Kristian@wwl.com - In a new defensive alignment, Saints veteran Will Smith is starting Organized Team Activities today at outside linebacker.
"On paper it's outside linebacker, but it's still defensive end. I'm cool with it," Smith told me.
"It's still the same role, I'm still rushing the passer. The difference is instead of being in a three point stance, I'm in a two point stance."
Smith has spent his entire 9-year career with his hand in the ground playing in a 4-3 scheme. Entering his 10th season in the NFL, Smith has tallied 67.5 career sacks.
The "Cajun Cannon" Bobby Hebert says the move makes sense to him. "I think they know what they have in Will Smith as a defensive end, they want to see what he can do as a rush linebacker," said Hebert. "I think you can get five to six sacks out of Will Smith at this point in his career. That would be pretty productive."
Yes, it's a drastic change for Smith, but this sounds like a bit of an experiment. If it doesn't work they could still move him back to defensive end in the 3-4 under Rob Ryan.
The Big Question in Hebert's mind for Smith is, "How well can he run? How well can he cover running backs out of the backfield?" Smith does have 25 career pass break-ups, with several of those coming at the line of scrimmage, batting down passes.
Smith took a $6 million pay cut and restructured his contract this off-season. Bobby says Smith looks to be a lock to make the roster. "He's still in the mix after taking the cut in pay. The only way Smith doesn't make the roster is if he completely falls on his face," Hebert said.
Smith is a veteran guy, and he's "their kind of guy," so it makes sense to take a look outside linebacker. At the end of the day, if it doesn't work out you know they can move him right back to the defensive line. The competition at the linebacking spots will be one to watch during OTA's, mini-camp and Training Camp.
Starting this Tuesday, the Black and Gold get underway with Organized Team Activities, which is a fancy phrase for "practice." These workouts are voluntary, but as in previous years under Sean Payton, attendance at OTA's are expected to be near-100%.
So, what exactly are Organized Team Activities? Basically, it is the first time that the coaches and players can be on a field at the same time practicing. Yes, OTA's are voluntary, but the standard that Sean Payton has set since he's been there is to expect everyone to deliver at all levels. There is essentially no off-season any more in the NFL, and Payton sets an extremely high level of accountability.
Yes, it's a cliché to say that championships are won in the months before the season, but it's true. I've heard that from many Saints players, and they will tell you that these are months, days, and hours you can't get back if they pass on the opportunity to improve. Look back to two years ago during the lockout, when Drew Brees led the players in their own version of OTA's. Even during the labor dispute, the players recognized that it was important enough for an eventual season to be in peak shape.
The NFL is more physical than ever, so every day of practice is important. Now, that being said…there is virtually no contact in OTA drills these days, following the newest collective bargaining agreement between the players and the league. Back when Gregg Williams was installing his defense in '09, you'd actually see some pushing and shoving at OTA's…but that's likely a thing of the past. That's not to say that OTA's aren't important, but it's not as gritty as it used to be. These days, the worst friction you'll see at OTA's is harsh language.
Although the hitting may not be there, the competition is still pretty fierce. Rob Ryan will have his first real opportunity to start installing his 3-4 D this Tuesday, and there will be a lot of guys trying to make their mark for their new coach. Position battles will start to take shape on the D side of the ball.
It's hard to believe but Lance Moore is the elder statesman of the Saints wide receiver corps. Moore joined the Saints back in 2005 as an undrafted free agent out of Toledo and has been mainstay since the 2006 season as perhaps the Black and Gold's most reliable receiver.
I spoke with Moore as he and his teammates are about three weeks into offseason condition at the Saints training facility on Airline drive.
"We're all focused on the 2013 season, and not thinking about what happened last season," Moore told me. Saints fans, and Moore, don't need to be reminded that New Orleans finished 7 and 9 and missed the play offs for the first time in three seasons. Moore told me there is "renewed sense of focus" and "energy level' during this off-season.
Moore and Marques Colston are the only two veteran playmakers at wide-out for Drew Brees. The rest are talented but unproven. Joe Morgan caught 10 balls last season, and flashed deep speed, but those totals must improve this season. Nick Toon was drafted in the fourth round in the 2012 draft, but spent the season on Injured Reserve in what amounted to a "redshirt season."
The Saints also drafted another receiver this year in the 5th round in Oklahoma's Kenny Stills, a player that #16 says he's ready to help develop. "He's an exciting player, I'm anxious to work with him and get him in our offense," Moore said.
The wide receiver position is an area to keep an eye during training camp. Devery Henderson is not in the plans at this point, so someone has to step up and play that 3rd WR role. Veteran special tams ace Courtney Roby is also in the mix for some playing time, but Toon, Morgan, and Stills have the edge.
Kristian@wwl.com - Let me start by saying Tim Tebow might just be the greatest college player of my generation. He was fantastic at Florida, winning two national titles. Tebow seemed to WILL the Florida Gators to win after win. Tim Tebow displayed fantastic leadership ability and was just a tough, gritty player who propelled fans to the stadium and got them glued in front of the TV. If you like college football, this is what it was all about. Tebow was college football.
With that said, please spare me the talk that Tebow could be an NFL starter, or that you would want him as your quarterback. Please spare us he "he hasn't gotten a fair chance" argument. You can't help but root for Tebow, but when you watch him, you get nauseated at his attempt to play quarterback in the NFL.
The Broncos gave Tebow a shot, and concluded they couldn't advance past the second round of post-season with him as their signal caller. The Broncos somehow managed to squeeze a 4th round pick out of the New York Jets for Tebow. I would've paid the Broncos a fourth rounder to keep him. Let me be clear, I wouldn't want Tebow as my backup Quarterback, and certainly wouldn't want him as my starter, unless I was playing a motivational speaker game or college football. He's likable; Tim Tebow's a man of God. All that is nice, but it doesn't help you play quarterback in the NFL.
Tebow would be better served playing in the Arena League. Even then I would have questions about his game. However, the field is smaller…the windows for passing are larger…and he would be a huge draw for fans. There is a reason Tim Tebow went unclaimed on the waiver wire. 32 General Managers and pro scouting guys know the deal. He's not the answer at quarterback. Not to mention it will be a circus with his arrival, just ask the Jets how that went last year. "Yeah, but he won a playoff game with Broncos." I get that argument all the time. Is that the goal? Winning a playoff game…or winning a championship? How are quarterbacks measured? Lombardi trophy collections! That's how! In 37 career games as an NFL QB Tebow has thrown 361 passes and completed 47.9% of those passes. He's just not accurate enough in the pocket. Teams usually want their starting QB's to complete a minimum of 60% of passes.
So, can we end the "I feel sorry for Tebow" party? I don't feel sorry for Tim. He was drafted in the first round by a coach who clearly didn't know what he was doing. He won two national titles at Florida. He has a Heisman trophy. He's a man of God. Tebow is a fantastic human being! He's just not a good NFL quarterback. He's made a decent wage, so what is there to feel sorry about? Tim Tebow was given ample opportunity to prove he can play at the NFL level. His body of work says he can't! Tebow should count his blessings, and the fans should dispense with the love affair of a guy so grossly overrated.
Kristian@wwl.com - A year's worth of work is in the books for the Saints after making five selections in the 2013 NFL draft. Of New Orleans' five picks this year, they spent three on the defensive side of the football and two on offensive. The Saints did well with that they had on the final day, with just two selections.
Another wide receiver: In fifth round of the draft, the Saints grabbed Oklahoma WR Kenny Stills. Stills is praised for his excellent route running ability, and body control. "He runs exceptionally well," said coach Sean Payton. Many talent evaluators considered Stills to be the best route-runner in the Big 12 conference. I like the selection, it's a bigger version of Lance Moore with speed. He'll compete with last year's 4th round pick Nick Toon for time at wide receiver.
Tareleton State: As the Saints like to do, they went small school and grabbed a bit of a "project" player in defensive end Rufus Johnson. Coach Payton said Johnson will likely play outside linebacker in the NFL. Rufus had an impressive season last year with Tareleton, leading the team with 10 sacks and 17.5 tackles for a loss.
Unrestricted free agents: The Saints have a high success rate on finding unrestricted rookie free agents, with a significant portion of their roster is made up of guys that went un-drafted. "That's our number-one pitch to the agents and players," according to Payton. New Orleans now begins the NFL equivalent to recruiting at the college level. Players and agents look at the depth charts of teams before signing a rookie free agent contract.
Moving on: Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said today, Linebacker Scott Shanle, WR Devery Henderson, and DT Sedrick Ellis "Are probably not a part of our plans for this year." All three players are currently unrestricted free agents. Loomis also said the team will likely sign an un-restricted free agent rookie running back after the draft.
Kristian@wwl.com - The Saints started the day with one pick in round three and ended up with two. Through a few trades, the Saints were able to add a couple of players along the offensive and defensive lines. The Black and Gold grabbed offensive tackle Terron Armstead out of Arkansas Pine Bluff with their first pick in round 3. After trading running back Chris Ivory to the New York Jets; New Orleans packaged that pick and their fourth rounder to Miami to trade up in the third round to grab Georgia Defensive Tackle John Jenkins.
Armstead: It was an obvious need for the Saints, and some experts felt Armstead was a second round talent that slipped right to the Saints. In Armstead, the Saints get an athletic pass rusher to replace Jermon Bushrod. We'll see if he can come in and man that left side from day one, but the Saints love his athleticism. New Orleans has been particularly adept at finding fine offensive lineman in the later stages of the draft, and Armstead looks like another.
Jenkins: He's a huge guy that is needed to play nose tackle in Rob Ryan's 3-4 defense. The Saints spent a lot of time at the Senior Bowl with Jenkins and love his stout figure in stopping the run. Again, another solid selection here for the Saints. It was an area of need, and the Saints used their depth at running back to improve their defense. If you look at the Chris Ivory deal closely, you could argue the Saints got a third round pick for Ivory and used it on Jenkins
Ivory: As much of a fan favorite as he was, it was absolutely the right decision to trade him. The Saints got good value for a player that played a relatively small role for them on offense. Ivory will have a chance to shine in New York, and the Saints address an area of need. New Orleans received good value for Ivory.
A look ahead: The Saints now own a fifth and sixth round pick tomorrow. It will be hard to get back into the fourth round tomorrow. I don't anticipate that happening, but you never know with Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis. The Saints still have some needs at WR, and CB. Perhaps they draft Tulane Quarterback Ryan Griffin as a developmental type player to be the understudy to Drew Brees.
Kristian@wwl.com - I can think of a lot of reasons the Saints could have selected a pass rusher with the 15th overall selection in round 1. I can think of a lot more reasons as to why they did the right thing by taking Vaccaro.
The Saints passing defense was much maligned last year. What do they do in the offseason? Sign Kennan Lewis in free agency, and draft Vaccaro. So much has been made about the production from the Safety position for the Saints. The selection of Vaccaro tells me two things. Safety Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins are on notice. Harper and Jenkins have a total of 5 passes defensed in the post-season from 2009 to 2012. By comparison, Scott Shanle has four, Jonathan Vilma has three, and Jabari Greer has 10.
After listening to Coach Sean Payton, it sounds like the Saints plan on using Vaccaro in the “nickel” package a lot. “He’s a guy we felt comfortable with and have a good vision for, and what his skill set is,” explained Payton.
One of the hallmarks of a Sean Payton roster is competition at every position. “Look, we’re going to have competition at both safety spots; we’re going to have completion at the nickel position. This is a good young player we’ll add to our defense and we’ll see what happens.”
The selection of Vaccaro also tells me they like their current collection of pass rushers. Junior Galette, Martez Wilson, and Victor Bulter are “unproven” as outside linebackers, but the three have a lot of upside. I would expect New Orleans to add another pass rusher to the mix at some point over the next two days, and I would also expect them to add another defensive back to the mix. The Saints don’t have a second round pick and don’t pick again until the 75th overall selection.
Saints GM Mickey Loomis spoke with reporters today in his annual pre-draft press conference. Loomis opened our live broadcast in the brand-new Saints Media Facility by joking, “I guess this is the deal where you guys ask me questions, and I do the best I can not to answer them.“
Exploring all options: With the team less than 48 hours away from the start of the NFL Draft, the team is exploring just about every option. “I think we would say it’s a deep draft, there is a couple of positions that we think are deeper than others…probably defensively at corner, and the D-line positions.” Loomis said. “But there’s good players all the way through this draft, so we’re excited to get five new guys in here, and get them started, and select some guys who are going to be contributors to our team.”
Loomis dismissed the notion the team has been more active this year trying to recoup some draft picks. (The Saints don’t have a 2nd or 7th round pick this year). “No, I wouldn’t say we’ve been more active….Obviously we don’t have a second round pick. We’d like to have one, particularly this is a year where it would be really good to have a second-round pick. But, we haven’t been more active because of that,” Loomis told us. “Those kinds of deals where you’re trading back and picking up selections are going to happen on the clock for the most part.”
The Saints GM explained they have about 15 players graded as “first round picks” with as many as 40 to 50 players graded as second round picks.
On moving up or down: The Saints are pretty much smack dab in the middle of Round 1 (15th overall). Loomis said the decision on whether to move back in the first round, if it happens, probably won’t happen until the Saints are on the clock.
“I think we would be willing to move back, but there is a point where we don’t want to go too far; and same thing with moving forward. There is probably a group of 10-12 teams on either side of that I will touch base with. “
Loomis added the Saints won’t move back just for the sake of acquiring an extra pick.
“It’s going to be predicated on who is available to us, and who could we select if we move back, who we think we can select if we move back…versus just trying to get another pick."
Blind side: At the league owners’ meetings earlier in the spring, Coach Sean Payton said the left tackle spot after losing Jermon Bushrod in free agency is a position that is “wide open” and it keeps him awake at night. Today, Loomis said the team will pay attention to that position in the draft.
“Look, we’ve got Charles Brown and Jason Smith competing there, and we’ve got some other young players in our building…and so, we’ve got competition there. Clearly, we don’t have a name on that magnet at starting left tackle yet…But we can only select what’s available to us in the draft, or what’s available to us in a veteran player. We’ll pay attention to that player.
Chris Ivory: The Saints currently have five running backs on the roster. Previously restricted free agent Chris Ivory (who signed his tender a couple of days ago) has been the subject of trade talks leading up to the draft. The New York Jets are reportedly interested in landing the bruising running back, but according to Loomis, so are a few other teams.
“We’ve had discussions with other teams as well, (but) there is no deal imminent.”
Loomis explained the trade discussions centered on the team’s strength in numbers at the position.
by Kristian Garic, firstname.lastname@example.org,posted Apr 23 2013 10:20AM
The Saints might have an interest in trading running back Chris Ivory to the New York Jets on or before the draft on Thursday, Friday or Saturday.
"I think the Jets would like to give up a fifth round pick, and the Saints probably want a fourth rounder for him. I think this deal will happen on draft, it makes to much sense for both sides," Brian Costello of the New York Post said.
So what is the proper or right compensation for Chris Ivory? A fourth rounder? A fifth rounder? You can forget about getting a second or third round pick from the Jets.
If you get the chance to trade Chris Ivory and recoup a draft pick; you should not only do it, but do it in a hurry.
"I trade him under any circumstance, if you can get any pick for Ivory I think you make the trade," the Voice of the Saints Jim Henderson said.
Here is why I think a 4th or 5th round pick is fair compensation for Ivory: The Saints have 5 picks, and they need all the help they can get to retool the league's worst defense from a year ago. Ivory is often injured, and history says he won't be available for every game. He makes $2 million this season on a 1 year restricted free agent tender. That's a lot of money to pay for a fourth running back on the roster. If you don't trade him this year, he hits the open market as an unrestricted free agent next season, and the Saints will get nothing in return for him.
The Saints found Ivory as an unrestricted rookie free agent a few years ago and can get value for him. That's considered a win for most NFL teams. Did I mention he's always hurt? Plus, Ivory is kind of one-dimensional. Yes, he's powerful and can get you the tough yards in short down and distances, but you can find another player like him later in the draft if you so desire. They can also go back to the same place they found Ivory, as a rookie free agent. Ivory doesn't help you in the passing game either. He has just three career receptions in 24 games played. Ivory is a good player, but his value is clearly a fourth or fifth round pick. The NFL has devalued the running back position, now that it has become a "pass first" offensive oriented game.
I expect a deal to go down on day three of the draft, and in all likely hood it will be a fourth rounder in exchange. The Saints have some leverage over the Jets. New York needs running backs, and the Saints can use that to their advantage. However, the Jets can counter with, 'Yeah, but you can't afford to keep 5 running backs on the roster, one of which makes $2 million dollars this season.' Don't think for a second the Jets won't use Ivory's injury concerns as leverage as well. The fourth year running back has played in just 12 games in the last two seasons with the Saints.
If you have the chance to trade him, you do it. The compensation should be right at a fourth or fifth round pick. Please stop suggesting the Saints should trade Mark Ingram in lieu of Ivory. Ingram doesn't present value to another team. Ivory does. Ingram isn't the better player at this point, but in the Saints offense he's more valuable to them than Ivory.
So imagine the Saints trading back in round 1, say as far as 29th or 30th. Who could they target? SMU defensive end Margus Hunt could be that guy.
Most have Hunt going early in round 2, and it wouldn’t be that big of a reach selecting him around 28 or 30th overall. Hunt originally attended SMU as a track athlete, but after the program folded, he was encouraged to try out for football. To say the least, the Estonia native took to the game pretty well. Margus had a stellar performance at the Hawaii Bowl. He’s got great size at 6-8 and 277 lbs. In his senior season he tallied 8 sacks. NFL draft analyst Mike Detillier had high praise for Hunt in his draft guide: “Hunt has the size, speed, long arms, and power-skills to be a J.J Watt (Houston Texans) type of player.”
Hunt flashed great speed at the NFL scouting combine, clocking a 4.62 in the forty-yard dash. Detillier says the mammoth defensive end is still a football novice, though. “He’s still a work in progress as a football player and his age (25) and some injuries in the past could negatively affect his draft status,” Mike says. The Saints could target this player later in round 1 and recoup some draft picks in the process of trading down. It’s a bit far-fetched but it could happen.
My take: I wouldn’t necessarily like trading out of the top fifteen in the draft to the bottom of round 1, but when you consider the Saints need draft choices, it’s not all that bad of a strategy. I talked to Hunt at the Senior Bowl this past season and he’s an interesting player who seems eager to get his shot at the NFL level. He comes with some huge question marks, but could end up being a real find for the team that lands him.