Well, this is the third preseason game, and the one where the starting players will see the most time on the field. The Saints coaching staff has said all week that their plans are to have their starting players play into the third quarter of the game.
Here are some things to look for in the third and most meaningful game of the preseason
1. Trindon and Travaris – Two of the top yard-getters this preseason are featured in this game as former LSU star Trindon Holiday has racked up 349 yards in returns with an 87 yard punt return for a TD against the 49ers. Holiday also had a 90 yard kickoff return for a TD in week one of the preseason. The story of the Saints has been Travaris Cadet. Cadet has led the league in total yards gained with 368 yards. Cadet has 19 grabs for 171 yards and he’s coming off another solid outing. Although both of these players have had good starts so far, they are still not locks to make their team’s 53 man roster.
2. Tackling Machines? - Coach Joe Vitt was not pleased with the way his Saints tackled last week, and tackling is something that has been inconsistent with the Saints the last several seasons. Wrapping up and making good clean stops against Houston would be a welcome change for the Who Dat Nation. If the problem continues this week, this game could be a track meet. Curtis Lofton leads the Saints defense with 14 tackles, but he’s out. Jonathan Casillas is right there in the hunt with 11 stops, and Lawrence Wilson has been impressive with nine stops. The Saints also added Barrett Ruud who could play late in the game. I think the Saints will be an improved tackling team in the long haul, but right now they have to stay healthy.
3. Premier Offenses – The Texans can run the football, and they advanced to the AFC Divisional Round last season with only their third-string QB at the helm. We know the Saints offense is the best in the NFL, and the Texans are not far behind. Houston is deep at WR, QB, RB and their O-Line paves the way for one of the best rushing attacks in the game today. I’m not sure if this game is a preview of the Super Bowl, but the likelihood of one of these teams playing in the Dome in February is very high. You can bet that both the Saints and Texans Offensive Units will be among the NFL’s elite this season.
4. Who’s going to play LB – To say that the Saints are banged up at the LB position would be an understatement. Last weekend the Saints lost Chris Chamberlain, a linebacker who had mastered the defensive system. New Orleans brought in veteran LB, and former Tampa Tackling Machine, Barrett Rudd to the mix. The main thing right now is to just get through this game without any major injuries. New Orleans looks to be solid at LB, but if another player goes down this spot could be troublesome!
5. Wide Receiver battle – With the first cut of the preseason due on Monday, the battle at WR for the Saints has gotten even more interesting. Courtney Roby is currently 2nd on the team with 10 grabs for 146 yards, while Cadet has 19 grabs for 171 yards. Andy Tanner is still hurt and so is Adrian Arrington. So is this a chance for Joe Morgan to cement himself in the Saints WR mix? Morgan started off hot in training camp, then cooled off…but currently has seven receptions in the preseason for 110 yards, including a 53 yard TD. Another big outing by Morgan this week could land him a roster spot!
You can substitute salt, you can have a substitute teacher, even a substitute a head coach, but one thing you can’t substitute--NFL officials.
If the NFL, its commissioner, coaches, players and fans learned one thing the last three weeks of pre-season football, it’s that the most powerful league in sports needs its officials. Official officials, if you will!
For many reasons, the NFL must have legitimate refs. With a commissioner hell bent on being ''safety'' conscious, it only makes sense. It’s just safer, smarter, better to have the people who know the game, the rules, the players and coaches inside out to call the games.
So far we’ve seen replacement officials frustrate, irritate and agitate everybody TRYING to call games. Just in this past week’s Saints/Jaguars game, we saw several plays in which temporary officials flat out blew the call.
And I’m not bashing these people; without replacement officials there would be no preseason games at all. But before the season begins, the commissioner of the most powerful league in sports must extend the olive branch and get real officials back on the field.
How can Roger Goodell be all about safety and think replacement officials are safe? It seems the big dog of the NFL is contradicting himself.
I wish nothing bad on anyone, never have and never will. But I’m quite sure all of you have played out scenarios in your mind in which one of the NFL’s top players goes down and is lost for the season…all due to a bad call by a replacement ref. That would be a shame. And that, my friends, would be on the commissioner’s watch.
And furthermore, some suggest NFL officials should be full-time employees, which in turn would make the game better. But from what we’ve seen thus far, just to have the real refs back would be great news for the NFL.
Former safety and current NFL analyst for Fox Sports John Lynch gave his take on this issue. ''I think we are kind of at a crossroads as a league," Lynch told Bobby Hebert and me. "We’ve heard so much about safety issues, new information on concussions and I understand that there are tough negotiations, but this to me is a place and time where you can’t have a negotiation stand in the way of what you say is your priority as a league…which is the safety of the players."
Lynch went on to say he thinks current officials are doing the best that they can, but the difference is obvious. “I’ve been doing preseason games down in Tampa and it’s just evident all over that they (replacement refs) are uncomfortable and not informed on all the rules.”
So basically it all boils down to two weeks…or let’s say until Wednesday September 5th when the 2012 NFL season kickoffs off. If no deal is struck, replacement officials will call the first games of the season, if not more.
“They have to find a way to get it done," Lynch said. "Because I don’t believe that you can go into the regular season like this.”
What’s that old saying…a penny smart…and a pound foolish?
He is a huge part of the New Orleans Hornets Franchise, and now his time in New Orleans has been extended.
Hornets Coach Monty Williams signed a four-year contract extension Monday. Bobby Hebert and I got to talk to Coach Williams not long after.
''Things were moving in the right direction before I got here. I’m just thankful to the Benson Family, Mickey Loomis and Dell Demps for my extension,” Williams told us.
Monty was hired back in June of 2010, and is entering his third season at the helm with a career record of 67-81 (.453.) That includes his debut season with the club in 2010-11 where he led New Orleans to a 46-36 record and earned the team a playoff appearance.
In Coach Williams' first season, the Hornets pushed the defending champion Lakers to six games, eventually losing to Los Angeles four games to two.
Coach Williams went on to express how much he appreciated the extension and talked about his Hornets Team. “I think we have a very good nucleus. We are a very young team but we have a lot of potential.”
Williams says he thinks the experience that rookie Anthony Davis picked up from playing in the Olympics will only make his young star better. “Antony was around some of the best players in the game, and one of the best coaches ever in longtime Duke University Coach mike Krzyewski.
Yes, last week was a tough one for all three home teams. I’m talking football, of course. LSU saw their star player check into a different kind of training camp. The Saints lost a player Coach Vitt said, “mastered the system.” And, the Green Wave lost their best player and best player in Conference USA in terms of defense.
The season is just beginning and all three--Saints, Tigers and Green Wave have taken hits and the remainder of the preseason is still ahead of us. What has taken place with each should be a clear sign that you just never know. That’s why the game is played on the field.
If I would have told you two weeks ago that LSU’s “Honey Badger” Tyrann Mathieu would no longer be a Tiger; that Saints linebacker Chris Chamberlain would be lost for the season to an injury; and Tulane’s star linebacker Trent Mackey would be arrested, you and I both would have thought I was crazy. I mean think about, when is the last time two schools, 80 miles apart had to dismiss their top players?
LSU’s was a violation of team rules and called a “behavioral problem”…while the situation at Tulane is clearly a problem of behavior in the loss of Mackey. But now Joe Vitt, Les Miles and Curtis Johnson, must all move on to “plan B.”
Tulane and LSU have less than two weeks to prepare for their season opening games against North Texas and Rutgers, while the Saints will get a super big test this weekend in the only preseason game worth a flip as they entertain the powerful AFC Houston Texans.
Yes, how times have changed in the Lone Star State as the only NFL team considered a Super Bowl contender is the team that wears stars on their helmets. Oooooo that hurts doesn’t it? Maybe instead of saying “how ‘bout ‘dem Cowboys” the team’s new slogan could be “Cowboys were ya’ been?”
Curtis Johnson was having a solid camp and his Tulane football team was getting some hype due to his presence as head coach and the return of the conference’s best defender--tackling machine Trent Mackey. Now the whole world has changed. How could this happen? How could a young man four and half months away from being in position to make millions of dollars risk his future for an alleged “home invasion/armed robbery? Just another sad story we’ve seen too many times.
I know C.J. did the right thing and will continue to do so, but this is a blow to the Green Wave, a team that only won two games a season ago. And the man called the “Mad Hatter” in Louisiana’s Capital City is a little more experienced in dealing with serious team and PR issues.
Believe what you want about Les Miles, but he had to make a very difficult decision for himself as head coach and for his team. And now some think LSU won’t be as good. One poll still ranks the Bayou Bengals #1; another dropped LSU down to #3. Was the Honey Badger that good? Yes…maybe… probably! We’ll all find out very soon how the Tigers and Wave will fare without their star defenders.
And we finish up with the Black and Gold. I don’t think anyone is in a state of panic right now after the Saints 1-2 pre-season start. I mean, come on…let’s get real. Green Bay is 0-2 this preseason and Cleveland and Jacksonville are 2-0. Do you think the Jags and Browns have instantly become Super Bowl caliber teams, while the Saints and Packers have fallen off the face of the NFL earth? Hell no!
It’s preseason, people. Like Hokie Gajan always reminds us, “don’t get too excited and don’t get too down about the preseason. It’s just a period of evaluation and realistically the only game of the preseason that matters is the third one.”
So maybe that helps some of you Who Dats. Calm down for a while…or at least until next week!
One of the Saints' biggest off-season acquisitions is now lost for the season. Linebacker Chris Chamberlain is out for the season after tearing his ACL in Friday night's game against the Jags.
“It’s a blow. It’s a bit of a setback,” Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt said.
Chamberlain played in St. Louis last season under now Saints Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and had been having a nice training camp with the Saints.
Coach Vitt said Chamberlain knew the Saints defensive scheme, and his play and leadership will be missed.
“He mastered the system,” Coach Joe Vitt said of Chris Chamberlain.
Chamberlain had an X-ray Friday night and an MRI Saturday morning, and it was determined that he’s out for the season.
Good news came in the form of WR Andy Tanner. Coach Vitt said that at first when Tanner went down with an injury against the Jaguars, things looked bad. But as it turns out Tanner’s injury is a sprained ankle, and it’s not as bad as it looked.
Coach Vitt went on to give his thoughts on the Saints 27-24 loss to Jacksonville. Vitt said that his club did some good things, and said that QB Drew Brees did a good job with ball placement. He also saw some good things from his first team offense.
Vitt said that the Saints will have personal meetings over the weekend and then get ready for this week’s practices. The Saints will work Monday on their first opponent for the regular season, the Washington Redskins...then, beginning on Tuesday, the Saints will begin to prepare for next week’s date with the Houston Texans.
Coach Vitt said that the Saints defense has to do a better job of tacking and tackling in space. The Saints struggled at times Friday night tackling against the Jaguars.
The coach also said he thought his special teams did a good job of covering with the exception on one kickoff.
The Saints will play host to the Houston Texans next Saturday Night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Black and Gold open up their ten-game home schedule tonight as they entertain the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags had a good debut a week ago in their 32-31 win over the reigning world champion NY Giants.
The Jaguars are under new head coach Mike Mularkey, who is very familiar with the Saints, serving previously as the Offensive Coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons. Jacksonville also has a new owner, Shahid Khan.
Another note when discussing the Jaguars is that they are without their best player, and perhaps the best running back in the NFL, in Maurice Jones Drew. Drew is currently holding out as he is obviously not happy with his current contract.
The Saints will now get into their regular season schedule as training camp has officially ended.
Things to look for
First thing is that the starters will play a little longer than they did the last game, according to Coach Joe Vitt. After having a solid opening drive that led to a score in the Hall of Fame Game against the Cardinals, the Saints offense struggled last week against the Patriots.
This week should be a better opportunity for the Saints offense, as they will see the most action thus far in the preseason. Saints tight end Jimmy Graham will play this week after missing last week.
In the Saints first two games Travaris Cadet has taken full advantage of his playing time. Through two preseason games, Cadet leads the Saints with 14 receptions for 109 yards and one TD.
Courtney Roby has had an impressive training camp as well. Long known for his ability to make plays on special teams, Roby has nine receptions for 139 yards with an average of 15.4 yards per grab in two preseason games.
Fellow wide receiver Andy Tanner has been playing well with eight grabs for 120 yards. The battle to see which wide receivers make the Saints roster has heated up with the play of Roby and Tanner, and Joe Morgan is certainly in that number as well.
Another thing to look for is how the Saints defense continues to progress in their new scheme under Coach Steve Spagnuolo. So far the defense has come up with three interceptions and has recovered one fumble.
LB Lawrence Wilson and DT Tyrunn Walker have both played well in the first two preseason games. Wilson has seven tackles and one interception in two games, while Walker is off to a good start with six tackles and one sack.
In the Saints defensive backfield, Corey White has played well. White leads the team with nine tackles, and he has made a tackle on special teams. LB Curtis Lofton shares the lead of tackles with White, as he also has nine stops in two games.
Coach Spags told us what he’s looking for from his defense against the Jaguars: “I’m going to present the same goals and objectives that we have for the first two games, which basically is to find a way to outhit our opponent, tackle well and make sure we’re in pursuit of the football. That’s not all exciting stuff for you. It’s cliché, but I think if we go past or beyond that and start talking about other things, you don’t get a good foundation laid, so that part won’t change.”
The Saints would like to rush the ball at a better rate this game, as the team has totaled just 174 yards rushing in two games for an average of 87 yards per contest. The Saints also need to protect the ball better, as they have been intercepted three times and fumbled the ball away once.
And on special teams, the battle for kicker continues…while the Saints remain as sound as any team in the league at Punter. Thomas Morstead is averaging 42 yards per punt this preseason. As far as the kicking battle is concerned, Garrett Hartley has made his lone field goal attempt while John Kasay is 2-of-4 on his attempts
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) @ New Orleans Saints (1-1)
Friday, August 17, 2012 7PM Kickoff Mercedes Benz Superdome
Last week’s results: Jacksonville beat New York Giants 32-31 / New England beat New Orleans 7-6
After a day in which the heat was one of the hot topics (no pun intended) the New Orleans Saints were able to work outside with a much cooler feel. A few showers cooled things off; the real heat didn’t hit until practice was just about over.
A plane flew over the Saints facility for about an hour during practice. It carried a clear banner that read “Free Payton.” Fans, players and coaches gazed with delight.
Now on to the action at today’s practice. “I think I saw more dropped balls today than at any other practice,” Bobby Hebert said. Hebert noted that Jimmy Graham had two drops while Colston and Moore also dropped a pass each. Hebert also pointed out that for the second straight day Saints LB Jonathan Casillas performed well. Casillas picked off a pass from QB Drew Brees. “Jonathan is a playmaker who can help, but he’s got to remain healthy in order to help consistently,” said Hebert.
Other highlights included more plays by wide receivers Courtney Roby and Andy Tanner. Roby had a 40-yard receptions from QB Chase Daniel. #14 Andy Tanner hauled in a 13-yard grab from Drew Brees followed by a 20-yard grab from Chase Daniel. “I think my strength is catching the football. I’ll do whatever the coaches ask of me. I’m just trying to get better each day,” Tanner said. Tanner will join Bobby, Hokie and Deke today on Sports Talk.
In team drills QB Drew Brees was sharp as the Saints worked on third down situations. Drew completed three straight passes. First on a third and three Drew hit Pierre Thomas for a four-yard gain. Then, Drew connected with Andy Tanner for a 13-yard reception…followed by a six-yard pass caught by #12 Marques Colston on a third and five situation.
DE Junior Galette came up with a sack in the team portion of practice. Perhaps the biggest play of the day took place when QB Chase Daniel threw a long ball to WR Joe Morgan. It looked to be about a 40-yard TD.
There was some fun today too. Several Saints veteran players including Jonathan Casillas and Scott Shanle had fun with some rookie players. #38 Johnny Thomas and #46 Kadarron Anderson were duck tapped to the goal post on the far end of the practice field near the Saints weight room. Then the players gave them a little ice water dashing. I’m sure that had to feel good in those scorching hot temps.
The Saints wrapped up their 2012 outdoor practices. The team will practice indoors Thursday morning…then take on the Jacksonville Jaguars Friday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
8.14.12 email@example.com - He once graced the cover of the Atlanta Falcons Media Guide; now he dons Black and Gold for the New Orleans Saints. Many Saints fans hope and think Curtis Lofton could be the best linebacker the Saints have had in a very long time.
“Ex-teammates…most of them are happy for me. At the same time, I have been called a traitor… every name in the book. They don’t want to see me, but it is all in good fun. Everybody knows this is a business and they just want to see me be happy…and I am very happy right now,” Lofton said.
Yes, the Saints scored a man many believe to be the best LB available on the market this off season. That not only helps a defense in need of a mean, hard nose, physical, “get after you” type player…it also weakens a divisional foe. And that’s not just any opposing team—it’s the hated Black Birds from ATL!
The Saints have obtained a tackling machine and in the process taken away Atlanta’s most consistent defender over the last four seasons. 492 tackles averages; 123 tackles per season… that, Who Dat Nation, is exactly what we have in #50 Curtis Lofton.
“I am just hungry. As soon as I step on the football field, I feel like I have something to prove. I want to improve and I want to be the best. Whenever the ball is on the ground, I want to be the first one to get it. If the ball is in the air, I want to get my hands on it. I am hungry and want to continue to be the best that I can for this team.”
Now, if those words don’t fire you up, I don’t know what will. And Lofton’s numbers are amazing; they back up his bravado. In three of his four years in the NFL Lofton recorded at least 100 tackles. The only year he did not was back in 2008 during his rookie season, when Curtis had 93 tackles.
The consistent play and ability to make tackles at a high level could be the thing the Saints defense has missed most in the Sean Payton era. Having a player like Curtis Lofton not only makes the Saints LB’s better, he makes the entire defense better…which makes the entire Saints team better.
And what’s even more impressive—the moment in time the Saints scored Curtis. He’s at his peak. Let me say it again…Lofton is playing the best football of his career. Not often in the NFL is a team able to land a player via free agency or trade at the height of his performance.
Curtis is coming off the best season of his young career. Last year with the Dirty Birds he was simply amazing. Lofton recorded a career high 147 tackles and posted one sack. Curtis became an even better pass defender. When he had to drop into coverage, Lofton broke up a career high seven passes, picked off two balls and forced a fumble. And, one of the interceptions Curtis returned for a TD.
So, Saints fans, we can revel in the fact that we scored a player who is playing his best football, and joins us with a new defensive coordinator who also has an impressive an resume’. Hopefully the two will create magic. Curtis said coming to the Saints was not about money. He wants to play for a winner, a championship caliber team.
“Money, for me, really didn’t play a part in it. Of course I wanted to be financially stable, but at the same time, I want to go win a championship. I want to play with great players and go to a great organization. When I came here, it was a perfect fit for me. I love all the coaches, had a great meeting with Mickey Loomis, coach (Sean) Payton, Joe Vitt, and coach Spags (Steve Spagnuolo)…and it was the best fit for me.”
Curtis said so far the defense is adjusting to new challenges, and with three preseason games left there is more work to do. “Some things that we are doing well…we are stopping the man in our seven-man fronts. And, I feel like we are starting to tackle well. Some things that we are not doing well…some leaky yards after contact. We would like to see more balls out and get to the quarterback a little more.”
So, Who Dat Nation, looks like the wait is over! A big time linebacker playing his best football has arrived in the form of #50 Curtis Lofton. And, with the addition of new faces like David Hawthorne (MLB) and Chris Chamberlain (OLB)…an area of concern now has depth, experience and big time players, who are healthy and ready to help revamp a Saints defense, that could be one of the most improved in the NFL.
A year ago at this time we were in the midst of hearing about a fight that took place outside a Baton Rouge bight club that supposedly involved many LSU football players. The high hopes and high preseason ranking of the Bayou Bengals was questioned…and as they say, “here we go again.”
Coach Les Miles, his staff, and LSU Sports Information Director Michael Bonnette must be scratching their heads, among other things, wondering if there could be some peace and quiet around the Tigers training camp.
Last Friday Morning I woke up set to talk to Don Dubuc about the Saints and their 7-6 loss to the Patriots, and lo and behold the topic changed as fast as the Honey Badger changed the 2011 SEC Title Game in the ATL.
We all learned that the nation’s top defensive player and finalist for the 2011 Heisman Trophy was kicked off the LSU Football Team. Sure there are all sorts of speculation, rumors and some stories that are saying “according to sources” about why the Honey Badger was booted off the team. But to me, why he was kicked off is not the story.
The story now becomes how much will the Tigers miss the most exciting play-maker in college football this season? I’ve fielded calls from all over the country and from all walks of life, and the majority of people always seemed to ask: Why? Why would a young man with so much talent and such a bright future do this?
The answer simply is, I don’t know! Tyrann Mathieu was given more than a fair chance to keep his status on the team but according to his coach, as well as his athletic director, the young man had a behavioral problem.
If a player breaks the rules, then I personally don’t need to know what he did or what rule he broke. He broke the rules and he did so more than once. I’m quite sure that Tyrann Mathieu will move on and still get a shot at playing in the National Football League, but he has let his team down. He has let himself as well as his family down. But he can still fix all of this mess by just following rules and getting his act together.
Some would not be able to get another chance like Tyrann, will but let’s face it, when you’ve done we he has on the field you are going to get another shot. That’s the flat-out truth. So how much will LSU miss Honey Badger? I think more than some want to believe.
LSU can fill the void of Mathieu in their secondary with an equal, if not better, player who can cover wide receivers. But there is no one on the Tigers team that currently has shown the ability to change the course of a meaningful football game in the blink of an eye like the Honey Badger did.
Against Oregon he was incredible, but before that we knew the young man had “it.” The 2011 Cotton Bowl MVP was on the verge of becoming one of the greatest players in school and NCAA history, had he played this season and posted comparable stats like he did in his first two years.
But now, when the Tigers find themselves down by 10 or down by 14 in a big SEC game, who will return a punt for a score, who will pick off a pass and thwart a drive, and who will get a strip, scoop and score? That is something that will be answered this season. And if the answer winds up being no one, I still think the Tigers can have, and will have, what it takes to win it all. But to think that LSU has not lost a great playmaker, a spark, a difference maker would be just plain dumb, because what the Honey Badger did was historic and the numbers show just exactly that.
The player who was a Heisman finalist, won the Bednarik Award, was an AP All-American, the 2011 SEC Title Game MVP, and set records for stealing the football away are just a few things that are missing without #7 on the field.
But perhaps the biggest thing the Tigers will miss without having Mathieu this season will be the fear factor he possessed. Opposing teams were scared to punt the ball to him, opposing RB’s, WR’s and QB’s all pointed out and looked to see when and where the Badger was lurking in that Tigers Secondary. They knew when the game was on the line, when the other team thought they were about to deliver a knockout blow to LSU, the man that was sweet as Honey would jack the other team and turn the momentum into the Tigers favor in a huge way.
Yes, to me, that is what LSU will miss the most. Not often does a player like Tyrann Mathieu come around. Not often does a player come around like Mathieu who gets kicked off a team for breaking rules. It had to be very difficult for Les Miles to make this decision, and one I’m quite sure he went over and over again in his mind.
But Miles felt like this had to be done, so he said goodbye to the player that became a sensation in two years. But this is a team sport, and no matter how good a player is, no matter how much a player has done on the field, no one can or should be above the team.
As in the words of the late great ole Blue Eyes, That’s Life! And to me that’s the way it has to be!
There are only a few days left of training camp for the New Orleans Saints. The Black and Gold will enjoy three days off before getting back to work on Monday to begin preparing for their third preseason game. The Saints will practice Monday through Thursday before entertaining the Jacksonville Jaguars Friday Night August 17.
“We’ve got a big week coming up. It’s the last week of training camp and we have a lot of cleaning up to do,” said Saints Coach Joe Vitt following the Saints’ 7-6 loss to the New England Patriots. Certainly when you break things down the Saints defense has done well against the opposing team’s starting offense.
Tom Brady was just 4-of-7 for 30 yards against the Saints defense, and the Black and Gold was able to sack Brady in their game against the Patriots. “I thought our first team defense has done a pretty good job with pressuring the QB the last two weeks,” said Bobby Hebert. The Saints defense also put good pressure on the Cardinals quarterbacks and forced two interceptions in the 17-10 win over Arizona.
The Saints are 1-1 this preseason thus far, but looking at the as glass half full, you’d have to agree that the defense has made strides. The Saints are no longer a blitz-happy defensive unit; instead, they are looking to get more of a pass rush from their front four.
Bright spots have come from Will Smith, Junior Gallette, Tyrunn Walker and Cam Jordan, among others. Akiem Hicks has shown progress as well, and the depth along the Saints D-Line looks to be pretty salty right now.
The next two preseason games will give us more of a gauge of where the Saints are this preseason. We will see the Saints’ starters play the most they will play this pre-season in the upcoming games against the Jaguars and the Texans.
So far, Courtney Roby, Andy Tanner, and Joe Morgan have made plays, with Roby and Tanner making a couple of more plays than Morgan. There are not many spots open on the Saints roster, but as we come down to the final three games this preseason, we will learn which of the lesser-known players will make the Saints roster.
Last week the Saints beat the Cardinals 17-10 in the Hall of Fame Game. This is the Patriots' first game of the preseason. The last time these two teams met, much more was at stake, with both the Saints and Patriots making a run at the post-season in November of 2009. However, the one constant about both of these teams is they are both still considered Super Bowl caliber teams.
When you hear Saints Coach Joe Vitt speak, it’s easy to tell how much respect he has for the Patriots organization. “Let me just say this, number one - I made this statement yesterday and Sean (Payton) has made this statement – that this franchise that we’re going against is the Microsoft of our industry with what they’ve done. Number two – in my era as a coach, Bill Belichick is the coach of my era. He’s the Don Shula, the Bill Walsh of my era. So they’ve had some adversity and have done a great job of handling it. I’ve had conversations with Bill. We know that our players are strong. We’ve been through adversity before, but there’s really no comparisons as you’re getting out to these practices. We’re trying to get better, both teams every day.”
Two of the best quarterbacks to ever play will guide their dangerous offensive units in the game, although neither QB will play for a long period of time. After the Saints’ 17-10 win over the Cardinals, here are a few things to look for as the Black and Gold take on New England.
Things to look for in the game
Yes this is the Saints second preseason game but don’t look for the starters on either team to play very long in this contest. For the second straight week the Saints will be missing some of the top-tier players at wide receiver and corner back.
Since Sean Payton took over as Head Coach, many Saints players have had a chance to make an impression in the preseason, and this preseason is no different. Last week in the Saints’ 17-10 win over Arizona, a few players made the most of their time on the field.
RB Travaris Cadet had eight receptions for 80 yards to go along with 49 combined yards on kick and punt returns. Cadet is still a long-shot to make the Saints’ 53 man roster, but keep in mind there are 31 other teams out there paying close attention to what other teams’ players are doing in the preseason as well.
Without the services of either Nick Toon and Adrian Arrington again this week, look for more play from Andy Tanner, Joe Morgan and Courtney Roby. Tanner hauled in four receptions for 75 yards, Morgan picked up three grabs for 35 yards, and Courtney had four receptions for 54-yards.
Over on the Saints defense, several players should get more looks this week…guys like A.J. Davis, Marquis Johnson and Corey White. Last week White led the Saints with five tackles, and Davis and Johnson also made plays in the Saints defensive secondary.
Two other players that made a nice impression last week for the Saints were DL Tyrunn Walker and LB Lawrence Wilson. Walker led the Saints with five tackles, including one sack, for -8 yards. Wilson had three tackles and one interception in the game for the Saints.
Thomas Morstead will look to continue his consistent play, as he averaged 46 yards per punt last week, including a long punt of 57 yards. The Saints also got contributions from several players on special teams, including Laron Scott.
Scott had one of the biggest plays in the game as he returned a kickoff 67 yards in the Saints’ win over the Cardinals. The Saints also did a nice job of kick and punt coverage against Arizona, and fans will once again be paying attention to the kicking battle between Kasay and Hartley.
Who Dats will also look to see if the Saints can continue improving on the pass rush. To say the Saints are stepping up in class in that department would be an understatement. So if the Saints can get more pressure on the QB this week, it would be another good sign. Last week the Saints did a good job of getting pressure on the Arizona quarterbacks as the Black and Gold recorded three sacks.
Once again, the starters won’t play long but this is another chance for the Saints staff to evaluate players and look to get some quality help this season, even though there are very few roster spots available for the new players to make.
Ok let's officially welcome two very good programs from Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC. These two schools make the already toughest conference in college football even tougher. The Southeastern Conference once again is slanted to the West as LSU, Alabama and Arkansas could once again be the best three teams in the conference despite being in the same division.
Here is a breakdown of all of the football teams in the conference:
1. Georgia - I was a little concerned last year after the 0-2 start, but the Bulldogs came through with a ten game win streak and won the East. Georgia has a solid QB, and their defense can be just as good. The main question I have… Can UGA lose to South Carolina this season and still win the East? UGA could be 5-0 when they hit the road to face the Gamecocks in early October.
2. South Carolina - The best team in the East (6-0) last season did not even play in the SEC Title game due to two losses to teams from the Western Division. QB Conner Shaw gives Steve Spurrier a proven veteran at the position, and RB Marcus Lattimore is back to beat up opposing defensive units. I expect this team to be 5-0 when they host Georgia on October 6th. That game against UGA begins a tough stretch as after the Georgia game SC faces LSU, Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas. SC could very well win all of their games against teams in the East and still not make it to Atlanta again in 2012.
3. Florida - Talk about going from the penthouse to the outhouse, well that's the case in Gainesville with the Gators. Florida has won just 15 games the last two seasons. Gator fans are expecting a better season in 2012, but from a win total standpoint I'm not so sure. Florida should be better this season, but eight wins - maybe nine - is all I see this team winning in the regular season.
4. Missouri - With QB James Franklin at the helm and a solid coach like Gary Pinkel, I think these Tigers can sneak up on some folks this season. Mizzou won't have to wait long to see where they fit in the SEC… as they take on UGA in week two and then face South Carolina in week four. A win over one of those two teams would put the Missouri Tigers in the thick of the SEC East this season. There are also great hopes for incoming freshman WR Dorial Green-Beckham.
5. Vanderbilt - Coach James Franklin has turned the culture around in Nashville. Vandy was tough last season, and they went toe to toe with everyone in the East in 2011. QB Jordan Rogers gives the Commodores a good threat under center, and the Vandy Defense is very aggressive. A Thursday night game to open the season at home against South Carolina could go a long way this season for Vanderbilt. If the ‘Dores could win that game, it would set the tone for the rest of the season. A four game stretch that begins in late September features games against UGA, Missouri, Florida and Auburn. That will be tough, but I think this team will eke out some wins and get back to a bowl again this season.
6. Tennessee - If Derrick Dooley and his Vols finish seventh in the East, he will be fired. Simply put - the Vols at the very least have to get to a bowl. Even that may not be enough for Dooley to keep his job. QB Tyler Bray has arguably the best set of WR's in the SEC in Da'rick Rogers and Justin Hunter. Eight starters are back on offense - and looking at the Vols schedule - if they don't win eight games this season it will be time to send Dooley packing!
7. Kentucky - Can Joker save his job? That all depends on how the Wildcats play this season. I don't expect Kentucky to be a winning team, but if they can hang tough and prove that they are heading in the right direction, that could be enough for Phillips to keep his job. I would say five wins is a good starting point for the Wildcats this season.
1. LSU - The Tigers have a ton of talent on both sides of the football, and they are better equipped at QB than they have been in years. It's hard not to pick this team to win the West, and the Tigers are clearly considered one of the best teams in the country again in 2012.
2. Alabama - Yes I know the Tide lost a lot of players to the NFL Draft, but as you should very well know the Tide just keeps plugging in players that can step in and contribute right away. Alabama has to replace eight starters on defense, but that does not really worry me as the depth of the Crimson Tide is as good as anywhere in the country. The Tide offense will still pound the ball, and I can see this team winning eleven games in the regular season. Who knows? Maybe the Tide get back to the National Title Game again this season! I would not bet against them.
3. Arkansas - The Hogs have a solid QB and a very good RB, but their fearless play calling head coach is no longer around. Can Arkansas overcome the loss of Bobby Petrino? Even with Alabama and LSU both playing the Hogs in their own backyard, that might not be enough. I like this team and think they will be in the BCS conversation this season, but I still see this club several steps behind LSU and ‘Bama again in 2012.
4. Auburn - The Tigers could start off 0-2 this season, and things could get even worse by early October. I can see Auburn beginning the season 2-3 at best but perhaps 1-4. If they stumble that hard out of the gate, the Tigers better win some games on the back end of their schedule. Eight wins is a realistic goal for Auburn this season.
5. Texas A&M - The Aggies will make the SEC even more fun now, as they have already established rival games with Arkansas and LSU over the years. New Coach Kevin Sumlin has his work cut out for him. If he can recruit the state of Texas with success, though, A&M could be relevant in the SEC West for years to come.
6. Mississippi State - The Bulldogs were a sexy pick last season to possibly be a threat in the SEC West, but this team fell apart after a disappointing loss to Auburn early in the season. To me the Bulldogs season comes down to how they start. What I mean is if MSU is going to be a bowl caliber team this season, they need to get off to a hot start. Home games against Auburn and Tennessee in the first half of the season have to be wins for the Bulldogs… if they are going to be better. If MSU can win those games, then this team could be 7-0 or 6-1 before they take a trip to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama. Bottom line, the Bulldogs better get off to a good start as the back end of their schedule has this team taking on Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU, Arkansas and Ole Miss.
7. Ole Miss - Hugh Freeze takes over a program that once looked solid and turned sour in 24 months. Freeze has his work cut out for him, but he does have the fan base excited about change in Oxford. With all that said… anything more than six wins this season would be a great feat for the Rebels to reach in 2012.
The Saints and the Cardinals open the NFL Exhibition Schedule Sunday night in the 2012 Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. Both teams are the only teams in the NFL that will play five preseason games this year.
So is this like a scrimmage game? Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt’s answer: “I don’t want to say that. I want to say that it’s on the same schedule as our scrimmage would be. This is a little different now because it’s a nationally televised game and it’s against another team, but thus far the install and the prep would have been the same as the Black and Gold scrimmage as far as those installs go. Are we treating it like a scrimmage? Absolutely not, but it’s the same install, it’s the same time to report for training camp that we did before. We didn’t bring in any of our guys earlier. It’s a long season.”
When you’re playing the first game of the season and it’s an exhibition game, there is not really much to hit on. But with that said, we can look at each of these teams and point out some things that both the Saints and Cardinals will have to work on to get better at this season.
From the Cardinals’ standpoint, there is a lot of room for improvement. The Cards finished five games behind NFC West winner San Francisco last season. With that said, Cardinals fans should be excited about this season due to the way the Cardinals finished the 2011 regular season.
After a slow 1-6 start the Cardinals went 7-2 down the stretch to wrap up the year with an 8-8 overall record. Some experts feel that the Cardinals are the only serious threat to the 49ers in the NFC West.
Arizona is hoping that their trade for QB Kevin Kolb works out. The Cards had the 17th-ranked passing attack in 2011 and the 19th overall offense last season as well. The Cardinals are always considered a threat to pass the ball with success due to the play of one of the best pass catchers in the game today, WR Larry Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald had 80 grabs for 1,411-yards last season with eight TDs, despite not having his starting QB at the helm a year ago. The Cardinals’ current depth chart shows Ryan Williams as the team’s top RB along will L. Stephens-Howling. RB Beanie Wells is currently on the PUP.
The Cardinals Defense allowed 21.75 points per game last season. But one thing that Arizona must improve on is turnover ratio. Last season the Cardinals finished as one of the worst teams in the NFL with a dismal minus -13 in the turnover ratio.
Linebacker Daryl Washington led the Cardinals with 111 tackles including 16 tackles for a loss. Washington also had five sacks and two interceptions last season and he broke up seven passes. Fellow LB Paris Lenon also hit the century mark in stops as he recorded 103 total tackles last season for the Red Birds.
Now on to the Saints side of things. The biggest thing to look for is the Saints’ new defensive scheme. Coach Steve Spagnuolo will look to see how much his players have adapted to his style of play.
Saints Coach Joe Vitt was asked what he’s looking for as the Saints take on Arizona. “Number one, the evaluation process is going to be this, we have to know what a player’s physicality is. Physicality is going to fill what we are looking for. Number two, can he finish? Can he finish every play? Can he finish every series? Can he finish every down, quarter, and half? Then this, does the player know what to do? Does he know how to do it? Does he know what to do? Does he know how to get them? Those things are the things that we are looking at,” said Coach Vitt.
With the absence of CBs Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson, keeping an eye on the other players at CB will interesting in the Saints’ battle with the Cards. Also, look to see which player or players can get a pass rush on the Cardinals QB’s.
Over on the Saints Offense I’d keep an eye on the battle at WR as without the services of Nick Toon, players like Adrian Arrington, Joe Morgan and Andy Tanner should get more looks in this first game.
And with plenty of depth at RB it will be interesting to see which RB gets the bulk of the carries. And of course Saints fans will want to keep an eye on the kicker battle between John Kasey and Garrett Hartley.
I don’t expect to see the starting players play that much, but with the absence of some key players and depth at RB and WR, these types of games are like Super Bowls for players that are trying to make the roster. When it comes to making cuts, the players who play the best in the games will be the ones the Saints keep on their roster.
New Orleans Saints vs Arizona Cardinals
2012 NFL Hall of Fame Game
Sunday August 5th 2012 7PM Fawcett Stadium Canton, Ohio
2011 Records: New Orleans 13-3 / Arizona 8-8
Coaches: New Orleans Joe Vitt / Arizona Ken Whisenhunt
In the final full practice of the week before their road trip, the Black and God hit the practice field at 8:50 a.m this morning and worked out for about two hours. Tomorrow, the team will fly to Canton, Ohio to watch as former Saints Great Willie Roaf is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
After today’s practice Coach Joe Vitt announced that CB Jabari Greer, CB Patrick Robinson as well as Rookie WR Nick Toon would not play in the Saints game Sunday Night.
Greer had groin surgery this week, Robinson has missed several practices with a shoulder injury, and Toon has a foot issue.
The emphasis of today’s practice was working on the two-minute offense. During team drills, some of the highlights included Adrian Arrington making a nice 15-yard grab, and Joe Morgan snatching away what looked to be an interception and made it into a reception.
But Morgan dropped a beautiful pass from QB Luke McCown later in the drill. Drew Brees would later hit Jimmy Graham for a 20-yard gain despite nice coverage on Graham by Johnny Patrick.
Brees then hooked up with WR Marques Colston for a 30-yard gain. WR Andy Tanner had a very good practice this morning with a couple of nice grabs including a 40-yard TD strike from QB Chase Daniel.
“I’m looking forward to watching the defensive backs and which players stand out at wide receiver,” said Bobby Hebert. “I think as Saints fans we all want to see the new defensive scheme of Coach Spagnuolo, and if we can get a pass rush on the Arizona quarterbacks,” Hebert said.
The team also worked on seven-on-seven drills, with Drew Brees hitting Devery Henderson for a 10-yard gain. Then the team worked on situations in a down-and-distance drill in which the chains were moved or not moved.
Brees was sharp as he hit Colston for a 9-yard gain. Then, Brees hit Darren Sproles for a 10-yard gain, followed by back-to-back completions to TE Jimmy Graham. However, DB Malcolm Jenkins came up big late on that series as he picked off Drew Brees while Malcolm was guarding RB Darren Sproles.
Be sure and listen to a complete breakdown of today’s practice and hear from players and coaches beginning at 4pm. And for the latest on the New Orleans Saints stay logged on to wwl.com.
The Saints worked on their practice fields this morning for about two hours and thirty-minutes. The team will practice again in the morning before hitting the road for a while. After their weekend in Canton for the Hall of Fame Game, the team will jet on over to New England for a couple of joint practices with the Patriots before playing the Pats on Thursday August 9th.
Coach Joe Vitt said after practice that corner back Jabari Greer underwent groin surgery today, but also said that Greer will be ready to go when the Saints open up the regular season. The Cajun Cannon said Greer's outage will mean opportunity for others. "With Greer being out for a while that will give other players a chance to show their skills and that’s good for not only trying to make the Saints Team but it gives those players a better chance to also possibly make another team," Hebert said.
Rookie wide receiver Nick Toon had another good day as he hauled in four grabs at practice this morning. "Toon is showing some consistency now. He’s had a few good practices now and that’s a good sign," Hebert told me. Toon’s best play when he caught a 20-yard TD pass from Drew Brees as he beat the coverage from Johnny Patrick and Malcolm Jenkins.
RB Travaris Cadet had another good day, and the Cajun Cannon thinks that Cadet will get some touches in the Saints game versus Arizona this Sunday Night in Canton. Other highlights include Drew Brees tossing a ten-yard strike to WR Marques Colston, and LB Chris Chamberlain had a solid practice as he broke up three pass this morning for the Saints defense.
DB Corey White had a chance to have a great practice as he dropped two passes this morning that could have been interceptions. The team then worked together later with Adrian Arrington hauling in a TD from Drew Brees on a 20-yard reception.
Defensive linemen Tom Johnson and Turk McBride applied pressure and would have had a sack each in Red Zone work. DB Marquis Johnson made another impressive play as he had a pass break-up as he was defending WR Marques Colston.
Brees hit Darren Sproles on a six-yard TD pass with the two giving each other a high-five after the play. #25 Kamaal Mcllwain had pass break up and an interception this morning at practice for the defense.
At the end of practice the Saints worked on goal-line offense with the ball being placed down at the two-yard line. Brees hit Jimmy Graham for a TD, then on a great ball fake, Brees hit WR Lance Moore, but Moore was out of the back of the end zone.
Another lesser-known player once again stood out today as DB A.J. Davis had a nice pass break up while defending TE Jimmy Graham. Davis is trying to impress the Saints staff, and so far he has done a pretty good job this camp.
Tune in to WWL's SportsTalk today from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. for a complete breakdown of today’s practice, plus interviews and sound bites from the Saints.
Some who follow the Saints say that this is his year! Some think that he could be the odd man out. And some think he has all the ability to become a very good wide receiver in the NFL. Saints fans know that I’m talking about Adrian Arrington.
“I am feeling good right now. It is still early obviously. So far I have been doing well. Hopefully I can just continue to stay healthy and come out here and continue to make plays,” said Adrian Arrington.
Arrington has been known more for his play in the preseason that the regular season. But this training camp he faces more competition that he has before with the likes of Nick Toon, Joe Morgan, and Chris Givens among others to try and make the Saints roster this season.
“I tell you, what I’ve not been a big fan of his, but right now he is proving me wrong, said Saints Color Analyst Hokie Gajan. “Adrian Arrington is having a very good camp and it’s going to be interesting to see how this battle at wide receiver plays out.”
If Arrington can stay healthy, he has a good shot to make the team. A year ago Arrington played in four games, making two receptions. He also caught two passes in the post-season, with one grab in the Saints’ win over the Lions and one against San Francisco.
So what gives Arrington an edge over the other younger receivers he is competing with?
“I already know the system, I have been in this going into my fifth year right now, so the main thing I was trying to work on was my lower half. (I wanted) to get my legs stronger just to endure camp. Camp is a grind,” Arrington told us.
Arrington was on the Saints active roster for the first three weeks of last season, but he was then placed on the practice squad from weeks four through sixteen. Arrington has played behind some quality receivers, but now could be his time to elevate his status with the Saints.
“It was just kind of expected. He didn’t have to say much just because I knew going in that I was behind those guys. There was not too much to be said, it was just me going out there and fighting every day and just keep playing football,” Arrington said.
There is a lot of depth on the Saints roster at wide receiver…Currently, there are eleven receivers on the roster, and several of those receivers also play on special teams. Arrington has not been known as a special teams contributor, which may work against him when the final cuts are made.
“Guys like Joe Morgan and Courtney Roby and others are going to make plays on special teams,” said Bobby Hebert. “So I think that Adrian has to play a lot better than those players in order to make the team this year.”
So it seems like it is now or never for Adrian Arrington, and thus far he has had a very good camp. Arrington says that he’s prepared to lay it all on the line this training camp to earn a roster spot.
“I approach camp the same way every year. It is always a make-or-break year for me not being a starter,” Arrington said. “For anybody who is not a starter, you have to go in here year in and year out and show every year in the camp the things that you can do. That is how I look at it. I always put pressure on myself because that makes me perform better. I look at it the same as the past three or four years.”
It was hot and steamy, to say the least, at the Saints Wednesday morning practice at their facility on Airline Drive. The Black and Gold worked on the outdoor fields in front of members of the Who Dat Nation for about two hours and forty-five minutes.
After installation and individual drills, the Saints worked on team drills with some of the focus being in the Red Zone this morning. “I can see the defense improving each day. I think that the Saints defense is getting more and more comfortable in Coach Steve Spagnuolo’s new scheme,” said Bobby Hebert.
The Saints will practice again Thursday and Friday before traveling to Canton for this weekend’s Hall of Fame Game on Sunday Night against the Arizona Cardinals in Fawcett Stadium. The team will also be on hand to see another former Saint, Willie Roaf, go into the Hall of Fame this weekend.
Saints Coach Joe Vitt thinks highly of Willie Roaf. “I think he was the most dominant tackle along with Jackie Slater of our era. He was a great player,” Vitt said.
Black and Gold fans will be excited to hear of the progress of second year DB Johnny Patrick.
Patrick could very well start this weekend due to injuries to other Saints players, and so far he has had a good camp. In six Saints practices, Patrick has picked off three passes, including one at today’s practice.
“Johnny is really playing well right now. He will be in the corner back rotation and he has not only been making plays but he seems to be in the right place most of the time,” said Bobby Hebert.
Patrick put a hit on WR Devery Henderson this morning that jarred the ball loose on one play. Patrick would later pick off a pass from QB Drew Brees in Red Zone drills. Saints safety Roman Harper also picked off Brees this morning as fellow DB Marquis Johnson did a nice job of providing underneath coverage allowing Harper to roam freely.
Other highlights included a nice run by RB Chris Ivory, Drew Brees hitting Jimmy Graham on a 25-yard gain, and then #9 connected with Darren Sproles for a ten-yard gain. Brees then went deep as he tossed a 30-yard TD strike to WR Marques Colston.
Whenever Brees has to check down he always seems to find Darren Sproles, and each time he does it seems like a guaranteed seven to ten yard gain. The team later went into seven-on-seven Red Zone drills while the linemen did one-on-one drills on the opposite end of the field.
DB Corey White had a nice pass break-up while covering WR Lance Moore. Brees then tossed a TD to Jimmy Graham with Johnny Patrick covering, and later Rookie WR Nick Toon hauled in a TD pass from Brees as Toon beat A.J. Davis.
Davis would later redeem himself with a pass break-up. On the other end, Zach Strief held his own in pass protection in one-on-one drills while Cam Jordan once again had a nice day during the drill as well.
The Saints will practice again in the morning from 8:50 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Be sure and tune in to SportsTalk today for the latest Saints Camp News from me, Bobby Hebert, Hokie Gajan, and our entire sports team!