offense had a sloppy day on the practice field this morning at the Advocare Facility.
CB Stanley Jean Baptiste made a nice play on TE Jimmy Graham. "That's the best play he's (Baptiste) has made this camp. He leaped in the air and a made a nice play on the ball."
Gajan was impressed with the play of rookie LB Marcus Thompson and thinks he does some things really well on the field. "He's kind of a mix between an OLB and DE. Thompson has good leverage, good movement with his feet, and he uses his hands well."
After having a very good practice on Monday, Saints QB Ryan Griffin had his poorest day of camp, according to the Cajun Cannon. "Ryan did not look as sharp today as he did in the scrimmage and at practice yesterday. This game against the Rams is going to be interesting, as it looks like Ryan and Luke (McCown) will get most of the snaps. I thought in the inside drill the Saints defense won hands down," Hebert said. DL Broderick Bunkley, Aikem Hicks and Cam Jordan all did well against the run. Other than a nice seven yard run by Saints RB Mark Ingram early in the drill, the Saints defense stuffed the run at practice today.
Bobby gave kudos to fellow defenders LB Kyle Knox and DL Glenn Foster. "I've called Knox's name a lot more in the past few practices, and he's one of those players that is just taking advantage of his opportunity when he's on the field."
Bobby said that Saints WR Robert Meachum also made a nice grab this morning in team drills.
Player of the day has to be Saints DB Corey White. White has strung a few good practices together and today #24 made back-to-back interceptions. "I think the light has finally clicked on for Corey White," Gajan said. "It looks like everything is coming together for him. And the last couple of practices are encouraging."
The Cajun Cannon was also pleased with White. "He seems to be making more plays when he's in there at safety."
Be sure to get a complete breakdown of today's practice from our resident pros Hokie and Bobby today beginning at 4PM on Sports Talk!
The Saints have their first pre-season game this week, as they hit the road to take on the St. Louis Rams. The third-oldest rival shows up on the exhibition schedule with a very familiar face on the opposite sidelines.
Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is now in charge of a Rams defense that is already pretty good.Regardless of where you stand with William - and I know his last game with the Black and Gold is one we all have trouble putting behind us (36-33 divsonal loss to 49ers) - Williams was good for the Saints. He molded the Saints defense into a big play unit that forced 39 turnovers and was a huge reason why New Orleans won Super Bowl XLIV. So Coach Williams, thank you for your service, if I ever failed to thank you before!
Hokie and the Hall of Fame
This past weekend, seven players were inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. OL Walter Jones, LB Derrick Brooks, P Ray Guy, WR Andre Reed, DL Claude Humphrey, DL Michael Strahan and DB Aeneas Williams were all enshrined.
Did you know that our very own Hokie Gajan scouted both Michael Strahan and Aeneas Williams when they were in college? "I can remember seeing Michael when he was at Texas Southern. You could tell he was a good player," Gajan said. Hokie began to scout for the Saints back in 1987 when he learned what to do under longtime scout Hamp Cook. Hokie recalled watching Strahan practice at TSU and the team had to run gassers (going across one end of the field to the other) and Strahan was the first down the field every time. Hokie also told me how he remembered scouting Aeneas Williams.
"A lot of teams were a little concerned about a player that had only played man to man in college. I felt like Aeneas could play in any scheme, anywhere." Williams played at Southern University in Baton Rouge and then had a stellar career in the NFL for the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams. For those of you who don't know yet, Hokie knows football. A lot of football I'd say!
Get your brush on!
Parents, you most certainly don't need me to tell your kids how to take care of themselves. But in case you do, brush your teeth young people. Man, when you get a toothache, it is the most painful thing to deal with. And when it comes to being sick and having aches and pains, let's just say I'm in dat number on more than two occasions.
I woke up Sunday morning feeling good getting ready to do the show with K-Dog, and then I felt a light throb in the back of my mouth on the right side. I took a few Tylenol and thought nothing of it.
Then just a few hours later my tooth started kicking my you-know-what. Now it's a full blown abscessed tooth. My people, this pain is about as bad as it gets. Cal (My father) got some meds from my wonderful pharmacist (Gerald Ahhdeena Giardina) and put them in an overnight package to me. So the lesson here to all of you out there is that if you take care of your teeth, you would not have to have your father overnight you toothache medicine while you're at training camp.
I hope all of you are doing well back home. Won't be long now! Til tomorrow, Who Dat!
Today the Saints practiced in the afternoon, so I sent one of our resident pros on assignment while the other one co-hosted "Sports Talk" with me. While Hokie and I broadcasted from Slammin Sammy Snead's Club House, Bobby Hebert watched practice and took notes. Here is what the Cajun Cannon saw.
"I thought it was a real good practice! Sometimes after a scrimmage and a day off, you tend to see a less crisp practice, but today I thought the Saints put in some good work." Bobby said that he thinks that back-up QB's Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin have taken advantage of the extra snaps they've been getting. QB Drew Brees did not practice today and Bobby thinks that the back-ups will get the majority of the snaps this Friday night when the Saints play at St. Louis against the Rams.
Griffin made some nice plays at practice today. "I think Ryan has been accurate more times than not. He made a real nice throw today to WR Joe Morgan. He (Griffin) looks poised out there." Morgan got by CB Patrick Robinson, and Griffin made a great throw. Griffin also hit TE Ben Watson for a 22 yard TD during Red Zone team drills.
In special teams action, kicker Derek Dimke finally missed a field goal. After being perfect this training camp, Dimke missed a 39 yard field goal. "I've only seen three misses during the entire camp. That was the first kick that Dimke missed." By comparison, Shayne Graham made field goals from 39, 44, 51 and 54 yards at practice today. "He (Graham) was in a zone. That was impressive kicking by the veteran kicker today," Hebert said.
Other highlights from today's practice included a 12 yard run by RB Mark Ingram and CB Corey White picking off QB Ryan Griffin. White was playing safety at the time he intercepted Griffin's pass. LB Rufus Johnson picked up a sack today on Griffin during team drills.
The Saints hit the field again tomorrow with a morning practice.
Second year offensive tackle Terron Armstead is on his way up. Like the Jeffersons' theme song "Movin' on Up," Armstead is going to get his piece of the pie, and I'll go out on a strong limb and say he's after a big piece of pie!
The 6'5" 304-pound former Pine-Bluff Golden Lion could become the best young offensive lineman in the game this season. "It's definitely night and day; coming in last year, I had to work on my three-point stance. That's day one as an offensive lineman. Just being able to work the small fine-tune things and technique, it's been able to help me out a whole lot," Armstead said.
Armstead has quickly gained attention because of his play at the end of last season. The Saints offense's increased ability to run the football in their last three games upped his status.
Armstead can follow the footsteps of former Saints LT Jermon Bushrod, now with the Bears. Bushrod was inserted in the line-up in the summer of 2009 and became a Pro-Bowler and I expect Armstead to do the same.
He's on an O-Line that paves the way for one of the best offensive units in the game, and he's solely responsible for protecting Drew Brees' blind side. But what's most important is that there has not been one play, one one-on-one drill that I've witnessed that Terron has not won once he's gotten his hands on the opposing defensive linemen. Armstead gets his grip on the defender and then stones him. Once big #72 has his hands in place it's over!
Armstead looks to me as athletic of a left tackle in the game today. "Yeah, I try to use it in certain plays," Terron said of his athleticism. "Offensive line is so much technique and universal technique, so I try to get those things down. Whenever I can implement my speed and agility, I try to."
After learning the ropes for most of last season, Armstead was thrust in the spotlight the final two regular season games. Things did not get off to a great start in the first half of the Saints game at Carolina last season, but then Armstead begin to look more comfortable. The third round pick would go on to have three very good outings in the final games of the season.
Armstead looks the part, and he's walked the walk so far. His teammates rave about what he has done and what he can become. And his quiet, humble demeanor and great attitude are a recipie for a long successful NFL career.
There are few players in the game on the offensive line that are truly dominant players on a consistent basis. I'm not ready to claim that Terron Armstead is one of those players ,but I will say that I think he's close. This terror on the left side is one impressive dude. And if I was picking who I wanted on my team, he'd be on my list!
LSU is armed with the nation's best player, one of the best recruiting classes in school history, and the "Mad Hatter" is entering his 10th season as head coach. Tigers fans have plenty to be fired up about as LSU hits the practice field tonight.
A week ago, LSU was pegged as the nation's 13th best team in the pre-season Coaches Poll. In my opinion, that was a bit of a surprise considering the Tigers lost the overwhelming majority of their offensive production.
With a record year in offensive numbers chalked up to QB Zach Mettenberger, RB Jeremy Hill and WR's Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr, first year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron made more than a splash in his first season in Baton Rouge.
Cameron will have his work cut out for him, as all of the aforementioned players are now in the NFL. But the Tigers have a massive offensive line back, three good RB's in the rotation, and a load of incoming freshmen players that can make an impact.
RB's Kenny Hillard and Terrance Magee are back, but the buzz is all about freshman star Leonard Fournette. Fournette has been the nation's most sought-after recruit sine he exploded onto the high school scene four years ago as a freshman at St. Augustine High in New Orleans.
The luxury the Tigers do have on offensive lies in a veteran offensive line, two solid returning RB's in Magee and Hillard, and talent in all other places. Over the next month, Cameron will try and find his starting QB and then mold more talent around the Tigers' new signal caller.
Defensively, LSU should be better this season. The Tigers finished last year as the 7th best defense in the SEC in total defense, allowing 25 points per game. LB DJ Welter is the Tigers' leading returning tackler. In 2013 Welter was second on the team in tackles with 61 stops.
One thing the Tigers will look to improve on is turnovers forced. Under defensive coordinator John "Chief" Chavis, the Tigers have done a great job of forcing turnovers. In 2013, LSU forced 12 takeaways, but finished the season even in the turnover margin department.
And then there is the Tigers schedule. A huge opening game against Wisconsin has all LSU fans fired up with another bowl-like atmosphere expected in Houston on August 30.
Should the Tigers get by the Badgers, LSU could very well be 5-0 when they hit the road for two weeks to take on Auburn and Florida in back-to-back games away from home.
Getting off to a good start will be key for LSU. But settling in on a starting QB before they travel to Auburn and Gainesville may be even more important.
Sean Payton said that he held QB Drew Brees out of today's "Black and Gold Scrimmage" due to a strained left oblique. Payton said he just wanted to get Brees some rest, and he would reevaluate his status on Monday when the Saints return to the practice field.
With Drew not participating in the scrimmage, back-up QB Ryan Griffin and Luke McCown got the majority of the reps with the Saints first and second team offensive units.
McCown would guide the first team offense down the field for a score, RB Mark Ingram scored on a three yard run, then Griffin came in to guide the second team offense down the field for a score.
"He looks fast when he's standing still." Voice of the Saints Jim Henderson on rookie WR Brandin Cooks. #SaintsCamp#NFL
Bobby gave good marks to DE Juinior Gallette and DL Tyrunn Walker. Both had QB sacks in the scrimmage. "They both made plays. Junior is having a very good camp and Walker has been very consistent rushing the football this camp.
Hebert is not overly concerned about Brees not participating in the scrimmage. "I'm sure no one wanted to play more than Drew. By him not playing, it gave extra snaps to Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin. That's important since one of those two will be the back-up to Drew this season."
DB Marcus Ball has had a good camp and he caused the game's only turnover. Ball picked off a pass from QB Luke McCown and made a nice return deep on the other end of the field before Ball was tackled by Mark Ingram. Ball would later have a sack.
Bobby thought RB's Travarius Cadet and Khiry Robinson had some good runs. "They are both explosive, and when they get the ball they hit the hole wide open."
Hokie was very impressed with WR Brandin Cooks. "Brandin Cooks is as advertised. He comes out here and makes plays everyday. He's that good." Cooks made two nice grabs on the Saints offense second possession, and then shook CB Rod Sweeting and cut up field for a big gain. Cooks also did well on special teams.
Hokie was also impressed with LB Rufus Johnson and Kyle Knox. Both Johnson and Knox stood out making plays on defense in run defense situations. "It's always good to see the guys that not many know that much about stand out and make plays. In the Sean Payton era, a lot of players have just been able to hang around and make plays and eventually make the team."
"I actually like this scrimmage better this year than I've seen in year's past. I think the Saints got the work done that they wanted to. All in all, I was pleased with the scrimmage," Hokie said.
Here's what the Big Chief thinks:
WR Brandin Cooks was the "Black and Gold Scrimmage" offensive MVP
DB Marcus Ball gets the defensive MVP with an interception and a sack
DE Junior Gallette got by LT Terron Armstead a couple of times. One led to a sack and the other time that #93 beat Armstead would have been real close to getting a sack.
Don't dunk no mo! Saints TE Jimmy Graham hauled in a pass and then did his trademark dunk after a TD catch. With the new rules in the NFL, Graham will no longer be able to dunk the ball through the goal post without picking up a 15 yard penalty. And yes, after Graham did his dunk today he was flagged and the fans did not like it!
Our resident pros and I have come up with some things to keep an eye on in the Saints annual "Black and Gold Scrimmage." Since I'm doing all the typing, I'll shoot my list of things to ya first.
Can WR Nick Toon keep it up? Nick Toon has had as good of a camp (and off season) as any player on the Saints team. Toon makes plays every day at practice, but can he up the ante in the closest game-like situation the Saints will have prior to their first preseason game?
Would the real P-Rob please stand up! After being drafted by the Saints in 2009, former first rounder Patrick Robinson is looking more and more like the first round pick he once was instead of the inconsistent player he has been. P-Rob has had more plays on the football than any other DB, and if he continues at this rate, he will make it hard on Rob Ryan to not make him a starting CB. So if this is the real P-Rob, welcome. If not, then the Saints make look elsewhere and save two million by not keeping him.
Run for it, stop in the name of the run! The Saints run game has looked good more times than not at training camp. The run defense has looked, well, not so good. I do think the Saints are going to be one of the better rushing teams in the league this season, but how much better will the run defense be? The rush defense improved from 32 to 19 from 2012 to 2013. Now can another step be taken in the right direction Perhaps it's a little premature to judge the run defense at this point. After all big John Jenkins has not seen the field yet. And in my opinion, he makes a difference!
Back that QB up! Is there a real battle going on to see who will back up #9? Coach Payton says so. Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin are in the mix. Right now I think McCown has had the better camp of the two, but the Saints have shown commitment to Griffin, and they must like some of the things he brings to the table.
Stuck in the middle! Tim Lelito and veteran Jonathan "Goody" Goodwin are fighting to see who will be the Saints staring center this season. Both will be on the team, and we know that Goody is all good and Lelito looks to be the future. But that does not mean Sean Payton is just going to turn things over to him. After all, those are some precious hands underneath those fellows!
What will the Cajun Cannon be watching?
Bobby Hebert says that the "Black and Gold Scrimmage" will present the players with game-like situations. "The competition gets more heated when there is a scrimmage. Players get a little more intense because scrimmages are meant to simulate a real game."
Bobby wants to see how wide receiver Brandin Cooks does Saturday. "He's been putting on a clinic out there each day at practice. If he does what he's been doing, the fans will be very pleased with what they see in Brandin Cooks."
Bobby also is looking forward to seeing if WR Nick Toon can keep up his impressive play, and if any of the younger Saints WR's can separate themselves from the rest of the pack by standing out in the scrimmage.
"I want to see if the defense can stop the run two days in a row. Yesterday the Saints defense looked the best they have against the run. Now I want to see if they can do it again."
Hokie's take is the most important in my very own opinion. Hokie's been a player, a scout and now a color analyst. He has broken down more film, seen more players and watched more workouts of players than anyone else out here.
"I always look for what the players do with the refs calling the game. Adding the officials to the scrimmage makes things more real. How clean, crisp and disciplined players look will be more important with the refs calling the game."
Hokie said he's keeping an eye on the running back position during the scrimmage. "Khiry Robinson, Travaris Cadet, Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas have all looked good. I want to see how Cadet and Robinson do."
Hokie thinks that Cadet and Robinson are solid runners. But can they each be complete RB's like Pierre Thomas? Hokie will also be looking to see if either center Tim Lelito or Jonathan Goodwin can get ahead of one another.
The New Orleans Saints worked for over two hours and twenty minutes today during their fifth padded practice. The overcast skies and breeze made things seem like a fall Louisiana day up here in West Virginia. Our resident pros, Hokie and Bobby gave me their notes on how they saw today's practice.
For the last several days we've talked about how the Saints offense has the upper hand on the defense when it comes to running the football. But at Friday's practice, the Cajun Cannon was inspired by what he saw out of the D: "The defense won that battle today. I thought 75-80% of the time in running drills, the defense looked better than the offense. Now I want to see if the defense can do it again tomorrow in the scrimmage!"
The best run play by the offense saw RB Travaris Cadet make a nice cutback. "Cadet had good vision and did a nice job of picking up good yardage." Bobby said that WR Brandin Cooks again stood out as he hauled in a 40 yard grab in one-on-one action.
In special teams work, kicker Shayne Graham was 2-of-3, missing a 48 yarder. "That was the first miss by either kicker thus far during camp," Bobby noted. K Derek Dimke was 3-for-3 this morning. Dimke's longest kick was also for 48 yards.
WR Andy Tanner stood out this morning. "Tanner had a great practice today. In Red Zone seven-on-seven work he had a 20 yard TD grab from QB Luke McCown," Hebert said.
Brees had two fumbled snaps with Jonathan Goodwin at center. Bobby said he's never seen a miscomunication between Brees and his center like this morning.
Hokie thought the Saints offense looked a little off today. "I thought they looked sloppy at times. There were a couple of bad exchanges between Brees and Goodwin, and there were some dropped balls out there. The offense did not look as sharp as they have."
Hokie also pointed out a few skirmishes that took place this morning. One that caught his eye took place between DL Tyrunn Walker and OT Zach Strief. "They kind of got into it. They were both swinging at each other, and you don't typically see that between veteran players."
Hokie agreed that WR Andy Tanner had a good day and he liked the way the Saints run defense looked during the inside drill. Gajan wants to see how the Saints offense will respond in tomorrow's "Black and Gold Scrimmage" after having their poorest day of training camp so far.
The Saints will scrimmage in the morning at the Advocare Facility at the Greenbrier and our coverage of practice begins at 7:00am sharp.
Hokie and Bobby will open up their entire notebooks this afternoon as they breakdown practice on Sports Talk, plus hear from Sean Payton, DB Pierre Warren, RB Mark Ingram and LB Parys Haralson and C Jonathan Goodwin.