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Steve Geller

"WWL First News" Sports Anchor
Weekdays 5am-10am

"Sports Talk" Producer
Weekdays 4pm-8pm

Twitter: @stevegellerWWL
Email: steve@wwl.com


Steve: Saints rookie profiles - Chidera Uzo-Diribe

Right off the bat, I'm rooting for this guy to make the roster just so I can hear the Bobby Hebert butcher his name all the time. Hopefully talent runs in the family, because Uzo-Diribe is cousins with defensive end Osi Umenyiora who has appeared in 2 Pro Bowls, and holds the NFL record for forced fumbles in a season with 10.

Let's get back to Uzo-Diribe though. The outside linebacker signed with the Saints as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Colorado. He appeared in 49 games for the Buffaloes and totaled 118 tackles (99 solo), 32 tackles for loss, 20 sacks, 10 forced fumbles and 6 passes defended. He had an outstanding year as a senior, posting 46 tackles (11 for loss), four sacks and five forced fumbles (second in the nation) and was named a captain by his teammates.

Uzo-Diribe really opened eyes with his explosiveness and athleticism at the Shrine Game practices according to the NFL Network's Buck Brooks. The 6-foot-3 250 pounder displayed a devastating speed rush move in 1-on-1 practice drills which he complimented with an inside spin move. Where Brooks saw room for improvement was Uzo-Diribe's inconsistent pad level and hand usage against the run. Sometimes he has difficulty shedding blocks, especially on running plays when offensive linemen get into his pads.

Making the Saints' roster is a steep uphill climb for this kid. He is too small to play his college position of defensive end in the NFL so he's trying to adjust to playing outside linebacker.

Playing LB in the pros means you need a variety of skill sets including run stopping, pass rushing and dropping back in coverage. Attempting to adjust to those new responsibilities while playing in defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's complicated scheme makes life as a "rook" even that more difficult.

We shall see if Uzo-Diribe can carve out a role for himself on special teams. That is always the best chance for a player to make any teams' final roster.

Chidera Uzo-Diribe Highlights from CU Football Video on Vimeo.

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People : Buck BrooksOsi UmenyioraRob Ryan




 

Steve: Saints rookie profiles - Brandon Coleman

Many were surprised when Rutgers wide receiver Brandon Coleman was not among the 256 players selected in this year's NFL draft. He received a 3rd round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board after a breakout sophomore season (43 catches for 718 yards and 10 touchdowns) in 2012 and decided to return to school for his junior year. Just when he was starting to generate 1st-round buzz, a knee injury limited his production.

The 6-foot-6 225 pounder had 34 catches for 538 yards and four touchdowns last season, and admitted that he was hampered by a torn meniscus in his right knee, an injury he suffered in the springtime.

He looked OK at the NFL Combine, running a 4.56 40-yard dash, which is a solid time considering his size. Coleman also managed 21 bench press reps. Still, the knee injury that caused him to have a down year ultimately cost him from being a mid-round pick to an undrafted free agent. OUCH!

After the draft, he garnered interest from the Patriots, Chargers, Rams and the Saints. He chose New Orleans because he felt comfortable with the team after his pre-draft visit.

Unfortunately for Coleman, he stood at Saints organized team actives and mini-camp for the wrong reasons. Drops seemed to plague the receiver almost every day, causing many to write off his chances at making the roster even before training camp began.

But now, here we are in West Virginia, and Coleman has gotten off on the right foot. QB Ryan Griffin tossed a deep ball the wide receiver's way and Coleman leapt into the air hauling in the pass in front of CB Corey White. The fans roared with approval - that was possibly the top highlight from today's camp.

Now we'll have to see if Coleman can produce on a more consistent basis. If the "dropsies" become routine, he has no chance. Even if he catches every ball thrown his way in camp, it will be tough to make this roster. I don't foresee him being able to contribute on special teams because of his lack of speed, but do envision him as a prime practice squad candidate.

Maybe I'm just enamored with his size, or the fact that he is a NJ kid (Jersey strong!) but I feel Brandon Coleman could become a viable weapon in years to come, and is worth holding on to.

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People : Brandon ColemanCorey WhiteRyan Griffin




 

Steve: From the podium at Saints camp

The first practice of Saints training camp is in the books! The big story today was the cool, manageable temperature in West Virginia, and safety Jarius Byrd being placed on the physically unable to perform list.

Coach Sean Payton said of Byrd that he should be back sooner than later. They are just being cautious with him, and want to make sure he is 100% before he returns to any on-the-field action. Byrd had back surgery this offseason and missed all of organized team activities and mini-camp. The Saints gave him a $5 year 54 million dollar deal when the free agency period opened.

Payton added that he felt the first practice was sharp. While players were not in pads, he added it was good to see guys moving around well.

Joe Morgan is one of those players moving around well. Payton said the speedy receiver has really recovered well from knee surgery that was a lot worse than anyone really thought.

The $40 million dollar man Jimmy Graham also spoke today for the first time since cashing in on his 4 year deal. He said, "You don't know how much you miss it till you're away for that amount of time." The big TE was absent all of OTAs and minicamp while waiting for a contract.

Graham says he is happy that's all behind him now and he can focus on the team and the season. There are no hard feelings between him and management. Graham just looks at it as if he was on an extended vacation, but is now back and ready to go.

Jonathan Vilma actually played a big role in Graham's condition while being away from the Saints. The former Black and Gold linebacker worked out with Jimmy in Miami the entire time and even served as a therapist; guiding him though the tough times of contract negations.

Quarterback Drew Brees shared everyones joy over the change of scenery for this training camp. The first thing he said to the media was, "This is unbelievable here, ain't it?" Brees added it was the first time ever at a training camp he was able to lay down in the grass and it was actually cool.

Brees did say the timing between he and Graham needs to be worked on, since the duo missed some time together during his contract holdout. He added, "Jimmy is Jimmy" and the TE is definitely in shape, as he registered the fastest time in the team's condition test.

Rookie receiver Brandin Cooks had an impressive grab - when asked about it #9 lit up and grinned, saying Cooks is talented and intelligent. The WR wants to be great, and is a sponge when it comes to soaking up input from players and coaches.

For anyone worrying about Brees getting up there in age now that he's 35 years old; don't be. He says he feels like he's 25 and wants to play another 10 years. That is a real goal. Brees feels age is just a state of mind.
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Locations : MiamiWest Virginia
People : Drew BreesJimmy GrahamJoe MorganJonathan VilmaSean PaytonSteve Geller




 

Steve: Who will be the Saints kicker in 2014?

Talking about an NFL's team's kicking game never seems important, until you need the guy to drill a game-winning 49-yarder with seconds on the clock. When you look at the Saints roster this year, kicker is one of the few question marks.

Shanye Graham joined the Saints late last year after Garret Hartley was cut. The 37 year old has played for 8 other teams before coming to New Orleans. His longest stay was with the Cincinnati Bengals from 2003-2009. For his career, he has made 85.5% of his field goal attempts, and did a decent job for the Black and Gold last year.

In two regular season games, he was 2-for-2 and was instrumental in the team winning their first road playoff game against the Eagles, making all 4 kicks in a 35-24 win.

But Graham allowed some doubt to creep in when the Saints lost in Seattle the following week in the divisional round. He missed a 45-yarder in the 1st quarter and 48-yarder in the 4th and finished 0-for-2 on the day.

Enter 24 year old Derek Dimke! The youngster has a strong leg; problem is, he has never kicked in an actual NFL game. He first came into the league in 2012, signing with the Detriot Lions as an undrafted free agent. He was released after the preseason. He then had a one-month stint with the Jets from April to May of 2013, which was then followed by some time with the Bucs, who also cut him after the preseason.

Experience usually wins when it comes to a kicker, but this is definitely a position battle we will be watching during training camp.
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Steve: LSU player injured after punching window

LSU 's Trey Lealaimatafao suffered a serious arm injury and had to be rushed to the hospital on Monday.

The 6-foot, 300-pound freshman defensive tackle punched a glass window in the Tiger's weight room, tearing muscles down to the bone.

LSU spokesman Michael Bonnette confirmed that there was an incident and that Lealaimatafao was being treated at a local hospital.

The injury is not considered career or life threatening but it could put Lealaimatafao's season in jeopardy.
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Steve: Graham is a part of Saints essential core; who else?

The Who Dat Nation let out a big exhale Tuesday morning when Jimmy Graham signed a 4 year $40 million dollar deal with the Saints. Crisis averted. No worries now that Drew Brees' top target will be absent when the team reports for training camp on July 24th.
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Just how essential is Graham to the Saints? Over the last three seasons, he has led all NFL players (wide receivers and tight ends) with 36 touchdown catches. He's also racked up 3,507 yards receiving in that span, helping Brees achieve 3 straight years of 5,000+ yards passing.

Graham just may be the 2nd most important player on this roster. But who else makes up the Saints core? You know; the guys this ballclub cannot do without? Brees and Graham are obviously the foundation, and here are a few others:

DE Cameron Jordan: One word for Cam…STUD! A physical specimen at 6-ft-4, 287 pounds, combined with elite ability, translates into a defensive end you want around for a looooooong time. The team just picked up the 5th year of his rookie contract, but after the 2015 season, we could be in store for another Brees/Graham contract standoff. Sure would be nice if the team extend him before then, but it's just not the way GM Mickey Loomis and Co. operate.

S Jairus Byrd: While we haven't seen him in action yet, the Saints are banking that Byrd is top notch safety for the next 6 seasons after giving him $54 million. Players of his caliber don't often wind up on the free agent market, and the Black & Gold swooped in under the radar to nab him when the signing period opened. His penchant for picking off passes have earned him "ballhawking" status in the league, and is exactly what the doctor ordered for a Saints defense that struggled to create takeaways a year ago.

WR Marques Colston: Now don't give me any flack here, saying he's past his prime and on the decline. Sure, Colston didn't register 1,000 yards receiving in 2013 for only just 2nd time in his career, but he has been quite consistent year in and year out. He is still a go-to-guy for Brees, and one of the best at helping the team convert a 3rd and long. Crazy as it may seem, the "Quiet Storm" has never earned a spot on the Pro Bowl's roster; but he holds the Saints franchise record for TD receptions with 63. It will be a sad day when the 9 year vet decides to hang up the cleats for good.

OG Jahri Evans: Like Colston, he may be on the downside of his career but is still one of the best in the game at his position. His job is pretty damn important too; protecting Brees. We saw the entire O-line have issues last year as Evans struggled, playing through injury. If you look at his resume, Evans was a first team All-Pro from 09-12 and despite being hurt still managed to make the 2nd team last season.

Three more young guns with core potential: S Kenny Vaccaro, DE/DT Akiem Hicks, & OT Terron Armstead.
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Steve: Pels' Tyreke Evans pool slam

Well folks, my summer vacation is already underway, but it looks like Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans has beaten me to the fun at the pool.


Besides the sweet windmill jam; you see that form on that jumper from the shallow end? MONEY!

Evans is entering year two of his four-year, $44 million dollar deal with the Pelicans, and is hoping his late season surge earns him a starting gig this coming year instead of being the team's 6th man.

Keep up that pool game Reke, I'm about to join ya!
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Steve: Graham-sanity has taken over!

Remember the relentless coverage of Drew Brees' contract squabble with the Saints back in 2012? Well, buckle up folks, because the Jimmy Graham show is in town this year, and it has a lot more question marks and room for speculation than Brees' deal did.

Act One of the soap opera just came to a close. Graham was ruled a tight end by an arbitrator for the sake of the franchise tag. He wanted to be considered a wide receiver since that tag amount was worth $12.3 million, while the TE tag is $7 million for the year.

OK, so he's a tight end. Easy peezy, lets get a long term deal worked out, right? Ahh, not so fast. Graham still has a 10-day window to appeal the arbitrator's decision to a 3 member panel. As of right now, we still dont know his plans, as Graham's camp has been quiet since the ruling.

This presents a new problem, because the clock is ticking to get a long term contract worked out and the deadline to do so is July 15th. If the two sides don't come to an agreement by then, Graham would have to play under the one year franchise tag or (dramatic pause) choose to sit out the season. Sitting out doesnt seem like a likely option, though, since Graham would be leaving a $7 millon dollar stack of cash on the table. According to the NFL Network, negotiations between the Saints and Graham's agent are at GROUND ZERO! Basically meaning the two sides are starting all over, back to square one.

But wait, that's not all! Tell 'em what else we have, ProFootballTalk.com! Well now that the Saints have a starting point for contract talks for Jimmy Graham, so do other teams. Would another ballclub really part ways with two first round draft picks for a tight end? And could one of the teams be the hated Atlanta Falcons who just had their Pro Bowl TE retire? Whew, I dunno about you folks, but I need a cocktail.

To recap: We need to find out now if Graham will appeal the arbitrator's ruling. If he does, who knows how long the panel will take to make a decision. Getting a long term contract worked out by the 15th would be very difficult is he goes this route,

If Graham accepts the arbitrator's ruling, he and the Saints could be negotiating right now trying to get that multi-year deal worked out. Tick-tock, tick-tock!
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Steve: Graham's a TE, but what happens next?

HEAR YE, HEAR YE! The arbitrator has ruled Jimmy Graham a tight end!

Ian Rapoport will be on Sports Talk tonight at 5:35pm.

What does this mean now? For an excellent, extensive breakdown, check out the piece, "Everything You Need To Know Regarding The Potential Effects Of The Jimmy Graham Decision" by Andrew Cohen of overthecap.com. He'll also be a guest on Sports Talk this evening at 6:20pm.

While not good news for Graham, it is great news for the Saints. Instead of having to worry about finagling with the salary cap ramifications of their TE now being ruled a WR with a tag of $12.3 million, it remains at $7 million.

Graham may decide to appeal this ruling, but I'm guessing it won't make a difference. The NFL does not want the players following suit in the fututre.

You are what you are! Graham was drafted as a tight end, went to the Pro Bowl as a tight end, is in Saints meetings as a tight end, oh, and on his twitter profile… he calls himself a tight end!

READ MORE: Ruling finds Graham is a tight end

But something has really bothered me from the onset, and that's why did the Saints let it get to this point? It seems so simple to have extended Jimmy before the start of last season.

I guess if GM Mickey Loomis and the rest of the Saints front office were willing to drag out contract talks with future Hall of Famer, Super Bowl MVP and franchise face Drew Brees; taking this route with Graham shouldn't be a surprise to me.

I just feel though that you are spending more money in the long run by not locking up your key, core players until their deal is up. The Saints should have extended Brees before the 2011 season and "shoulda-woulda-coulda" extended Graham at the beginning of last year.

The way the team does business, it seems as if we'll be headed down this road in 2016 when Cameron Jordan's rookie deal is up.
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Steve: Pelicans draft recap

With no selections in this year's NBA Draft, it was uncertain if the Pelicans would be making any moves to get back in.  The first round dragged on with no action from New Orleans, but GM Dell Demps dialed up a familiar trade partner in the 76ers to obtain the 47th overall pick Russ Smith out of Louisville. 

New Orleans sent back to Philly the rights to Pierre Jackson, who was part of the Jrue Holiday draft night trade last year with the Sixers.  

The Pelicans net a point guard who averaged 18.2 points, 4.6 assists and 2 steals per game for the Cardinals last year while earning First Team All-American honors.  He is also known as a staunch defender, which Pels head coach Monty Williams will absolutely love.  

One thing is for sure about Smith: he feels slighted by being passed over by so many ballclubs and will enter his rookie campaign in New Orleans with a huge chip on his shoulder. DraftExpress.com had him rated as the 28th best overall player in the draft, which would have made him a late 1st round draft pick.  Hopefully the others teams' neglect winds up being the Pelicans fortune!  

 
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Locations : LouisvilleNew Orleans
People : Monty WilliamsPierre JacksonRuss Smith




 
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