He speaks with a direct solid tone that gives an impression that everything is all right and that everything is going to be alright when it comes to the New Orleans Saints. From the time he was put in place to lead the Saints back in April to now, the start of Saints Training Camp, Saints coach Joe Vitt is all business.
From the outside looking, in Joe Vitt sounds and looks like a guy that everyone who has every played the game, regardless of the level played, would want to suit up and lay it all on the line for.
Before we move forward, let’s take a step back and read what Coach Vitt said back in April 24th when it was announced he would be in charge while Coach Sean Payton is out this season. The number one question I get is can Vitt handle taking over for Payton. Here is what Vitt said.
“I’ve done this once before with the (St. Louis) Rams. When I did it the first time with the Rams, I was only there for two years. I’ll be in my seventh year here so I was one of the original guys that came in and I don’t think there’s anybody except Mickey that’s met with Sean more than I have that knows Sean’s core beliefs more than I do, and that have been around the players more than I have. But understand this, I’m not taking Sean’s place. I’m the substitute teacher here, and I’m not going to try to take his place. Our program and our beliefs will stay in place. You can ask a coach on a particular date and a particular time what he’s going to be doing and it’s all mapped out. Like I said, I’m just here to service our team and our organization.”
Like he has done his entire career, Coach Vitt constantly expresses the value of team first and everything else second. Vitt does not like to be called the “head coach” or the “acting head coach”…Instead he considers himself a part of the team. But make no bones about it, Vitt is a big part of the Saints team, and the die-for-my-guy attitude players speak of and play with shows in their loyalty to Vitt even more so shows how close this organization has become.
There is no question that things will be different without Sean Payton. How much different is not yet known. But from what we have seen and heard, things will be done and orchestrated exactly the same as if Coach Payton were here.
Coach Vitt maintains it’s all about the players. And in his own words the players are the ones that drive this team now. “It’s amazing. I’ve been blessed and fortunate enough to have been here from day one where they took the program over after (Hurricane) Katrina and I would say and a lot of you guys have been to every practice and know this team very well…I would say, ’06, ’07 and ’08 this was a coach-driven football team. I think we’ve seen the transformation of our football team in the Super Bowl week in ’09 that it became a player-driven team.”
Vitt’s words should only inspire, fire up and be reassuring that the Saints team is not about one player or one coach…It is exactly what it is suppose to be, and that is a team. “The leadership of our football team really held our players accountable. When you talk about the players that we have on our roster now and their leadership ability, we have a lot of players that on our roster that have won 41 games over the last three years. We have a lot of players on this team that have been to the playoffs three straight years. We have a lot of players on our team that have participated in a Super Bowl and won a World Championship, so the leadership and the accountability that they have to one another and their commitment to winning is going to be critical this year. I would say that this was a coach-driven team that has been transformed into a player-driven team. I think that’s exciting.”
It seems like each season, under the Sean Payton regime, the Saints have had some type of mantra or phase that they would adhere to. In the past we’ve heard Earn it, Deal with It, and Finish Strong among other catchy phrases.
So far we have heard a couple of things that Joe Vitt has said that seem to be sticking on this year’s Saints Team. “Win the day” and “Do your job” are both things that we have heard seemingly every day here at Saints Camp.
And now with Coach Payton’s watching with a sharp eye over his Saints, “do your job” has an even stronger meaning to it! “That was Mr. Benson’s idea. Do your job,” Vitt said. “Sean and Mickey built this program and we’re doing everything Sean would do and we are trying to do it without him right now. We are trying to make him proud of us, and that’s just a reminder.”
Coach Vitt is speaking of a brand new giant banner that hangs in the Saints Indoor Practice Facility. The Banner is a picture of Coach Sean Payton and he is seemingly looking at everyone all the time at the same time!
What you have to respect about Joe Vitt is his success in the league, his longevity, and of course his acknowledgement of trying to get better. Even with all of the blah, blah, blah about the Saints this off season, Coach Vitt has constantly been able to maintain a strong alliance and support of his players and Vitt also respects and reminds us about the importance of making the game better.
“We are going to try to make every difference we can to walk hand in hand with the league to make this a safer game,” Vitt said in his opening press conference at the start of Saints Training Camp.
So as we inch closer to the first pre-season game against the Cardinals, so far one could say Joe Vitt is like E.F. Hutton, I mean when he talks, we listen. Or you could say Coach Vitt is as solid as All-State. And by that we are all in “Good Hands” as long as Joe Vitt is running the show.
I might be wrong and if I am I’ll write and say that I am. But I’m very confident and comfortable that Joe Vitt will make sure that the 2012-2013 New Orleans Saints “Do their jobs.” And if they do that then this will be a special season indeed!
The Saints practice this morning was highlighted by two spectacular catches made by wide receiver Joe Morgan and more impressive play by defensive back Marquis Johnson, as the Black and Gold practiced on the outdoor fields at their facility on Airline Drive.
The Saints also announced that the Wednesday morning practice session will be open to the public with the gates to the field opening at 7:50 a.m. and practice running from 8:50 to 11:30 a.m.
I got the Cajun Cannon’s thoughts on what he saw on the field. “I thought it was kind of a mixed bag at practice today,” said Bobby Hebert.
“At times the offense looked good and at times the defense looked good. I’d say that of all the practices thus far, today was the most sloppy,” Hebert said. The Saints jumped offsides a couple of times and Chris Ivory and Darren Sproles both fumbled the ball at the morning practice.
In one-on-one drills which featured the Saints offensive and defensive linemen going at it, Sedrick Ellis got the best of Jahri Evans on one exchange. However, the big plays were made most consistently by #95 Martez Wilson and #94 Cam Jordan.
Both Jordan and Wilson blew by the linemen in front of them during the drill. In team drills the Saints worked on third-and-short yardage situations. Darren Sproles had a four yard gain, then Drew Brees completed a nice pass for a first down to TE Jimmy Graham.
Marquis Johnson then broke up a pass on the next play, and so far he has stood out during training camp for the Saints secondary. “I’m just trying to make plays. The players have really taken me in and shown me the ropes and right now, we are all just trying to make the team,” Johnson said.
Drew Brees then completed a 25-yard pass to Adrian Arrington, followed by a nice 20-yard completion to WR Marques Colston. Martez Wilson and Tyrunn Walker both did a nice job of getting pressure on the QB in the team session.
Later, wide receiver Joe Morgan made two great catches. The first catch that Morgan made was just an all-out battle. Rookie A.J. Davis had excellent coverage on Morgan as both leaped in the air for the football. Davis looked to have the ball on the way down, but Morgan wrestled it away for a nice completion.
Then moments later Morgan hauled in a 40-yard reception, beating Elbert Mack and Isa Abdul Quddus. “He had 90 yards receiving on two catches. He’s really playing well right now,” Bobby Hebert said of Joe Morgan.
Hebert also noted that Rookie WR Nick Toon had his best practice thus far during camp but Hebert thinks that Toon still has a ways to go to catch up with the other receivers.
Coach Joe Vitt also said that CB Jabari Greer injured his groin at practice and that Greer would be evaluated. The Saints will have meetings the rest of the day and then get back on the field in the morning.
Be sure and tune in to SportsTalk today as our pros Bobby Hebert and Hokie Gajan break down today’s practice.
Back when the free agent period began, many Saints fans knew the likely hood of the club being able to sign Drew Brees to a long-term deal and retain Marques Colston and Carl Nicks was going to be difficult. The fans were right.
But I think it’s safe to say that all the fans would have been as pleased as a peach if they knew that the loss of Carl Nicks would be lessened by the Saints front office’s ability to land a player the caliber of Ben Grubbs.
“I’m going to tell you not often in this league do you lose a player like Carl Nicks and then are able to pick up a player the caliber of Ben Grubbs,” said Saints Color Analyst Hokie Gajan.
Ben Grubbs was acquired by the New Orleans Saints in the spring after Carl Nicks became a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Grubbs was able to go through all of the off season workouts, OTA’s and mini-camp with the Saints but he says now is the time things get more physical. “You can never really gauge where you are as a player until you put the pads on,” said Grubbs.
Grubbs comes to the Saints from Baltimore after the Black and Gold inked the pro-bowl offensive guard to a five year deal. Grubbs played his first five seasons in the National Football League with the Baltimore Ravens after being drafted in the first round of the 2077 NFL Draft.
Grubbs became one of the nation’s top offensive linemen when he played in Auburn for the Tigers. Since he has been in the NFL Ben Grubbs has built a reputation as being one of the best interior offensive linemen in the game today.
Ben Grubbs is with a new team for the first time in his NFL career and he is very thankful for those that have helped him settle in with the Saints. “Me being in new Orleans is different. But everyone here has embraced me and everyone here has helped make my transition better,” Grubbs said.
While with the Ravens Grubbs help Baltimore have one of the league’s most successful rushing attacks. The Ravens offense has enjoyed three straight franchise record-setting seasons and Grubbs was a big part of the Ravens success.
Ben seems to be fitting in just fine with his new teammates here in the Big Easy. “Ben’s doing a good job,” said fellow guard Jahri Evans. “He’s looking good and picking up things quickly. We’re doing a lot of talking and communicating with the different calls that we have. He’s picking things up very fast.”
Ben has started in seventy of the seventy-four games he has played in and he’s looking to continue his durability and success here in New Orleans. “I’m just glad to be here with a team that has so many weapons.”
On a nice warm Sunday afternoon, the New Orleans Saints were practicing at the facility on Airline Drive in front of more than five thousand fans. The Cajun Cannon and I were under our WWL tent right next to the Saints weight room checking out practice.
Then, we had a chance to liven up the show with a very entertaining interview with Saints Executive Vice President and General Manager Mickey Loomis. The 40+ minute interview included Loomis talking about the Saints’ busy off-season, the Drew Brees contract, his relationship with Sean Payton, and working for Mr. Tom Benson.
“It was an eventful off -season. But we feel like we made some good moves to upgrade our roster,” Loomis told us.
One of the first things we asked Mickey was how difficult it was to put together the most lucrative contract in league history for QB Drew Brees.
“We’ve got one big pie and we’ve got to make sure that everyone gets a slice of that pie. We are a really good team. And when you are a good team other teams want your players and at times you are going to lose players that you don’t want to lose. Every year there are some difficult choices to make,” Loomis said.
Mickey went on to say that Drew’s Contract was a unique process. “That was a pretty big piece of the pie. He is the most important player in the history of our franchise.”
While Mickey was talking with us on the air, Saints owner Tom Benson passed by on his golf cart and shouted out that over five thousand fans showed up to watch the Saints Practice.
“We have a special relationship and I cherish it,” Loomis said of Tom Benson. “You can’t have a successful franchise and sustain success without a great owner…Mr. B loves New Orleans and he wants to do everything he can to help continue to make New Orleans a great place.”
Loomis went on to talk about the team’s preparation for the first pre-season game and who will be in charge while he’s out for the first eight games of the season. Loomis also talked about what it is like not having his Head Coach around this season.
“It’s difficult. It’s very difficult. All of us in the building from the players and coaches and everyone else miss his leadership. Sean and I have a special relationship and we all miss him. But I know he will be an even better coach when he returns.”
Mickey went on to say that he and the team are looking forward to their road trip to Canton this week. It’s a trip that will see Saints great Willie Roaf inducted in the Hall of Fame and the Saints take on the Cardinals right here on Saints Radio Sunday August 5th.
You can listen to the entire interview Bobby and Deke did with Saints Executive Vice President and General Manager Mickey Loomis. And for the latest on the Black and Gold stay logged on here at wwl.com and be sure and catch our pro’s Bobby and Hokie daily on Sports Talk on 870AM and on the FM dial at 105.3
I remember like it was yesterday. The Cajun Cannon and I were waiting to see who we were going to interview for SportsTalk. Yep, we were hanging out along the fence at Harper Davis Field in Jackson, Mississippi at Millsaps College.
Saints players continued to walk by, as always I was trying to get my co-host’s attention. He was carrying on one of his many daily side bar conversations. Then the Cannon looks at me and says, “Deke, I thought you said we were going to interview somebody?” I replied, “we are!” One of the first interviews we did at Saints Training Camp 2006 was with a young man the Saints drafted in 2006. His name was Jahri Evans. Evans was a soft spoken dude, but his play in his first ever NFL training camp was anything but soft.
The young man from Bloomsburg has been all business all the time. That’s evidenced by his success on the field as a New Orleans Saints. From the first day he suited up until now, Jahri Evans has been the consummate professional. His three straight starts in the Pro Bowl for the NFC team are proof that the New Orleans Saints knew exactly what they were doing when they drafted Evans in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft.
Since the Saints drafted Evans he has enjoyed some of the most successful seasons in New Orleans Saints history. Evans was voted into and starred in the last three NFL Pro Bowls and he was named an All-Pro.
Evans was a little banged up last season, but Jahri says he’s just fine now, “Pretty good. I’m ready to go. I’m out here every day, working hard every day…rehabbing here with Scottie (Patton)…putting the hard time in rehab, so I’ll be ready to go out here. It’s feeling good.”
Evans clearly is a guy who can suck it up and play with pain, evidenced by his current streak of “starts” with the New Orleans Saints. As he enters his seventh season in the NFL, all in Black and Gold, Evans has ninety-six straight starts. That’s the most starts for a Saints player starting a career and second longest in Saints franchise history. And, Jahri Evans’ ninety six starts reigns third among active guards in the NFL.
Now this season, Jahri and the rest of his Saints offensive teammates are facing a new defensive scheme. “It’s definitely different. It’s two totally different systems. You see, the defensive line’s getting a lot more pressure here. There’s not a lot of blitzing or anything like that. They’re definitely coming. We don’t have pads on. We’ll have pads on later on in the week, so you’ll get to see a little bit more live things, but they’re definitely two different defenses,” Jahri said when speaking about Coach Steve Spagnuolo’s new defense.
Since Jahri Evans has suited up in black and gold, the Saints have won three NFC South Division titles, five post season games; he’s been in two NFC Title games, won an NFC Title and a Lombardi Trophy.
The Saints will be looking to repeat as NFC South champions, a feat no team in the division has accomplished since the NFL realigned in 2002. Evans says he and the Saints are looking forward to the challenge of what many consider the toughest division in football, “Since I’ve been here, the NFC South has been very competitive. Each year, everybody is pushing to get to the playoffs, so I think we have a lot of young guys in the South. But we’re here to win all the games. We’re here to win all of our division games. We’re here to win every game that we have on the schedule, but we know we have to take it one game at a time and that’s the way we have to approach it.”
It didn't take long for everyone to see he’s a special player. As Saints tight end Jimmy Graham enters his third season in the NFL, he stands to land a huge payday for what he has accomplished in his short time as a pro. “I just try and go out each day and work hard. I’m just trying to make the team,” said Graham.
When Graham said he was just trying to make the team, my co-host and former Saint Hokie Gajan just looked at me and smiled with a big grin! “I don’t think Jimmy Graham has to worry about making this team,” Hokie said.
Now some may think Graham was joking. But those who know him and analysts and fans who've followed #80 realize that's Jimmy being Jimmy, the humble man and player.
Graham enters his third season in the NFL after having one of the most impressive seasons in Saints and NFL history in 2011. Jimmy set a club record last season with ninety-nine receptions for 1,310-yards and eleven touchdowns.
Graham was third in the NFL in receiving yards behind Wes Welker and Roddy White and he and Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski shattered previous tight end records in 2011 as well.
But humble Jimmy knows it’s not about him. It’s about the team. He knows the Saints offense is much more than one player, “I don’t think it is stopping one person on this team. I think it is stopping everybody. We have a great core group of guys. We have a lot of receivers, running backs, tight ends, everybody is a valuable receiver on this team so that is one of the hard things about guarding us."
Graham will more than likely get a fat paycheck very soon. Fellow tight end Rob Grnkowski signed a six-year fifty-four million dollar extension with the Patriots back in June. Now it seems Graham will be the next high profile tight end to get a big deal.
In two seasons with the Saints Graham has 142 receptions for 1,824-yards and nineteen touchdowns. And Graham averages nearly thirteen yards per reception as he enters his third season in the NFL.
Jimmy is a hard working player who credits the players around him with his success as much as he does his individual play. Graham says having a guy like Drew Brees makes all the difference in the world, "Drew Brees is a surgeon. He knows exactly where to put the ball. He knows exactly who is open and he knows the match up. I think last year was okay for me and hopefully I can have another one.”
And for those out there who don’t think the Saints will be able to handle day to day operations without Coach Sean Payton, Jimmy says that’s certainly not the case. “I think that Joe Vitt has done a great job. He’s just like Sean. He knows how this machine runs and he had the opportunity to run it last year. Pete Carmichael had the opportunity to run it last year. Everyone is going to step up. I think that everything has been the same and hopefully we can continue that. Hopefully we can grow and get better each and every day.”
We all have things we want to see the Saints improve on this season. Without question one thing the Saints must improve on is getting heat on the opposing team’s quarterback. And if the Saints are going to do a better job of applying pressure, they need their front four players to turn it up a notch!
When the Saints moved up in the top ten of the 2008 NFL Draft they got one of the best defensive linemen coming out of college in USC’s Sedrick Ellis. Now Sedrick enters his fifth season in the National Football League and perhaps the biggest season of his career.
Ellis is entering the final year of his contract with the Saints, and with a big season Ellis could make big bucks next season. “This is a huge year for Sedrick. This is a money year. Being in the final year of his contract Sedrick needs to have a good season,” said WWL NFL Analyst Mike Detiller.
After the first day of practice, Ellis talked about rebounding this season.
“It wasn’t my best year. It was a combination of things due to that like injury and scheme. Now we have a new scheme and I’m looking forward to the season,” Ellis said. Ellis had a big dropoff in production last season, as he had no quarterback sacks after registering six in 2010. Ellis could greatly benefit from the addition of new Saints Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
Ellis has fifty-five tackles last season with twenty-one solo stops. Sedrick is feeling his way out in the Black and Gold Defense’s new scheme but so far so good. “I like the new scheme. It’s a true four man defense. It’s the kind of defense that I use to play in.”
Ellis is speaking of the defense he played in while he starred at USC for the Trojans. Ellis says that daily improvement and getting on the same page with his defensive teammates are the things that he is focused in or right now.
“Constant skill development is what Coach Vitt stresses to us. We are looking forward to getting our pass rush going. We are not going to be blitzing as much so it will give the defensive linemen a chance to showcase their talents,” Ellis says.
NFL Analyst Mike Detiller thinks that Ellis can have a good season. “I think Coach Spagnuolo can help Sedrick out a lot. Coach Spagnuolo knows how to get the best out of his players and I think Sedrick as well as the rest of the Saints Defensive Linemen will benefit from being in this new scheme.”
In four seasons in the National Football League with the New Orleans Saints, Sedrick Ellis has 202 total tackles, including 93 solo stops with 12.5 sacks. The future of Ellis in a Black and Gold Uniform may well be decided this season.
With the addition of fellow Defensive linemen Brodrick Bunkley and Remi Ayodele, among others, Sedrick thinks this season could be a very good one for the Saints defensive front. “I think it’s going to be a world of difference. Coach Spags really let’s his front guys go and I’m excited to have a chance to play in this new scheme.”
It’s ON, folks! Today, Hokie will be breaking down practice…While Bobby will be screaming at me and Hokie, and the veins in the Cannon’s neck will flare up with excitement as the first practice of Training Camp 2012 gets underway! And, we’ve got so much coverage lined up, we’ve added an hour – Me, Bobby, and Hokie will keep it going until 9:00 p.m each night!
Below are five questions I think are interesting, to say the least, as we embark on what should be one of the most anticipated seasons in Saints history! So break out your #2 pencils and Bullfrog sunscreen, and let’s get ready to hit the field. Here we go!
1. Who will be in charge while Vitt is out? Back on April 24th, Saints Coach Joe Vitt said that the Saints were once a coach-driven team. But since the Super Bowl, the Saints are now a player-driven team. That’s good to know, since no one really knows who will be in charge while Vitt is out for the first six games on suspension. Will it be Aaron Kromer? Could it be Pete Carmichale…or possibly DQ Steve Spagnuolo? Regardless, I think there will be a front man to address the media during the week and after the games, but I kind of expect to be a “by committee” situation while Vitt is out.
2. Biggest off-season addition? Atop of the list is Curtis Lofton. But what about David Hawthorne or Chris Chamberlian? Or, even Brodrick Bunkley could be that player. I think it will be the addition of all these defensive players that we will point out during camp as well as the season as best off season additions. However, if history repeats itself the last two times the Saints have added a new Defensive Coordinator great things have happened. In 2006 Gary Gibbs was the new guy as the Saints went to the NFC Title Game. In 2009 Greg Williams was the man in charge of the Black and Gold Defense and the Saints won it all. Steve Spagnuolo is now in charge!
3. Is Mark Ingram ready? Whenever you are a first-round pick and a Heisman Trophy winner you’re are expected to do well. Saints RB Mark Ingram showed us flashes of what type of player he could be when he was healthy. I’d like to think if Ingram stays healthy that the Saints have the most complete set of backs in the NFL. Two physical runners in Ingram and Ivory, and two guys that can smash and slash in Thomas and Sproles, make for a very complete unit. Ingram could help the Saints offense grind down foes in the late quarters of game and be a contributing part to this four-headed monster!
4. Carl Jr? The Saints were not able to retain Carl Nicks, who many feel is the best O-lineman in the game today. But the Saints were able to add a Pro Bowl caliber player in Ben Grubbs. Grubbs comes from a much more physical style offense in Baltimore so he should be able to help the big guys up front pound away at opposing defensive units. The big guys up front never get the ink they are worthy of, but you can best believe that everyone is grateful for their play!
5. How will it be with no SP? As every sports web site, TV channel, radio station, newspaper and magazine begins to give their preseason outlook on teams, the one thing that is always brought up: How will the Saints fare without Coach Sean Patyon? If you say that Payton won’t be missed, then you are nuts. But I think now we will see even more how soundly built that the Saints franchise is. Yes, we need Payton…he makes us better, and he made us champions. But I think that what Payton has done as far as building chemistry among the coaches as well as the players is as good as any team in the league. And yes, don’t forget C.J. is no longer with the Black and Gold, so asking how the WR core will do with a different guy for the first time in six years is also a valid question.
OK, the off-season is over! Who Dats, it’s time to get back to work. Each season I do a little “sumpin sumpin” to give a little take on the Saints Training Camp. But this year I’ve called on the real pros…Guys who have played the game and the man that has called the game for nearly thirty years to give his take on some curious Saints training camp questions.
Let’s jump right in and talk about a big one. How will not having Coach Payton affect the team as we start camp? “I’m going to have to watch a few days of practice first,” said WWL Saints color analyst Hokie Gajan.
“The Saints are going through something that no other team in the NFL has had to go through. No one really knows what it is going to be like without Sean Payton. We shall see,” said Hokie.
The Saints open practice Thursday afternoon, practicing for four straight days with each practice beginning at 4PM at the Saints facility on Airline Drive.
Offensive things to look for during camp
The Saints offense returns many familiar faces, but the biggest absence is Carl Nicks, who is now with Tampa. The Saints are deep at running back and wide receiver, and they could be even better this season in both of those areas. How Mark Ingram rebounds from injury could add a new element to the already dangerous Saints Offense.
“Ingram brings depth to an already deep position on the Saints Offense at the RB spot. This offense looks to be equally as good as it was a season ago,” Jim Henderson, the Voice of the Saints.
How will not having Carl Nicks, who many called the best lineman in the league, affect the Saints O-Line? Here’s Hokie’s take: “Ben Grubbs come from more of a run based offense, whereas the Saints are more of a pass based offense. There may be an adjustment there. I’ve always thought that replacing interior linemen is a little less difficult than trying to replace the linemen on the outside.”
“I certainly hate to see us lose a guy like Carl but I don’t expect a big drop-off with Ben coming in for Carl. I think the offensive line will be just fine,” former Saints offensive lineman Steve Korte told me.
The Saints are deep and experienced at wide receiver, but there are some things of note to point out. Robert Meachem is now with the Chargers…And is this the year that Adrain Arrington steps up? Hokie gave us his take.
“I would have to think so. I never have been that much of a fan of Arrington. We see flashes of what he can do from time to time. But we have yet to see some consistent play from him. I say it’s time to move on and let’s see what Nick Toon can do and we already know that Joe Morgan is a playmaker.”
Morgan made a huge splash for the Saints during the preseason before being injured before the start of the season.
NFL Analyst Mike Detiller is also eager to watch the battle at WR. “It’s going to be a real battle to see who makes the team,” Mike told us on SportsTalk. “Wide Receiver seems to be a spot with a lot of talent on this team and it may come down to which players can not only do well catching the football but also who can contribute on special teams.”
Also, the Saints are secure at Tight end with one of the brightest young stars in the game today in Jimmy Graham.
Defensive things to look for during camp
The Saints defense had to bend several times last season. and they came out with a win the majority of times. But the taste of that nasty loss to the gold diggers from ‘Rice a Roni’ land still stings. But we got to move on and point out a little past history that makes us all feel better.
The last two times the Saints had a new leader of their defense, the Black and Gold the team faired quite well. Gary Gibbs’ defense advanced to the NFC Title game, and Greg Williams led the Saints defense to help win it all in 2009.
Jim Henderson, the voice of the Saints, will be looking for several things during training camp. “One of the things we will be looking for during camp is to see which player steps up as a solid pass rusher from the edge,” Hondo told me. “ The Saints need a solid pass rush. And then there are the turnovers. The turnover ratio needs to be better this season and with the new scheme of Steve Spagnuolo that will be something to watch during camp.”
So where do the Saints need to improve most on the defensive side of the ball? Former Saints O-Lineman Steve Korte explains.
“There are a number of things that sort of stick out to me but it’s about one thing and that’s getting pressure on the opposing QB. We have not seen that consistently. You have to get four guys that can get heat on the other team’s QB.”
Korte went on to say that the Saints have made significant upgrades at the linebacker position. “I think you will see improved play at linebacker and obviously our secondary will be a lot better if we can get pressure on the QB,” said Korte.
With a scat cat like Darren Srpoles, a booming leg like Thomas Morestead displays, and what looks to be an interesting kicking battle between two kickers? Yes that will be interesting as well. You know never a dull moment around here.
So how good is Darren Sproles? “He can do things that I don’t know if any other player in the league can do. He can change direction, he has speed and you look at the way he is built and some think he may not have a lot of power. That’s not the case he’s a physical runner. He’s the total package. You look at some of the things Sproles does and you just say wow,” said Hokie.
Is there really a battle at kicker? Mike Detiller thinks so. “If Hartley is healthy he is the guy. The Saints have a lot of money invested in him,” said NFL Analyst Mike Detiller. And speaking of special teams how about the play of Saints Punter Thomas Morstead?
“He is a weapon. Morstead is an absolute weapon. He pins teams back deep week in and week out. Making teams drive 70 and 80 yards is something that Thomas helps the Saints do on a very consistent basis.”
Detiller also thinks that Saints WR Joe Morgan will once again make an impact on special teams.
So there it is, a little preview from guys who have been around the Saints franchise for many years. So let’s all sit back and watch and listen and the 2012 Saints Training Camp is now here!
Saints 2011 Record: 13-3
NFC South Record: 5-1
Offensive rank: Total Yards #1 467.1 yards per-game average / Passing Yards #1 334.2 yards per game / Rushing Yards 6th 132.9 yards per game and the Saints scored on average 34.2 points per game.
Defensive Rank: 368.4 yards per game allowed on average, 24th in the NFL / 259.8 passing yards allowed per game, 30th in the NFL / Rushing yards allowed: 108.6 yards per game, ranked 13th in the NFL in points allowed per game with an average surrendered of 21.2 points per game.
The landscape of college football has changed forever! The date of Monday July 23rd, 2012 will forever be remembered for many things. But most importantly, it will be noted for the NCAA doing the right thing.
The President of the NCAA laid down the hammer on one of sports' most prized institutions, and he did so with the world listening and watching. NCAA's Top Dog (and former Chancellor of LSU) Mark Emmert levied penalties on Penn State that will not likely ever be duplicated again.
For their non-involvement in helping many victims and their involvement in covering up the worst scandal ever in the history of college sports, Penn State football is basically in its knees and will have to completely rebuild. The question—are the people of Penn State bigger than the scandal?
But with that said, it’s hard to imagine that anything could be worse than what Emmert did levy on Penn State. Five years of probation, a four-year bowl ban, and Penn State must also reduce 10 initial scholarships and 20 total scholarships each year for a four-year period, and pay $60 million dollar fine. Those are the big penalties that Penn State must now deal with.
But that’s only half of the story! The once-sometimes called ''God'' of college football has been stripped of wins dating back to the 1998 season, which has dropped the late Joe Paterno from 1st on the all-time win list to 12th. And now, when you look at the foundation of the PSU Football Program, the school itself, and Paterno’s Legacy, Penn State must now literally start from scratch with nothing to sell their potential students or recruits on!
Yes, you see for years students and athletes alike have attended Penn State University for one reason and one reason only, and that is Joe Paterno and Penn State Football. Now, with all of the tradition and history wiped out and stricken from the record books, what Penn State higher-ups will do to try and begin repairing all of this damage will be interesting to see.
Coaches will no longer be able to sit in the kitchens and living rooms of recruits and bring up the history of Joe Paterno. Instead those very same coaches will have to sell parents and recruits on something that is new. Like a new beginning.
I think as fans in general we have all thought of Penn State and Joe Paterno as one and the same, and for nearly seventy years that has been something that has been in place. Now a once-proud university, that prided itself in keeping a clean football program with a coach that was old-school and considered like a father, must try and distance itself from the very same person it built its solid foundation upon.
I understand that this had to be done, in order to try and pick up the pieces. Move forward, and begin what is the so-called healing process that all of these penalties were the right call by the NCAA.
But to those who grew up, to those who followed, and yes those of us that loved Joe Paterno must now also begin to move on. Regardless if you played for Paterno or just admired what we thought he stood for, from afar this is all really sinking in even more now.
And as the construction workers began to take down Paterno’s statue on Sunday morning right outside of Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley, the mood was anything but happy. And many of us, including myself, also took down our pictures of Joe Pa. It was something that we, and I you all had to do. It was not just the right thing to do...It was the only thing to do!
As the 2012 college football season approaches the preseason accolades are coming in for the Bayou Bengals. Last week eleven LSU football players were selected to earn All Southeastern Conference honors for the 2012 college football season.
The Tigers are once again highly thought of in the nation's toughest conference after winning the SEC last season without a blemish on their conference record. The Tigers have several big time players back on offense, defense and special teams after going 13-1 last season... with their lone loss a 21-0 setback to Alabama in the BCS National Championship game.
LSU opens their season on Saturday, September 1st when they entertain the University of North Texas. But perhaps even with all the honors the Tigers are getting, the most hype - and in turn the biggest question mark - surrounds the Tigers new signal caller.
Yes, for the first time in four seasons LSU will have a new face under center. Zach Mettenberger comes in with high credentials as he was once going to be the starting quarterback for the University of Georgia.
After an off field incident, Georgia Coach Mark Richt dismissed Mettenberger from the UGA team. After a stint at the JUCO ranks, Zach resurfaced in Baton Rouge. Now Mettenberger will be the Tigers starting QB, and he has no one currently challenging him for playing time.
Zach recently participated in the 2012 Manning Passing Academy at Nicholls State University last weekend. Mettenberger was one of several of the nation's most talked about QB's in college football to attend the camp. Alabama QB A.J. McCarron, along with USC QB Matt Barkley, were among the others.
Over the past four seasons, the LSU passing game has been inconsistent and flat out bad at times. Now it looks like Mettenberger will be the player that helps LSU overcome.
Media at the SEC Media Days have also picked LSU to win its second straight Southeastern Conference championship. The Tigers were the top vote getter in the Western Division, beating out Alabama - the team that beat LSU in the national championship game in January.
LSU is in just about every major publication's top three. That includes the 2012 USA Today Preview that has the Tigers playing the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans in the BCS Championship in Miami in January.
LSU is preseason ranked #2 according to Athlon's Magazine and the Tigers are #1 across the board in the SEC West, the overall SEC rankings and #1 in the nation according to Lindy's. Phil Steele has the Tigers ranked #3 to start the season.
1. Green Bay Packers – They are still mad that they won all those games in September, October, November and December but then went 1-1 in January! The Pack will be back and they will be hard to beat this season.
2. New England Patriots – Yes, Tom Pretty and the Pats are still the class of the AFC, and one of the best in the NFL. But the main question is will this team ever win another title? Their window of opportunity is slowly closing!
3. Philadelphia Eagles – Yes I’m buying the Eagles hype! This is a team that got hot a little too late last season. I think they will be the class of the NFC East and one of the best teams in the league this season.
4. New Orleans Saints – With all the things that this team went through last season they are still favored to win 12 games. That’s enough for me to believe. Wouldn't it be something to see Goodell have to give the trophy to Joe Vitt who would then in turn hand it off to Sean Payton! Talk about payback being a B! Who Dat!
5. Houston Texans – The Texans are loaded! They have talent on both sides of the ball. Houston has depth at WR, RB, and QB too. The Texans should have an easy time in the AFC South and they should be in contention for one of the top two seeds in the AFC this season as well.
6. Baltimore Ravens – Aw man, the Ravens were oh so close to winning it all last season! I think that this team has another run or two in them. Can’t blame QB Joe Flacco no more! He stepped up last season.
7. San Francisco 49ers – The biggest and best off-season moves were made by Frisco. What’s not to like about this team? They got a good coach, good backs, solid WR's, and a salty defense. Oops, I forgot QB Alex Smith! Oh well, no team is perfect.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers should be in contention to win double digit games again this season. The longest-tenured Steeler is no longer in the fold. Now what will Pittsburgh do without Hines Ward? We shall see.
9. New York Giants – They got hot at the right time, but come on...It’s hard to win back to back titles in the NFL. The last time the G-Men were coming off a title they went 12-4 and the #1 seed, only to lose to the Eagles in the Divisional round. It’s tough in this league to repeat!
10. Denver Broncos – Denver has a solid O-Line, very sound defense, and yes a new QB in Peyton. Denver will have as many headlines this season as they did last year with Timmy T, minus all the hype. This is a better team going into this season without question than they were a year ago.
On the outside looking in: Atlanta – Matty ''Cold as Ice in the playoffs'' Ryan has gained seven pounds and says that his team is ready to take the next step. Well it’s good to know that Atlanta might finally win a playoff game. Hey, I’m not hating. The Birds are 0-3 in the post season under Ice Ice Matthew.
Detroit – The Lions will score points but can they stop anyone when it counts?
Oakland – I like the way this team is built, and I think they can win the AFC West this season.
Yes, we have just about made it through the dog days of summer. No, I’m not talking about the weather. I’m talking about the long period of time that fans down here in the Deep South have to go without having any football.
With that said, this off-season has been anything but ‘’off’’ since the 1st of March. Yes, from last year when all we were doing was waiting for the pen and paper battle to conclude between the NFL and the NFLPA, to this off-season, when more legal news has been on a weekly basis about our beloved Black and Gold. This has been a very unique yet rather entertaining off-season.
We start off with the launching pad for stardom and that of course is on the prep level. Now for those of you who think you are too big time or you don’t have time to follow prep, let me break it down for you this way!
Would you learn the letter B before A in alphabet practice? Would you learn how to run before you walk? The obvious answers to both of those questions are a resounding no! So I invite you to start off with prep football this season.
If you do, you will find out that the numbers will be easier to follow and the stars that are now winning BCS Titles and Lombardi Trophys all got started in prep football. And of course we are very lucky to have the type of prep football that we do down in Louisiana. And you know as always I’m as excited about covering the prep football scene as I am any level of football.
So will we have five new champions this season? Or will the mighty West Monroe Rebels, Neville Tigers, St. Charles Comets, Curtis Patriots and OCS Eagles repeat as prep state champs in each of the state’s five classes? The trek to the dome for the state finals begins Friday Night August 31st!
Then we move up to the college level where last season our great state was well represented in post-season action. Although they floundered in the national title game, the LSU Tigers, along with the Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech and the lone team to win a bowl game in the ULL Ragin Cajuns, all made us proud.
I mean, if our prep football is what the rest of the country says it is shouldn’t this state have several bowl-eligible teams each year? The Tigers are in everyone’s pre-season top three, the Cajuns once again have high expectations and the Bulldogs are now on the national radar as a team to be reckoned with.
Enter Curtis Johnson. Yes, Coach C.J. is now at the helm Uptown and he has the Green Wave fan base excited as they well should be! Coach Johnson is recruiting at a high level and he has long been respected for his work ethic and the results that he has helped produced. The Green Wave will become a much better program and I can envision a nice cool October afternoon in Uptown New Orleans with thirty plus thousand fans packing the new Tulane Stadium one day soon!
If you are a Green Wave Fan, if you’ve been a closet Green Wave Fan and were too afraid to admit it, now’s the time to get on board as things are as bright as ever for the Wave. I could be wrong but I don’t think it’s going to take Coach Johnson as long as some think to make the Wave very relevant in CUSA!
Throw in Nicholls State, ULM, Northwestern State, SLU, Louisiana College, and of course Grambling State and Southern, and you have a complete line-up of teams to follow this season here in Louisiana.
But without question LSU will be the lightning rod for national attention this season. With a new, already heralded, great QB, a team that is loaded on both sides of the ball, and a coach that is known for high drama and unique vocabulary, the Tigers are once again a made-for-TV program that will once again provide the rest of the country with some great football this season.
And of course our final stop is here in the Big Easy with the New Orleans Saints. The Black and Gold hit the practice field in three weeks with as many questions about them and their season as there are about the other thirty-one teams in the National Football League.
Since Friday March 2nd, the news that has been steadily coming out about the Saints has not been all that pleasant, to say the least. The Saints are still favored to win twelve of their sixteen regular season games despite all the punishment dished out to them.
But as this week begins, we know that there is no Sean Payton, there will be no Loomis and no Vitt for the first six regular season games…And perhaps the most disappointing news is that there is still no Drew Brees.
I mean, I know that at this level football is still a business but it’s time to get this deal done. Yes this is a team sport, but we all know that the Saints have no chance at all to be a contender without number nine under center. That’s the truth.
Get the deal done so the Who Dat Nation can start to focus on the first game of the season! The “us against the world” mentality, that has served this city and this franchise well in the past, can once again get us all together on the same page and we can take advantage of all the media attention that will be centered on the Saints this season.