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Deke Bellavia

Join Deke and the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert for live, local talk about the Saints, LSU, Pelicans and much more on "Sports Talk!" 

Weekdays 4-8pm

Twitter: @dekebigchief
Email: bigchief@wwl.com


Deke: 2009 was the gold standard for Saints turnovers

From Gary Gibbs, Gregg Williams, Steve Spagnuolo, Rob Ryan and now Dennis Allen, the five coaches that have been in charge of a Saints defense have all had a common theme - try to create turnovers.

We all know that seasons in which titles are won are hard to duplicate without a title to compare to. And when it comes to Saints history, the 2009 season was historic on many fronts, including forced turnovers and a whopping plus +13 in the turnover department. That year the Saints again had one of the most dangerous offensive units in the league, and New Orleans had a big play defense that produced seven touchdowns.

During the 2015 season, the Saints ability to create turnovers was not nearly as bad as the way the defense played overall. New Orleans forced 22 turnovers with nine coming by way of interception and another 13 in forced fumbles. The Saints finished on the plus side in the turnover ratio for just the third time in the last seven seasons.

To give you an idea of how special the 2009 season was, the best the Saints have finished in the turnover ratio since that special year is plus +2. In 2009 the Saints were an amazing +11.

The takeaways fall on the defense and special teams, but the overall turnover ratio is a team stat. Meaning that the number of turnovers created can be amplified by the limited amount the offense turnovers over the football. And the offense's ability to protect the football is crucial!

In 2009 the Saints had a record of 39 forced takeaways and being plus +11 is real good, but the Saints also turned the ball over 28 times! And I can tell you that one of the many things that the 2009 team did well was create turnovers at practice. From the first day of OTAs when then new Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams was here, the Saints defense created and cashed in on turnovers.

The Saints only forced 19 takeaways in 2013, but the offense also did a pretty good job securing the football with only 19 turnovers to finish 2013 even.

What I am saying to you just like in any phase of work, you just can't show up and expect things to happen without working on something and preparing properly.

I believe that all Saints teams have worked on creating turnovers and prepared as best as they could. But the 2009 team did it from the first day, and causing turnovers was something that without question help lead the Saints to their first Super Bowl win.

Below is a look back at the last seven seasons and how the Saints fared in the turnover department. I have listed the interceptions and fumbles caused first followed by the total number of turnovers created. The last two numbers are how the Saints finished in the turnover ratio and where the Black and Gold ranked in the league in the overall turnover ratio.

2015
9 Interceptions / Fumbles 13 = 22 total (+2) 15th

2014
12 Interceptions / Fumbles 5 = 17 total (-13) 31st

2013
12 Interceptions / Fumbles 7 = 19 total (0) 15th

2012
15 Interceptions / Fumbles 11 = 26 total (+2) 15th

2010
9 Interceptions / Fumbles 16 = 25 total (-6) 22nd

2011
9 Interceptions / Fumbles 7 = 16 total (-3) 20th

2009
26 Interceptions / Fumbles 13 = 39 total (+11) 3rd
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Big Chief's Super 6 College Football Poll

Football season is never over. As I look back at my notes from last season, thumb through several pre-season publications and surf the net, I've come up with what I think are the best six teams to start the season. So here's what I think as the final month of the year without football arrives!

1. Alabama Crimson Tide - OK they lost a lot, but don't they always? You know this is the safest bet over the last 8 years when it comes to predicting who will be on top when it is all said and done. History has consistently proven that the boys from T-town will be among the nation's elite. A first week showdown with another possible top 10 team in the USC Trojans will only make the Tide better as the season progresses.

2. Oklahoma Sooners - The Sooners made one solid run last season but were unable to make their way to the final game. With signal caller Baker Mayfield back under center and a schedule that sets up favorably on the back end, we could very well see the Sooners back in the Final Four. However, the first five games that feature the season opener against Houston, Ohio State, TCU and Texas make the early stretch the most difficult.

3. LSU Tigers - Yes, I know they have to get better play at QB. But when you look at their 18 starters returning, a much deeper defense, solid skill players and of course the freight train that dons jersey #7, LSU looks pretty dam salty. Of course this is before the first snap of the season. But the schedule has Ole Miss and Alabama in Tiger Stadium, and a first week test against Wisconsin will greatly benefit LSU in the long run.

4. Ohio State Buckeyes - Like the Crimson Tide, the Buckeyes did lose some star power. But remember elite football teams have excellent programs in place and Ohio State is up there with the best of them. And I don't know about you, but to me CFB is so much better when the Buckeyes and the Wolverines are relevant. Save the date September 17 as the Buckeyes go to Norman to battle the Sooners. And the last two weeks feature the Michigans, and rival UM will make or break Urban Meyer's shot at a second national title in Columbus.

5. Stanford Cardinal - The most consistent program from the far West finished up strong last season, and they welcome back the nation's most versatile player in Christian McCaffrey; makes the Cardinal as much of a contender as any team West of the SEC. Weeks two through six are vital to the success of the season with monster games against USC, at UCLA, at Washington, home against Washington State and then a long trip to battle rival Notre Dame. Win all of those and then we will see this team in the four team playoff!

6. Clemson Tigers - The Tigers bring back QB Deshaun Watson and he has two of America's most skilled players to aid him in WR Mike Williams and RB Wayne Gallman. Toss in fellow WR Artavis Scott and the Tigers should not miss a beat on offense. But what seemingly most of the nation does not understand is that the Tigers defensive play the last few seasons has seen them rise to an elite level. Losing several key figures to the NFL will hurt. But if the Tigers find themselves in a few high scoring affairs they will run with the best of them and come out on top!
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Deke: Deuce McAllister will make all of us better!

Ah Deuce McAllister, where do I start? Better yet, how can I stop - talking about the explosive plays Deuce made, how his presence on the field made the Black & Gold a much better team, or his record-setting accomplishment as the all-time leading rusher in Saints history. Everything he does speaks volumes – not only about the player, but the man.

They say first impressions are everlasting, the impact of my first real up-close experience with #26 is one I'll never forget nor underestimate. One of my first shows on WWL took place at a car dealership on the North Shore. Deuce was a guest player, who came out to sign autographs.

READ MORE: Deuce McAllister joins WWL team

Immediately I was impressed with Deuce's kindness and friendly attitude. He was so approachable, genuinely on a mission to make sure everyone in attendance - fans and workers – all felt special...all had personal contact...they all got autographs. His compassion, thoughtfulness, his character speaks volumes. But what took place later that day was amazing.

The show ended at 4pm. All fans had left the dealership and all of us, the WWL broadcast crew, were getting in our cars set to go home. Deuce was driving a Hummer at the time. As Deuce pulled out, a car full of kids pulled into the dealership parking lot.

Deuce had left and was heading towards the Causeway to drive back to New Orleans. A lady waived me down and asked if Deuce was there. I sadly had to tell her that the show was over and Deuce had just left.
Obvious disappointment was on the lady's face; the kids in the car were crushed; they came to get Deuce's autograph. I got back in my car and began to pull out to head home. In the left corner of my eye I could see a hummer coming back towards the dealership.

Deuce must've seen the car pull in as he left. Deuce turned around on the highway and came back to the dealership, then he sat there and visited with each kid and gave everyone a signed autograph.

PHOTO GALLERY: Deuce McAllister joins WWL team

To me that was incredible. Deuce McAllister is a celebrated NFL player, a Saints fan favorite, someone who will go down in as one of the best to ever wear the Black & Gold. He's a respected leader in the community, someone that many would love to be. But what I know from that experience, Deuce McAllister is someone all of us should try and be like.

Like the man he takes over for (Hokie Gajan) Deuce McAllister is a person, who makes the world a better place. Greatness is something Deuce has achieved in all phases of his life. And I know Deuce will become a great broadcaster.

Deuce McAllister will quickly become one of the best color analysts in all of pro sports. And his legendary status and level of respect he's earned over the years will only get stronger.
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Deke: Defense came up big, got the edge at Saints mini camp

It has been the theme for quite some time, but the end results haven't been what the team wants. Turnovers, and being able to force them, are something the New Orleans Saints have made a strong emphasis on the last few off seasons, and today, the Saints had their best glimmer of hope, as the Black and Gold Defense swarmed to the ball at day two of mini-camp.

"Of the five practices I've seen so far, today was the best by the defense. I thought the defense came up big in team drills and they had the edge at today's practice," said Bobby Hebert.

Linebackers Nate Stupar and Dillon Lee both came up with interceptions, with Stupar picking off Saints QB Drew Brees on the last play of

Several defenders turned the head of the Cajun Cannon. Bobby liked the play of CB PJ Williams, DL Bobby Richardson and LB Davis Tull in particular; Tull had two sacks today. Bobby was also impressed by rookie DL David Onyemata. "He got into the backfield and nearly took the handoff himself - that was a nice play by the rookie!"

In the first team session, veteran LB James Laurinaitis would have recorded a sack against Drew Brees. And Safety Kenny Vaccaro made a nice play on the ball, causing a pass break up with the first team defense.

Roll Tide Roll! During another portion of team drills at today's practice, any Alabama fan would have been all smiles. On back to back plays, former Crimson Tide defenders D.J. Pettway and Dillon Lee came up big like they were back in Bryant Deny Stadium in T-Town. Pettway sacked QB Garrett Grayson, and then the very next play, Dillon Lee picked off a pass off of a tipped ball.

During the last team drill, the Saints put the emphasis on first down situations. "To me, the defense won every phase every phase of today's practice. The defense did well in the first team session, then looked good in the short yardage work and then they closed out the practice hard," observed Bobby.

The offense did not go without making some plays. Drew Brees hit WR Brandon Coleman and connected with Willie Snead and RB Mark Ingram for big gainers in the latter part of practice.

RB Daniel Lasco hauled in a pass and turned on the jets for a nice pick up, and WR #14 R.J. Harris hauled in a nice long catch on the far side of the field.

Up next for the Saints is their final day of mini camp. Keep it right here on WWL.com for the latest on the Black and Gold.
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Bobby: Saints very competitive at practice today

The New Orleans Saints began their three day mini-camp today with a two hour and twenty minute practice that started on the outdoor fields, but heavy rain forced the team inside of the indoor facility.

The Saints worked on several phases of their game and ended ther practice with end-of-game situations. Saints Coach Sean Payton called out several scenarios that he wanted to see how his defense responded. "We're up by six and there is three seconds left. You know what that means? Endzone! They're going to throw to the endzone."

PHOTO GALLERY: Saints Mini camp Day One

Bobby Hebert said that he thought today was very competitive and he thinks that the offense and defense kind of played to a draw. "The last OTA the offense had the upper hand. But today I think things were even."

His notes were somewhat damp due to heavy rains, but that did not keep the Cajun Cannon from breaking down today's practice. "I thought today was about even, comparing offense to defense. I think both the offense and defense had their moments but I'd say it was even."

QB Drew Brees connected with TE Josh Hill for a big gain. "Hill got open up field on a nice seam route and Drew placed the ball right on the money." Brees also had a nice toss to veteran WR Vincent Brown for a nice over the middle catch. And Brees would later throw a TD pass to rookie Wide Receiver Michael Thomas. Saints Running Back Mark Ingram made a nice over the shoulder grab and Brees would hook up with fellow RB Tim Hightower on a few connections.

Over on the defensive side of the football the Saints got big play from LB Craig Robertson. "He has made some plays for the defense so far. He's good in coverage and he does a nice job of being in the right place at the right time." Bobby also gave kudos to veteran LB James Laurinaitis as the backer made a nice pass break-up in red zone work.

Defensive Back P.J. Williams had a shot at two picks today but could come up with nothing. Williams hauled in an interception early in practice but could not stay in bounds. And later Williams dropped a interception. "We have had several chances at OTA's and now at the first day of mini-camp to make an intercetpion... those missed chances could be the difference in a win or a loss!"

Other notes - who's in #12? No, Marques Colston has not returned, but Veteran WR Robert Meachem was on the field on a tryout basis according to Sean Payton and Meachem wore jersey #12. And Veteran Safety Jairus Byrd was riding the bike on the side of the field.

The Saints get back to work tomorrow with an 11AM practice for day two of mini-camp.
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Bobby: Three things to watch for at Saints mini-camp this week

OK, we get it! There are no full gear practices, there isn't supposed to be any contact, and for some, mini-camp is just not what is used to be. With that said, it's the biggest event of each team's off season. The Saints' three-day mini-camp is this week at the club's facility on Airline Drive.

So who needs to put some pep in their step? Who needs to tighten up? Can anyone really stand out in such a short amount of time?

I called on our Resident Pro Bobby Hebert to give his take - here are the Cajun One's top three things to look for.

1. Practicing in Front of the Who Dat Nation – Playing in front of fans does make a difference. "Look I know it's only a couple of thousand people, but no player wants to look bad. How the players look with other eyes watching add some excitement to each practice?" said Hebert. The Who Dat Nation loves to see good play, and having the fans at each of the three practices does give things more of a on-the-line feel.

2. Who Gets in the Zone Bobby wants to see which unit comes out on top when the Saints work on Red Zone offense and defense. "The Saints had one of the worst Red Zone defensive units in the league last season, and we know how consistent the Saints offense has been. Confidence can be gained at each practice, and neither the offense nor the defense likes to come up on the losing end of the Red Zone battles.

3. To Be or not to Be – Accurate! Bobby says he wants to see accuracy from all three of the Saints quarterbacks, from the top of the depth chart to third string. "We know Drew Brees is a Hall of Fame QB, but we still want to see all of the quarterbacks throw the ball with accuracy." Bobby also said he wants to see the progress of second year player Garrett Grayson, who he thinks should be better this season. "A year ago, it was a lot of things thrown at Grayson in a hurry. Now he's had a year to learn the system and get comfortable with what Coach Payton wants him to do. I want to see if Grayson is closer to pushing Luke McCown for the #2 QB spot."

Chief concerns? For me it's simple - is the Saints defense better. And when I say better, I mean better right now. Folks let's face it - if the Saints defense is not even at the very least a little bit better right now then we're in trouble.

I think we began to see strides of improvement from the Saints defense the final three weeks of the 2015 regular season. I don't think we need to see the '85 Bears this week, but signs of improvement can be in the form of lining up correctly, how well the team looks in down and distance situations, and most importantly - does the defense finally have the turnover-creating style that the Who Dat Nation has been promised for... oh, let's say, about half a dozen years now?

I'd keep an eye on the wide receivers to get a feel about who could shake out as the main guy this season. TE Ben Watson and WR Willie Snead were the top guys in 2015, so with Watson gone does that automatically mean that TE Coby Fleener is filling that void? Will Brandin Cooks up his numbers this season? Will Brandon Coleman do better? And which newcomer at the position can be this year's surprise?

And of course can the Saints 'buffalo' their way to better production from two former Bills - Byrd and Spiller, that's all I have to say. Can the Saints get SOME bang for their BIG bucks out of these two? I'm not giving up on either. But the sands through the hour glass are getting smaller and smaller!

So there you go Who Dats - a few things for you to look for in the Saints three day mini-camp. And for complete coverage and the latest on the Black and Gold stay logged on to WWL.com!
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Deke: Harper's impact with Saints could be much bigger this time

He brings a lot to the table - the entire body of work he has complied in 10 NFL seasons. Once a second round draft pick from the University of Alabama, Saints safety Roman Harper is back in Black and Gold. And this time, his impact stands to be even bigger than we he joined the club as a rookie in 2006.

"Roman brings a calming effect... he's had a lot of success in this league for a long time." Those words came from Saints Coach Sean Payton when hre was asked about some of the things that Roman brings to the team.

When you chart all of the success that he has had as an NFL player, one would think that any player, young or old, would gain some knowledge of the game on and off the field from a guy like Roman Harper.

Since being drafted back in 2006, Roman Harper has been to the NFL Playoffs seven times, was a part of five NFC Titles (3 New Orleans / 2 Carolina), was on a team that played in three NFC Championships, won two NFC Titles, and played in two Super Bowls with one title to his credit when he was with the Saints back in 2010.

Harper quickly made an impact during his rookie season in 2006 before going down with a season-ending injury in the first quarter of that season. But according to Payton, the Saints are counting far more on Roman's play this season.

"It was really about finding a fit. We feel like Roman will be able to do a lot of things on defense, and he can contribute on special teams," said Payton, giving some examples of what we can expect to see from Harper this season. "He's a guy that can be closer to the football and he will be in a lot of three safety packages."

Without question the Saints bringing back Roman Harper is a feel good story. And one question Bobby and I have been asked a few times is how many good plays does Roman have left in him?

The Prattville, Alabama native had some good numbers in the two seasons he spent in Carolina with the Panthers. Along with winning back to back NFC South Division Titles, Roman complied 135 tackles, he defended 15 passes and picked off four passes.

To say that Roman has something left to help aid a poor Saints defense would be correct. Let me put it to you this way, I ask you - would Roman's play have helped the Saints the last two seasons had he been in New Orleans instead of Carolina? I rest my case.

I'm not saying that the aging veteran is going to have an All-Pro type season. But what I do know is that only good can come from having Roman back in the Saints locker room. And I think Harper will help the Saints defense on the field as well.
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Deke: Roman Harper brings "calming effect" to final Saints OTA

The New Orleans Saints held their final OTA of the off-season at their facility on Airline Drive today and the main buzz around this morning's practice was the return of veteran safety Roman Harper.

"It was really about finding a fit," Saints Coach Sean Payton said when asked why the club decided to bring back Harper. "He brings a calming effect, and he's someone that has had a lot of success in this league."

Roman came up with a nice play today as the veteran defensive back batted down a pass from QB Drew Breess on a third down and ten situation.

The Saints worked on Red Zone offense as well as two-minute offensive sets. The Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert says that the Ohio State products stood out. "S Vonn Bell and WR Michael Thomas both made plays. Bell intercepted a pass from Garret Grayson, and Thomas hauled in a nice back shoulder grab for a touchdown - you can see the confidence Brees is gaining in throwing the ball to his new wide receiver," Hebert observed. Bell's interception was the only one the media has seen in the three OTAs we could watch.

Offensive highlights included Brees to Snead for a 15 yard TD, and then Brees hit RB C.J. Spiller for a 10 yard TD. Back-up QB Luke McCown hit TE Josh Hill for a six yard TD and then hit WR R.J. Harris for a 12 yard gain; he then connected with WR Vincent Brown for a 20 yard gain.

Linebacker Craig Robertson was very active at today's practice; he knocked down two passes from McCown. "Robertson did a nice job this morning. He batted down passes during two-minute drills and during Red Zone work. I think he has a good chance to make the team. He's been active and he's good in pass coverage," Bobby said.

Veteran cornerback Keenan Lewis was back on the field today.

The Saints will now have their biggest off season activity next week with their annual Mini-Camp. The Saints will host mini-camp Tuesday through Thursday next week. For the latest on the Saints stay logged on to WWL.com!
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Mainieri: Tigers will have to play their best this weekend

The LSU Tigers are now just two wins away from advancing to the 2016 College World Series. LSU punched their ticket to this weekend's Super Regional play and now LSU will host Coastal Carolina.

"Whew!" said a relived Paul Mainieri when asked his take on the Tigers 5-2 title clinching win over Rice. Coach said he was impressed with the play of veteran leader Kramer Robertson: "It was a will to win that he put out there, and his play was big for us." Coach also noted how his club's pitchers really came up big with some arms on short rest. "We just hoped that anyone we put out there that they could give us 2-3 innings and the best stuff they had left."

Mainieri said that things did not go as scheduled, in a good way, as he and his staff got an outstanding effort from Pitcher Jared Poche'. "Poche' pitched better and longer than I could have ever dreamed, it worked out better than we could have planned," he said.

LSU is two wins away from the CWS for the 18th time in school history and Mainieri says his team has a hard road ahead of them in this weekend's Super Regional foe. "They're scary, if you look at their stat sheet," Mainieri said of the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, who won the N.C. State Regional last weekend. "They have 100 home runs and stolen 100 bases. This is a team that can hit well and they are very aggressive on the bases and they have some very good arms." Coach says his Tigers need to bring their A game this weekend to Alex Box Stadium.

The Tigers face Coastal Carolina in a best of three series starting Saturday night right here on WWL Radio.
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Bobby: Brees and the Saints have sharp, crisp workout

The Saints had to work inside of their practice facility today as heavy rains early on forced the Black and Gold off the field, but Bobby liked what he saw. "I think that the Saints hand another crisp practice," he said. "I did not see a lot of mistakes, and I think the offense pretty much had the upper hand throughout."

As consistent as any player in club history, Saints QB Drew Brees is a player that takes practice very seriously. "OTAs is a time for us to get in some good work, and now, with the limited time that teams have on the field, each snap means something," he said. Brees was sharp today hitting four passes early on for over 100 yards. "Drew had a great practice. He hit RJ Harris, Brandon Coleman and TE Coby Fleener for big gains," Bobby noted. Drewalso connected with RB Marcus Murphy on a back shoulder throw for a big pick up.

PHOTO GALLERY: Saints OTA - June 2

Bobby was also pleased with the improvement made by third string QB Garrett Grayson. "Garrett looked better this week - he was more consistent with his throws, and he threw one pass underneath that he had to fit in a real tight space, and he did it," said Hebert. Grayson would also throw a long ball to WR RJ Harris, who went deep for about a 40 yard gain. At the last OTA, WR Vincent Brown was the go-to guy, but today the most noticeable action by a wide out came from Harris.

"If you go by what we have seen so far it looks like the Saints want Harris to be a deep threat. He has good speed and he can get behind defensive backs," Hebert said. Harris spent time on the Saints practice qquad last season but from the looks of things at this point R.J. could be in store for a breakout season. Rookie WR Michael Thomas also made his presence known, hauling in a nice grab on a post route that may have been a touchdown.

READ MORE: Kristian: Offense rolls, Harris shines in Saints OTAs

Bobby gave the nod to the Saints offense today. He said unlike at the last week's OTA when the Saints defense shrugged off a slow start to finish strong, the offense maintained control the entire practice session.

Bobby did give kudos to new linebacker Nate Stupar. "He was very active today. He would have had a sack, he was getting to the ball fast and Stupar had an interception but dropped it. I thought he did well." Saints second year defender Hau'oli Kikaha had a sack as did new DL Nick Fairley.

The Saints will continue working during OTA's next week at their facility on Airline Drive. For the latest on the Black and Gold stay logged on to WWL.com!
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