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Kristian Garic

Wake up to live, local sports talks with Kristian and T-Bob Hebert on "Double Coverage!" 

Weekdays 6am-9am on 3WL 1350-AM

Twitter: @kristiangaric1
Email: kristian@3wl1350.com


Kristian: Saints release TE Tom Crabtree

The Saints have termintated their contract with TE Tom Crabtree and signed ILB Todd Davis to the active roster.

While it's easy to read into release of Crabtree as a good sign for TE Jimmy Graham, Davis provides depth at thin LB position with Ramon Humber down.

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Kristian: Saints will win in a close one against hobbled Lions

50/50: Saints Tight End Jimmy Graham (shoulder) was limited again today in practice and it looks as though he'll be a game time decision when the Saints travel to Detroit Sunday to take on the Lions. "Sean (Payton) said he's going to test it, and see where I'm at. If I can play then I can, if I can't play I can't," Graham said. "We'll see, maybe in two days I'll feel better." Graham has prided himself on playing through injuries in his career, and could see some time as a bit of a role player for this game in the red zone and on third down in this game. "Wednesday I didn't practice and Thursday I was able to a little bit, so there is some progress right there," he explained. Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle) has not practiced all week and Lions Coach Jim Caldwell said Megatron would need a "miracle" to play on Sunday against the Saints. The Saints offense is certainly more potent without Jimmy Graham, but the loss of Calvin Johnson is huge for Detroit. If you're looking for a winner or loser on the injury front, you might be able to say it's a wash, but I would say the Saints are better off without Graham than the Lions without Johnson.

My take: All the numbers say the Saints won't/can't win Sunday on the road against the Lions. Detroit has the top ranked defense, and the Saints haven't won a regular season road game in their last six trips. Numbers don't always tell the story, and sometimes they do. Sitting at 2 and 3, the Saints have to have this game. There is no other way to put it, they're the team more in need of a win. Every team needs to win, but the Saints are catching the Lions at the right time. I'm hesitant to pick the Saints because of their very real road struggles, their inability to bring a defense to speak of and overall inconsistent play. However, this game just has a Sean Payton and Drew Brees "don't count us out" signature on it. It will be close, but the Saints win it 17-14.

Injury report: Defensive back Keenan Lewis (toe) is listed as probable, Tight End Jimmy Graham (shoulder), Defensive back Patrick Robinson (hamstring) are both listed as questionable for this week. Graham practiced in a limited role Thursday and today, Robinson hasn't practiced all week. If Robinson doesn't go (Typically if you don't practice you don't play) you might see more of rookie CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste against the Lions.
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Kristian: Brees says "This is where you make your run"

Refreshed: The Saints had their bye week relatively early this season, but quarterback Drew Brees said it came at a good time for the team: "It's a time for self evaluation," Brees explained. "Especially physically I think, especially because we got banged up in that Tampa game a little bit." Judging by the injury report (more on that in a minute) the bye week helped a little but not enough. The Saints have 11 games remaining in the regular season and Brees said the team is ready: "This is where you make your run." The "run" will be tough, starting this Sunday on the road against the Detroit Lions. In the month of October, the Black and Gold will play three straight teams with winning records,(Green Bay at home on the 26th) and a short week turnaround on Thursday night on the road against Carolina on October 30th.

I want to be a great safety: The Saints used safety Kenny Vaccaro in six different positions last season, and several different positions in the early part of this season. When safety Jairus Byrd was lost for the year, Vaccaro went back to a more traditional role as a strong safety: "That way I can make the checks and I can be in a position to make plays all over the field and not be in the nickel where I just have one side to hold down," said Vaccaro, who asked defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to use him more in that role. "I just said to keep me in one spot and let me be a great safety instead of a jack of all trades. I would rather be a great safety." The Saints worked Vaccaro strictly as a strong safety in training camp while Byrd was working his way back to the field with a back injury, and Rafael Bush was playing the free safety role.

Ingram back: After getting off to the best start of his career, running back Mark Ingram broke his thumb in a week two loss to the Cleveland Browns, and missed the next three games. Ingram returned to practice today and expects to play on Sunday. Ingram said he didn't realize during the game that he broke his thumb, and just thought it was a sprain and didn't find out until after the game that he fractured his thumb. "I'm back and hopefully pick up where I left off," Ingram said. Before the injury Ingram averaged 6.0 yards per carry on 24 attempts with three rushing touchdowns. The Saints ground game didn't suffer in his absence currently averaging 133 yards per game on the ground.

Injury report: As I mentioned above, RB Mark Ingram (hand) is back he took every repetition in practice today. Fullback Erik Lorig (ankle) and center Jonathan Goodwin (knee) also returned to the practice field in a full time capacity. Lorig hasn't practiced since training camp. Tight End Jimmy Graham (shoulder) missed practice. Cornerback Patrick Robinson (hamstring), linebackers Ramon Humber (ankle) and Kyle Knox (ankle) also were no go's today.
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Kristian: Report- Graham to miss 2-3 more weeks

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham will likely miss 2 to 3 more weeks with a sprained shoulder according to the NFL Network.

Graham suffered the injury in the week 5 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Number 80 has been a big part of the Saints offense this season, and will be missed if he's unable to play next Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

The Saints will count on Benjamin Watson and Josh Hill in the passing game to fill in for Graham.

The Saints are entering the heart of their schedule. After the Lions, they return home in week 8 against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football. They have a short turnaround after that as they play on Thursday Night Football on the road against the Carolina Panthers on October 30th. November remains tough with two home games against the Bengals and Ravens before going on the road at the Steelers.

Photo by Chris Bennett
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Kristian: Saints sign TE Crabtree, bump Byrd to IR

According to the NFL transaction wire, the Saints have signed TE Tom Crabtree out of Green Bay and moved safety Jairus Byrd to injured reserve.

Since Crabtree is more of a special teams guy, this move doesn't really tell us much about the status of TE Jimmy Graham after he hurt his shoulder against Tampa Bay.

Click here to see Crabtree's stats

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Kristian: Saints focus is internal

Fighting back: The Saints are trying to climb out of a 1 and 3 hole this Sunday at home when they face Tampa Bay, also sitting at 1 and 3. Coach Sean Payton and the Saints are studying the film on Tampa but also trying to fix their own issues: "I think more than anything else, we spend a lot of time on their personnel, and then for us especially this week our focus has been driven internally as much as anything else," Payton said. Holding on to the football, forcing more turnovers, scoring more points, tackling and rushing the passer have been points of emphasis for New Orleans ahead of Sunday's contest with Tampa.

Glennon almost landed in New Orleans: Buccaneers QB Mike Glennon was high on the Saints draft board when the team opted to take tackle Terron Armstead in the third round of the 2013 draft: "I remember it like it was yesterday. Terron Armstead, Glennon was right in that cloud if you will," Payton explained the Saints had discussions in the draft room on if they wanted to draft Glennon out of N.C state instead of Armstead. At the time Armstead was the better fit in terms of need, and Glennon wouldn't have contributed for some time, sitting behind Drew Brees. I think the Saints made the right choice, but Payton obviously has high regard for Glennon: "His feet are exceptional for his size (6'6). He can locate the ball and make all the throws. He was a player we had real high grades on," said Payton. "I think both of those guys (Armstead and Glennon) have bright careers in our league. I think if they had it to do all over again the right pick is Armstead."

Cooks adjusting: Saints rookie WR Brandin Cooks is learning on the job through the first four games in the NFL, and every week the defense has something new for him. "Different schemes in defenses we've been facing, you can say it's been changing (week to week)" Cooks said. That's a definitive sign of respect in the league - when defenses mix things up it means they're game planning specifically for a particular player. "It's on the job training for me because I haven't seen all these teams, so every week I'm getting a different look and I have to make sure I'm watching that film and learning and adjusting to it," Cooks explained. The Saints traded up back in may to grab Cooks with the 18th pick in round one and so far he's off to a solid start with 23 receptions with 199 yards and 1 touchdown.

Injury report: Two Saints players missed practice today (Thursday); C Jonathan Goodwin (neck) and FB Erik Lorig (ankle). Goodwin has started 90 straight games with the Saints and 49ers and last week battled an ankle injury and practice just one day before making the start against the Cowboys. S Marcus Ball (hamstring) DB Corey White (foot) and OT Terron Armstead (head) were limited today, along with LB's David Hawthorne (knee/ankle) and Curtis Lofton (shoulder). DB Patrick Robinson (thigh) returned to the field and took every rep in practice.
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Kristian: Payton says "There is never panic, it doesn't exist"

Is the sky falling? Not at Saints camp according to coach Sean Payton, at least not with the team. The fans or the media might say the sky is falling but Payton says it doesn't exist: "Each week as you prepare in this league there is a sense of urgency. Each team regardless of who you're playing it's about focusing on things we can do." The Saints mixed up the routine a bit at practice today, hoping to create a little more competition with some good old fashioned offensive vs defensive period.

Good Character: Sean Payton has placed a significant value on drafting and acquiring talent coupled with great character and players that can face adversity. Payton is counting on that attitude in his players to climb out of the 1 and 3 hole: "This is when you get tested, not just physically, but you get tested mentally and emotionally. We look closely at those intangibles, not for when we're 4-0 or 5-2, you look close at that those intangibles when you hit that adversity," Payton explained. Like I wrote earlier in the week, the character will certainly be tested and leaders stand up in the face of it. Let's see how much there is on this team.

Arm strength: I'm sure you've heard it, the declaration from Saints fans "Drew (Brees) has lost some arm strength on the deep ball." Well, Brees was asked about that today: "I really don't know how to respond it to be honest with you," Brees laughed. "I'm not sure what would lead anyone to believe that. I think the things that diminish as you get older is your ability to recover. Again, I don't feel like there is anything I can't do now that I couldn't do when I was 25 years old. I really don't know how to answer the question," Brees said with a smile

Injury report: Four players missed practice today Center, Jonathan Goodwin (neck), RB Mark Ingram (hand), FB Erik Lorig (ankle), and CB Corey White (foot). Left Tackle Terron Armstead said he he was cleared from the NFL protocol concussion process and returned to the field today as a limited participant. LB David Hawthorne (ankle), S Marcus Ball (hamstring) CB Patrick Robinson were also limited.
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Kristian: Saints problems need more than a simple fix

What’s wrong with the Saints?  Can it be fixed?  Can they turn it around?  Surely the Saints aren’t as bad as their 1 and 3 record indicates?  I’ve been hammered with those questions on Twitter, Facebook, email and on the air.  The reality is, the Saints may be as bad as their record indicates.  What’s wrong? 

Let’s start with a lack of leadership in the locker room.  Not only did the Saints lose two safeties in Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins this offseason, they lost two captains, two veterans on that side of the ball who would stand up in front of the media and take the blame, own up to their mistakes and take the pressure off their teammates.  That characteristic can’t be underestimated! 

This team lacks focus, with simple missed assignments, dropped passes and miscues that have cost them two games (Dallas just beat their tail).  That’s a direct reflection on the head coach (as he readily admitted).  Sean Payton isn’t driving the point home well enough.  The players aren’t hearing the message. 

Now let’s get to the…can they fix it question?  Sure, in theory they can, but what I believe about the NFL is once you’ve established a trend, good or bad, it tends to stay with you throughout the season.  There is no magic wand Payton can wave over the team and fix all that ails them.  It goes back to leadership in the locker room.  Who’s going to be the guy that says, “I need to play better; I haven’t played well and I’m letting my team down.” 

The Saints lack passion that has carried this team to unprecedented heights.  The feeling on the sideline is one I could only describe as lifeless at times.  They can fix it, but my guess—it won’t be until next season.

Can they turn it around?  At 1 and 3?  That question and answer kind of goes hand and hand with what I just wrote.  Sure they can, but will they?  My bet…probably not.  It’s too big a hole to climb out of, with way to many deficiencies to correct.   When teams fall into ruts like this, it typically takes so much effort to get back to .500 that once they’re there they have another let down, because it’s so taxing.    
 
I agree with Sean Payton when he said, “There were a lot of muddy hands.”  Adversity reveals character.   We’re about to find out the true character of this team, not the Saints that won the Super Bowl.  This team. 
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Kristian: Brees says "leadership is what it's all about"

1 and 3 is not where anyone expected to be in through the first quarter of the season, and after the Saints woodshed beating at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Drew Brees says the leaders in the locker room have to stand up: “Everyone has to be accountable with no finger pointing, everybody’s gotta look at themselves and understand that for us to get better as a team we all have to get better individually.”  The leadership will certainly be tested with the heart of the schedule still in front of the 1-3 team. 

The good news for the Saints; no team in the division is better than 2 and 2 and there is still time, but the deficiencies on this team are glaring. “We have not played the way I know we’re capable of.  You live and learn and hope that you are able to take the lessons you’ve learned through some of these losses and apply them to future success,” Brees said.  It’s puzzling for a number of reasons, and simply put, the Saints just seem like a team that lacks focus, intensity, and urgency despite their acknowledgement that it’s getting pretty urgent. 

The Saints are back home this Sunday in against the likewise 1 and 3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers before they head into their bye week.  At best, the Saints are trying to get to 2 and 3 before the break: “That’s all we can control at this point is beating Tampa, a division opponent at home and start feeling better about ourselves going into the bye week” Brees explained.  I asked Drew what the mood of the locker room is at this point and “disappointed” is how he summed it up.  The football team isn’t the only one’s feeling that emotion right now.  The Saints are who we thought they weren’t, a team with a bad defense and no rhythm to speak of on offense, and virtually no special teams to speak of.  Coach Sean Payton is widely thought of as one of the best coaches in the NFL, we’ll find out just how good he is in the final 12 games.  

To listen to Drew's full interview with Kristian, click the link below.

FULL AUDIO: Kristian talks to Drew Brees after Saints loss to Cowboys
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Kristian: Saints work on forcing turnovers

Forcing turnovers:  Turnovers are emphasized in nearly every NFL meeting room each week,   and the Saints have just one forced turnover in their first three games.  Safety Jairus Byrd forced a fumble of Julio Jones in week one…since then--zero, zilch, nothing.  And, for the most part not even an almost or close sniff at another.  Saints head coach Sean Payton says the team will continue to focus on forcing more, “You have (practice) periods where it’s the emphasis of the period…in individuals, you name it and you can think of 10 or 11 different ways to secure the football and make sure it’s secured offensively.  And, then defensively you set up tip drills, balls on the ground, strip drills and then reinforce it throughout every snap in practice.”  Cowboys Quarterback Tony Romo is a gunslinger and the Saints will have a chance to get their hands on the football.

Ryan’s take:  Rob Ryan’s defense has come under a lot of scrutiny after getting shredded in week 1 against Atlanta…then some busted coverages in the week 2 loss to the Browns.  Ryan decided to simplify things and it seems the players are responding. “I think we do a better job when we have less checks,” said Ryan.  “Sometimes we did fine, but it was all about the system.  Here it is all about the players. It’s not a check balance…this is the way it is. I think I was hired and came into something special here. I am not going to screw it up.  I am going to work hard and make sure we get it right,” continued a determined Ryan.  As for the lack of turnovers Ryan had pretty sharp words, “We keep emphasizing it and all of that, but that’s lip service; we need to start getting turnovers and it needs to start happening this week.”

Injury report:  Three players have been ruled out for Sunday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys RB Mark Ingram (hand); FB Erik Lorig (ankle) and S Marcus Ball (hamstring).  TE Benjamin Watson (groin); C Jonathan Goodwin (ankle) LB David Hawthorne (knee/ankle) were all limited in practice today and are listed as questionable for this week.  DB Patrick Robinson (hamstring) did not practice and is also listed as questionable. 
 
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