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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: Three Heisman hopefuls are way ahead of the pack in 2016

We are still in pre-season mode, and like many of you, I can't wait for the season to get here. As we look forward to the beginning of the 2016 college football season, I think there are three players currently in the lead for the Heisman Trophy. Before the third game of the season there will be twice if not three times as many players on the radar, but right now, I feel like these three are way out in front of the pack.

To make my three player race even more interesting, each of the three come from a different part of the country, making a voting breakdown similar to projecting what's going to happen in the presidential election this fall. In no particular order..

Senior Christian McCaffery - Running Back, Stanford
We start on the West Coast with Stanford superstar Christian McCaffery, who finished second in the voting last season and has returned for his final season with the Cardinal. Simply put, McCaffery is the best overall player in college football. The athleticism he possess is second to none, he has football smarts that rival any player in the nation, and the explosion aspect of his game is something that even the greatest of the greats envy. Folks, I'm telling you, if you have not seen this dude play, you should!

Looking at McCaffery's 2015 statistics only tells part of the story. Last year he had 337 carries for 2,019 yards and 8 TDs, 45 catches for 645 yards and 5 TDs, and got his shine on as well on special teams; McCaffery had 37 kickoff returns for 1,070 yards and 1 TD, and he had 15 punt returns for 130 yards and a score.

Looking ahead to the Stanford schedule this season, McCaffery has a chance to really jump out to a big early lead if he has some nice showings. The first six games of the season feature the season opener against Big XII opponent Kansas State. And then the gauntlet arrives. USC, UCLA, Pac-12 favorite Washington, Washington State and Notre Dame all line up one after the other. And with similar numbers in those games like he had a year ago, McCaffery could have enough great games under his belt to coast to - at the very least - another invite to New York.

If the season unfolds like the experts expect, then the Cardinal schedule does not have any wow factor on the back end. But good showings against the Oregons and a big game in the conference title game, should Stanford make it there, will be more than enough to make McCaffery a legit favorite to win the Heisman.

Junior Leonard Fournette - Running Back, LSU
He's as complete as a player at the position as we've seen. He's a physical specimen that is as put together as a brick house. And the way he runs reminds me of a little Jim, a little Earl, some Gayle and Csonka. There's not much not to like about LSU's Leonard Fournette.

The front runner for the first two months of the season in 2015, Fournette looked as if he were going to run away with the Heisman Trophy last season. But a tough November that saw the talented RB face some stern defenses, and his team going a dismal 1-3 in their final four games, was far too much for Leonard to overcome.

That negative ending can be quickly flipped into a positive, as the Tigers have a November schedule that gives Fournette the best stretch of meaningful games of any player in the land. I believe that Leonard can win the Heisman without reaching the two thousand yard mark. You see as important as stats are for Leonard, the WOW factor means more than big pretty numbers. The memorable runs that he had against Auburn last season are glaring examples of how this weekly highlight producer can make a seven yard run into a SportsCenter top five play of the week!

In 2015 Fournette had 300 carries for 1,953 yards and 22 TDs and showed his versatility by adding 19 catches for 253 yards and a TD. And although many don't factor in the overall game Leonard has, including him being an very good blocking RB, trust me - the voters will hear plenty of times how Fournette is possibly the most complete running back to come out of college since Adrian Peterson, and one of the best ever to hail from the college ranks.

Playing in the SEC is an advantage as well as a disadvantage. Because the league is so deep, people tend to lean on the fact that players are going against the best all of the time - and on the other hand going against the best all the time means more of a chance that one of those other teams could play an outstanding game against LSU and Fournette, like Bama, Ole Miss and Arkansas did a season ago in which that three week span saw the Tigers' star RB go from first in the Heisman chase to the end of the leaderboard.

I think it all comes down to November for Fournette and his shot at the Heisman. He has already proven he can start fast, build a big lead and turn heads from coast to coast. But fans and voters alike want to see how Fournette does against Alabama this season. And if Leonard does well then LSU could very well have their second Heisman winner in school history.

Junior Deshaun Watson - Quarterback, Clemson
In 2015, Watson had about as good of a year as one can have, and the young man left a mighty nice taste in the mouth of Heisman voters at the end of last season. 333-of-491 (67.8 percent) for 4,104 yards, 35 TDs, and 13 INTs/ Rushing- 207 attempts, 1,105 yards 12 TDs. Even though his team lost 45-40 in the 2016 title game, Watson went off, and he did so against the best defense that features the best players that is coached by the best staff that has the best head coach in all of college football.

Now the possible #1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft will try to have a similar season as a Junior as he did in 2015 as a rising Sophomore. Watson ended last season with an incredible outing against Alabama in the National Title Game. The then-Sophomore QB completed 30-of-47 passes for 405 yards with 4 TD's and one interception. Watson added 73 yards rushing to bring his game total to 478 yards of total offense. And the way Watson gained his yards was the real story.

Watson showed poise and proved to play beyond his years against the best defense in the land that featured a bevy of veteran players. Watson used his athletic skills to avoid pressure and escape sacks and he made several professional style throws that were key in the game against the Tide.

Watson begins the 2016 season with as good of a shot as any player to capture the Heisman Trophy. He certainly ended the season better than the other two mentioned players that I have featured in this piece.
When comparing the schedules that each of these three Heisman hopefuls will face this season, there is no doubt that Clemson's schedule is the weakest, meaning that the eyeball schedule test will not tip in favor of Mr. Watson. But I don't think that will factor into Watson's chances this season. A opening road game at Auburn ended with a nice numbers performance would get Watson off to a good start, and other notable games look like dates with Louisville, Georgia Tech and South Carolina. But the biggest and most hyped game Watson has this season comes in October when the Tigers head to South Florida to take on Florida State.

Big games with big numbers are just what they are, big games with big numbers. But with the nation watching in a game that could very well feature two perfect teams when they meet, Watson will have a stage that is set for him to do his thing. It might be the one that everyone remembers most and one that we look back on and possibly say "that's when Deshaun won the Heisman."

Photos via USA Today
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Deke: The NFC South is one of the best divisions in the NFL

Carolina, Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay are the four teams that make up the NFC South, when it comes to which NFL division is the best, it's hard to go against those four, and there is proof to back up that statement.

From a success standpoint, and looking at the competitive aspect, the South has been going strong since their division was first formed back in 2002. Carolina leads the way with five NFC South Division Titles, with the Saints, Bucs and Falcons are earning three titles each.

And up until the 2014 season no team had ever repeated as divisional champ. The 2014 Carolina Panthers became the first team in the NFC South to win back to back titles. The Panthers made it three straight South Crowns by going an impressive 15-1 last season.

Going into the 2016 season, just about every national analyst as well as every major pre-season publication has the Carolina Panthers winning the NFC South for a record fourth straight season. The rest of the division is about even.
Last season the Panthers went 5-1 in the NFC South while Atlanta was 1-5 with their lone win against Carolina. New Orleans and Tampa Bay were both 3-3 within the division. I think that the Panthers are the clear cut favorite again this season. After Carolina I think that New Orleans, Tampa and Atlanta are all pretty even.

Did you know?

The NFC South has seen all four teams play in at least one Super Bowl, with New Orleans and Tampa Bay being the only two teams from the division to win one.

The NFC South was formed prior to the 2002 season. The Saints and Falcons came over from the NFC West, and Tampa Bay moved to the South after being in the NFC Central, and Carolina was an expansion team.

The NFC South is the only division in the NFL that has seen all four of its members to the conference title game.
Before the 2014 season the NFC South had never had a repeat divisional champ. But that feat was eclipsed when the Carolina Panthers won the Division in 2013, 2014 and made it three straight with an impressive 15-1 record to capture their third straight South Title.

The NFC South became the second division in five years to have a champion with a losing record, as the Carolina Panthers won the division with a 7–8–1 record.

The Tampa Bay Bucs have played in three different divisions since 1976. In '76 the Bucs went 0-14 as a member of the AFC West. From 1977 through 2001 Tampa was a member of the NFC West. And when the NFC went to four divisions within each conference Tampa moved to the NFC South.
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Deke: Steve Korte and Scott Shanle break down Saints needs before camp

As the sands through the hour glass continue to dwindle down, training camp is getting closer and closer. I was able to talk to several analysts and former Saints players the last couple of weeks and ask them what they feel like are key issues facing the Black and Gold.

Scott Shanle, former Saints linebacker and member of the Super Bowl team, told me that leadership and the ability to find the right 53 players during camp is very important. "Coach always told us the most important thing is to find the right 53 players. I feel like in the years we had the most success, we had the right mix of players," Shanle said.

Scott went on to tell me that winning the Super Bowl is the ultimate goal every season once camp begins. "Sean Payton is a coach that will always have winning the Super Bowl as the team's goal each season. Coach will look to find the right mix of veteran players that are still hungry to win a title. And I know it's all about winning with Sean Payton."

Shanle said he remembers every training camp he was a part of like it was yesterday, and player relationships on and off the field are crucial to building trust and chemistry within the team. "It's important for players to get an idea of how guys are off the field... accountability, developing relationships, feeling that each player never wants to let another player down is something that is built during training camps."

So are the Saints better going into the 2016 season? "I think you automatically see a better defense than we did last year. The front line is better, they have some good linebackers that features good young players and proven veterans. And the defensive backfield looks a lot better. Coach Dennis Allen had the defense playing better at the end of the season and I think that improvement will continue."

Scott says that winning the Super Bowl is always the goal, but also knows the Saints have a long way to go. "I definitely think the Saints will be better, much improved this season. And now is the time to start those improvements."

Steve Korte was a member of the 1980's Saints teams that were some of the best in franchise history. I spoke with Steve mostly about the Saints offensive line. "They need to improve from last season. We ran the ball pretty well. But the offense was on the field too much and had to outscore the opposing team too many times."

Steve likes the make-up of the Saints interior offensive line. "Terron Armstead is a great player. He has improved each season, he's a huge athletic guy who has tremendous strength. And the players that go against Armstead don't have a good shot at beating him."

Steve said that center Max Unger was a huge pick-up for the Saints and that Unger is one of the best in the NFL. Steve thinks the Saints offensive guard play has to improve and second year player Andrus Peat needs to make some big strides in getting better this season.

"The coaches want to make him fit on the front five. He has the physical tools, he's got good feet. I think Peat has to play more angry, and he needs to have more of an attitude on the field. He has a lot of expectations on him being a first round pick two years ago."

When breaking down the Saints rushing offensive, Korte says it all starts with the first game of the season. "As the O-Line goes so does the team. If you can control the line of scrimmage it really opens things up for the entire team. I think the Saints have a good core of running backs. Now the line needs to play with an edge and just focus on improving from week to week throughout the season."

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Deke: Six NFL teams that could surprise us in 2016

I've given you all my Top 10 pre-season poll of what I think are the top teams in the NFL entering training camp, now it's time to take a peek at a handful of teams that I think are prime to become surprises that could make a run this season.

Buffalo Bills – Word in upstate NY is that Rex Ryan is in playoffs-or-bust mode. Buffalo was close last season with an 8-8 record and the Bills were 4-2 in the division. Buffalo swept the Dolphins and the Jets and hung tough with the Pats. Adding three more solid defenders with their first three picks in the draft loads up a Bills defense that is already one of the best units in the league.

Baltimore Ravens – I don't think that a John Harbaugh-coached team will be bad for long. Plus QB Joe Flacco is still among the elite signal callers in the NFL. The Purple Birds do play in the toughest division in the NFL, but I think they will rise up this year and make a run at the post season.

Oakland Raiders – QB Derrick Carr is improving and may be the best QB among those that have been in the league for a few years. The Raiders defense is nasty and their ability to stretch the field with a few speedy WR's gives the Silver and Black Nation more than hope for this band of Raiders to get back to the post season for the first time since January 2003.

Dallas Cowboys – Love them or hate them, the Cowboys were not as bad as their record indicated last season. QB Tony Romo is worth a handful of wins by himself and the addition of a very good draft class gives the Cowboys the edge in the NFC East this season.

New Orleans Saints – A poor defense has kept the Saints from being a playoff team in each of the last two seasons. New Orleans believes they are close to returning among the ranks of the best teams in the NFL. QB Drew Brees on offense is a sure thing. But outside of #9, the Saints have plenty of questions that need to be answered quickly if they are playing in January. Again the first four games of the season will be the signal if this Saints team is going to be one to keep an eye on or not!

Atlanta Falcons - QB Matt Ryan is very good, and remember - this is a Falcons team that came out smoking with a hot 5-0 start. But the Dirty Birds fell off a cliff, going a horrible 3-8 their last 11 games to wrap up with an 8-8 mark. Atlanta has tools on offense, the addition of Center Alex Mack is huge, and the Falcons defense is closer to being decent than bad!
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Deke: Top ten NFL teams, pre-season edition

OK the start of training camp is near, and all 32 teams have the same goal - win the Super Bowl! But as most of us really know, not all 32 teams have the same shot at getting there - you will notice that my list does not feature any teams from the NFC East or AFC South. Hey, it's just my opinion.

Here are my top 10 teams as the NFL opens training camp across the league.

1. Seattle Seahawks – The most ferocious defense in the league added more defensive power this off-season and QB Russell Wilson is still the best overall QB when it comes to running, passing and making the right decisions.

2. Carolina Panthers – The Cats from Charlotte are loaded on defense, better on offense, and Cam is maturing and continuing to improve his game. The clear-cut favorite in the NFC South, and I think a serious Super Bowl contender.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers were oh-so-close last year as they went toe-to-toe with SB champ Denver. The Steelers are now led by their potent offense. And their defense is getting better too!

4. Arizona Cardinals – Of course this team is not much at all without the services of veteran QB Carson Palmer. But if the Red Birds from the desert can keep their signal caller healthy and their defense continues to be one of the best in the NFL, then I have no doubt this team will still be standing come mid-January 2017.

5. New England Patriots – Even missing Tom Pretty for the first four weeks does nothing to change my mind that the Pats are the class of the AFC East, and still one of the best in the league overall.

6. Minnesota Vikings – This team has all the right tools. Vikings are salty on defense, sound on defense and very good on special teams. I like what QB Teddy Bridgewater is doing on offense, and just to be able to hand the ball to AP. Putting a few $$$ on the Vikings to make it to the Super Bowl would be a wise move!

7. Green Bay Packers – With one of the best QBs in the game today it's hard not to consider the boys from Cheese Head land as a top 10 team. But the Packers need to up their play on defense if they are to make it to the Super Bowl.

8. New York Jets – Upping the ante to keep DT Wilkerson and adding the most productive RB in the league the last 8 seasons in Matt Forte, these Jets are looking super legit to me. I think this team has everything it needs to be among the elite teams in the NFL this season.

9. Cincinnati Bengals – Same ole same ole with the Bengals - they're as good as anyone in the regular season, but they've proven that they can't win in January. Is this the year?

10. Kansas City Chiefs & Denver Broncos – The Chiefs are arguably one of the most complete teams in the NFL. K.C. is led by a solid defense and a good ground game. And QB Alex Smith wins a lot of games. The defending champs are as complete as most teams, but now the question of QB surfaces. But honestly, Peyton did not play all that great last season and still won the Super Bowl!
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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.

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

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

12 Interceptions / Fumbles 7 = 19 total (015th 

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

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

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

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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