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Kristian Garic

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Twitter: @kristiangaric
Email: kristian@wwl.com

Brees: "We're not getting the results we want, we'll keep grinding"

Another humbling loss for the Saints, now sitting at 1 and 4 after a 39-17 beating in Philadelphia. The Saints were outscored 29-3 in the second half. Philly ran 79 offensive plays, not only because the defense couldn't get off the field, but because the offense couldn't establish a rhythm. "We have to score more points. We're better than that. That's what it takes," said Saints QB Drew Brees. For the fourth time in five games the Saints didn't score more than 20 points from the offensive side of the football.

I've covered this team since 2009, and 20 points was putrid for a Saints offensive in the first half. Brees and company never really seemed to hit their stride. "I really don't feel like we've been able to create a good rhythm offensively," Brees told me, and that's not just in the loss to the Eagles, but the first five games. What's the culprit? Is it Sean Payton and the play calling? Is it youth on that side of the football? Is it talent? Or a mixture of all the above? I would argue it's talent, and who's in charge of picking the talent? Sean Payton!

Brees goes on to say he still believes the only way to work out of the funk is to "stay the course with the way we're working. Can we all get better, and perperation and film study... it's a process throughout the week. Guys are doing the right things, and we're not getting the results we want. We'll keep grinding away."

The grind gets even tougher on a short week, with the 5-0 Atlanta Falcons coming to town Thursday night. To hear Drew's full exclusive interview, click the link below.

FULL AUDIO: Drew Brees on "Monday Morning Quarterback"

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Kristian: Saints should win, but struggle without Armstead against the Eagles

More Peat:

With starting left tackle Terron Armstead ailing from a knee injury missing practice this week, the Saints 2015 first round draft pick Andrus Peat could make his first career start at left tackle.

"At some point they go (play). The young rookie kicker, kicks or the young receiver. At some point they go," explained Coach Sean Payton after practice.

Peat started out training camp working at every position of the offensive line at center. During the preseason, and now into the regular season he worked at right and left tackle. Peat has been the third tight end when the Saints went to their heavy run formation on offense.

Peat says he's more comfortable at left tackle, "I played left tackle in college and going back to high school, so it really hasn't been a problem".

Peat struggled early in training camp with his conditioning, but he is in much better shape now. Peat said he's spent the week getting reps at left tackle with the first team offense, but his preparation has "pretty much been the same."


Eagles running back Darren Sproles was traded by the Saints to Philadelphia. Safety Malcolm Jenkins was allowed to walk in free agency after the Saints took him in the first round in 2009. He signs with the Eagles.

The Saints decided to spend money that offseason on Safety Jairus Byrd.

Sproles break up with the Saints was bitter, to say the least, after his wife blasted the Saints for trading him. So is revenge a real thing in the NFL? Is it a motivating factor for Jenkins and Sproles?

Sean Payton doesn't believe that. "I think that's mythical. I think they prepare to win and play well. Those guys prepare at an elite level."

Injury report:

Saints LT Terron Armstead (knee) is listed as out for this Sunday's game against the Eagles. Punter Thomas Morstead (Quadriceps) has been ruled out as well. DE Bobby Richardson (hip) is questionable. CB Keenan Lewis (hip) is probable, S Jairus Byrd (knee) probable; OG Tim Lelito (back) is officially listed as probable, and returned to practice today. OG Jahri Evans (knee) is listed as questionable for Sunday against the Eagles. WR Brandin Cooks is probable with an ankle injury. Cooks has been on the injury report for a few weeks, and hasn't missed a game.


I would feel much better about predicting a Saints win with Terron Armstead at left tackle. I'm not saying Andrus Peat is going to be terrible Sunday, but he's going to have his struggles at times. It's just going to happen. What I want to see is how the Saints might game plan around it. Do they give him some extra help in pass protection with a tight end or with a running back? With that said, I think the Eagles defense is a little vulnerable in pass coverage. If Drew Brees can get some time, he should be effective. On defense the Saints have to force the Eagles into 3rd and longs and play some disciplined football in the zone read option offensive attack of the Eagles.

The Saints win and it's another close game, 26-23. The Saints run their record to 2 and 3, with Atlanta coming to town next Thursday night.
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Kristian O-line could be thin against Eagles

Fast Break: The Saints continue to gear up for the Eagles Sunday in Philly. The Black & Gold defense is preparing for Chip Kelly's up tempo offense. Cornerback Keenan Lewis says it's all about assignment football, "You have to understand your assignment with a hurry up offense, and try and slow them down. You have to be really good on 1st and 2nd down."

Eagles RB Demarco Murray publicly admitted he's not getting the ball enough in Chip Kelly's offense. Lewis says Murray is tough to deal with, but the Eagles have other weapons that can beat you. "Sproles and some of their younger receivers are playing good ball," acknowledged Kennan. "We have to find a way to keep them from getting into a rhythm."

The Eagles are last in the league for the third straight year in time of possession. Hopefully the Saints can keep Philadelphia's time on the field to a minimum.

Philly fans: The City of Brotherly Love is known for the most brutal fans in pro sports. They're passionate and won't hesitate to heckle the opposing team and their fans. In fact, it's customary for Philly fans to greet opposing team busses with breakfast food. Going into the stadium, green & white jerseys are lined up waiting with cartons of eggs to launch when the opponents drive into the stadium. "They'll throw like 10 eggs and make a lot of noise, but we have to block that out and play ball," explained Lewis. "They don't just throw eggs, they flip the bird and grab their crotch and make a ton of vulgar gestures. That's not all that uncommon from other fans around the league, but Philly turns it up a notch."

Kicking woes: After a missed field goal against the Cowboys that would have won the game in regulation, the Saints brought in some kickers for a work out this week. Kicker Zack Hocker, however, remains very confident. "As far as kickers working out I understand the business. Before this entire thing started it was my job to keep and my job to lose, so I get that part and I plan on keeping it." Hocker is 8 of 10 on field goal attempts and one more miss could push him out the door. Hocker responded with a good week of practice, making all of his attempts. And, with Punter Thomas Morstead injured, Hocker will likely handle kick off duties as well.

Thursday injury report: The following players were listed as limited in practice: Safety Jairus Byrd, offensive lineman Jahri Evans, cornerback Keenan Lewis. Lewis is working his way back from hip surgery.

The Saints could be a little thin at a big position this week. Offensive tackle Terron Armstead missed practice again with a knee injury; guard Tim Lelito missed the team portion of practice with a back injury; punter Thomas Morstead also missed practice with a leg injury.
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Kristian: Brees left off Saints injury report

Brees Watch Over: Well, we're no longer on "Brees Watch!" Saints QB Drew Brees said he is no longer on the injury report with a bruised rotator cuff. "I told the trainers and Sean (Payton) to take me off the report. I don't like being on there," he said with a smile. Brees also joked with the media that we no longer have to ask him about his shoulder because he's tired of answering questions about it. While he didn't push the ball down the field very often against the Cowboys, Brees looked like he was completely healthy in the win on Sunday.

Stacking Wins Together: After the Saints broke the seal on Sunday and got their first win of the season, the players and coaches are talking about what it will take for them to stack two wins together as they prepare to take on the Eagles this Sunday in Philly. "While it does breed confidence (getting the win), the bottom line is you still have to put in the work and be disciplined in your routine if you wanna get a win," Brees said. That routine includes watching film, studying the opponent on your off day and doing the little extra things that are required to win games in the NFL.

Injury Report: Some new faces showing up today - Punter Thomas Morstead (quadriciep), Tackle Terron Armstead (knee), DT Kevin Williams (Non-Football Injury), and WR Marques Colston (Non-Football Injury), did not practice today. Safety Jairus Byrd (knee) WR Brandin Cooks (ankle), CB Keenan Lewis (hip), and G Jahri Evans were all limited. Evans returned to the practice field for the first time in two weeks. The Saints waived veteran TE Kevin Brock and signed WR Reggie Bell off the San Diego Chargers practice squad.
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Kristian: With Morstead hurt, Saints sign P Brandon Fields

With Thomas Morstead battling a quad injury, the Saints have signed veteran punter Brandon Fields to the roster. Fields' agent tweeted an announcement out Tuesday afternoon.

Fields played for the Miami Dolphins from 2007 to 2014, and made the pro bowl in 2013. Fields was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the 7th round back in 2007.

To make room for Fields on the roster, the Saints released veteran S Kenny Phillips and WR Joe Morgan. Phillips and Morgan could be back with the team at some point down the road. Morgan was added back to the roster in week two but didn't see the field this season.

Saints also added OT Tony Hills.
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Brees: "The win strengthened us; validated what we're doing"

Wins are hard to come by in the NFL, and it looked like another W was going to slip through the Saints' fingers on Sunday Night Football. The 4th quarter against the Dallas Cowboys had more twists and turns than the team experienced in their first three games of the season combined.

New Orleans looked like they were on their way to their first win of the season with 16 seconds remaining when K Zach Hocker bounced a would-be game winner off the left upright from 30 yards out; sending the game into overtime. The Saints won the toss, ran two plays and on an 80 yard catch and run from Drew Brees to C.J Spiller, it was over and the Saints got their first win of the season.

Brees said he had an idea it could be a big play when he saw the Cowboys defense line up. "The minute they had trouble getting lined up, I tried to snap the ball as quickly as I could. I just had to keep the safety in the middle of the field, and get the ball to C.J." That he did and Spiller beat one man and it was a walk off style win for the Black and Gold.

Brees accomplished a couple of personal milestones in the win. He became the third quarterback in NFL history with 5,000 completions in his career, and on the final play of the game, Brees tossed his 400th career touchdown pass. "To put one together like we did today.. we needed that win, we've been doing things the right way, but you need validation, and that comes when you win. That win breeds confidence." The Saints needed this win in more ways than one, but most importantly for their confidence after starting 0-3.

As for the injured right shoulder Brees was working his way back from, he seemed to be more comfortable in the second half throwing the football. "It's different (in the game), you're taking hits and working more off reaction but it was all good." Brees was able to throw in practice for three consecutive days, but doing it in practice versus a game was vastly different.

Some might look at the Saints win over the Dallas Cowboys as prolonging the inevitable with a team that is talent-deficient. While that may be true, the Saints learned a few things about their team on Sunday night, Brees explained: "It's one win, it's significant in the way we did it and I think we showed a lot about our team. The win strengthened us. It's a little bit of validation for everything we've been doing." Next week the Saints travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles who are likewise 1-3, coming off a 3 point loss to the Washington Redskins.

To hear the full exclusive interview with Drew Brees, click the link below.

FULL AUDIO: Drew Brees on "Monday Morning Quarterback"

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Kristian: Byrd, Brees, Lewis all probable for Sunday's Saints game

Last Friday, Saints coach Sean Payton announced Drew Brees would not play against the Carolina Panthers with an injured right shoulder - one week later, the message is different. "I think he's planning on it, and I think we're planning on starting him. Based on the reps, he's throwing the ball well," Payton explained.

Brees was a spectator last week in the teams 27-22 loss on the road against the Panthers after suffering a bruised rotator cuff injury in week 2 against Tampa. Payton described Brees as 'crisp' in practice today and you can see the progress he's made. "The way the week unfolded, he's made the progress we're looking for. Deep balls and all that stuff," Payton added. So with Brees back in the lineup and the Saints sitting at 0-3, Payton is excited to have his signal caller back on the field, but wouldn't go as far as to say Brees will be the spark the Saints need to get a win against Dallas. "The spark doesn't necessaraly come form the QB. It starts from each player knowing their assignment and executing. There is a certainly a sense of urgency when you're sitting in the hole we're in."

Keenan Lewis: He said earlier in the week that he's 'up' for this week against the Cowboys. Lewis was sidelined for the first three weeks after hip surgery, but the Saints secondary is finally starting to look like the one on paper the team invisioned. "He's one of the premier corners in this league, he's proven that, and I'm excited to have him back," said Safety Kenny Vaccaro. What's interesting about the return of Lewis is how will that effect Delvin Breaux? Brandon Browner and Breaux were the starters in the first three weeks in the Saints base defense, but Lewis' return that could complicate things a bit.

First, the Saints will likely ease Lewis back into action, and he could be on a snap count, and be more of a roll player than a 'starter' this week in his season debut. Secondly, would the Saints keep Breaux and Lewis on the field in the base defense and use Browner to match up against the tight end Jason Witten? That's a logical thought to combat the true playmaker the Cowboys have with Dez Bryant and Tony Romo out for this game. Browner has the right size and skill set to go man to man with tight ends.

Injury Report: Saints offensive lineman Jahri Evans has been ruled out for Sunday's tilt against Dallas with a knee injury. Defensive End Cameron Jordan is officially listed as probable with a back injury. Jordan hasn't missed a game in his pro career, and the Saints are already thin along the defensive line with Jordan in the line up after trading Akiem Hicks to the Patriots this week. Jordan missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday. QB Drew Brees (shoulder), WR Brandin Cooks (ankle), CB Keenan Lewis (hip), S Jairus Byrd (knee) and LB Dannell Ellerbe (toe) are all listed as probable for Sunday.
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Kristian: Drew Brees says he is "ready to roll" Sunday night

Shoulder response: Saints QB Drew Brees said yesterday that today would be a big day in terms of if he'll play on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys in the Superdome. Brees threw the football for the first time yesterday, and depending on how his shoulder responded, that would be a big step toward recovery. Brees told me today that all went well. "Everything felt good this week, ready to roll," he said. Now, he didn't go into too much detail as to exactly what that meant. He's maintained it would be more about functionality than pain, and it sounds like he's making the throws necessary to be functional.

Ailing Cam: Saints DE Cameron Jordan missed practice again today with a back injury of some kind. Jordan showed up on the injury report this week for the first time all season. After the team traded defensive end Akiem Hicks to the Patriots, the Saints are already a little thin at the position with Jordan's playing status up in the air. The Saints defense has also lacked the ability to consistently generate pressure on the opposing team's quarterbacks.

Injury Report: Two players missed practice today for the Saints. Defensive End Cam Jordan (back) and G Jahri Evans (knee). The following players were listed as limited QB Drew Brees (shoulder) WR Brandin Cooks (ankle) CB Keenan Lewis (hip) and LB Dannell Ellerbe (toe), along with S Jairus Byrd (knee).
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Saints trade for a tight end - welcome Michael Hoomanawanui

Sean Payton said today that he was "concerned" about the tigh end position on his team, and today the team completed a trade with the New England Patriots acquiring Michael Hoomanawanui. He was originally drafted by the Rams in the 5th round in 2010.  Hoomanawanui has 40 career catches, for 518 yards and 4 touchdowns in his career.

"He's not coming in to be the guy, I mean at this point it's a numbers game, but I wouldn't expect him to be a cure for the Saints passing attack," said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert.  

Saints included DE Akiem Hicks in the trade for Hoomanawanui. Read the full text of their press release below:

The New Orleans Saints announced today that they have acquired New England Patriots tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (pronounced HO-oh-mah-nah-wah-noo-wee) in exchange for defensive end Akiem Hicks. The announcement was made by Saints’ Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis. 

Hoomanawanui (6-4, 265), was a fifth round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams (132nd overall) in 2010 out of the University of Illinois. The six-year NFL veteran has appeared in 61 career games with 39 starts and had recorded 40 receptions for 518 yards (13.0 avg.) with four touchdowns. Signed by New England in 2012 after spending his first two seasons with the Rams, the Bloomington, Ill. native appeared in all 16 regular season games with 12 starts for the Super Bowl XLIX Champions in 2014, recording three receptions for 44 yards. He then played in all three postseason games with two starts and recorded six receptions for 53 yards.
Hicks (6-5, 324 pounds), was selected by New Orleans in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft out of Regina (Sask.). He played in 48 games with 33 starts and recorded 164 tackles (92 solo), 6.5 sacks, three passes defensed and one forced fumble.
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Kristian: Brees takes first team reps at Saints practice

Saints QB Drew Brees returned to the practice field today. “I took most of the reps,” he said. Brees missed last week’s game against Carolina with a bruised rotator cuff, but has made significant progress in a week. He told me on Monday that his playing status this week will be based on ‘functionality’ in the offense; in other words, if he can make all the throws, then he would play against Dallas on Sunday night.  In practice, Brees had some zip on the football on a variety of different throws, as and he described it, "it's getting there."

'Westbank' Returns: The Saints need him back more than ever.  With the secondary struggling, defensive back Keenan Lewis appears to be on the mend and could be back in the lineup this week against the Cowboys. Payton said, “I see Keenan having a real good chance to play this week. We have to be smart with his first week back. Just with a total pitch count, but it is a good problem to have. We spent about 20 minutes discussing this last night for half an hour in our staff meeting and we have to look, obviously, we will have more than one defensive package and we have to find a way to put our best guys out there and then depending on whether it is first or second down, or possibly third down, that could change.”  

Like the Saints have done in the past this year, it sounds like if Lewis is ready to go he’ll be on a snap count and will be eased back into action.  Lewis simply said, “I will let the coaches decide if I play on Sunday.”  

Byrd Watching: This has been a common thing in training camp, the preseason, and now into the regular season.  Byrd hasn't played in a game since week four of last season, after tearing his knee up in practice.  Byrd did participate in OTA's and Mini Camps, but missed the entire training camp and preseason and so far the first three games. "I'm as frustrated as they are," he said, referring to the fans.  "Hang in there."

Byrd declined to go into specifics as to why he's been out this long, only describing it as a long story. "We'll see how this week goes, I'm taking it one day at a time," he said. Byrd was asked how hard this process has been: "I didn't try to get hurt. It comes with the game. I'm as frustrated as anyone else," was his reply. The Saints signed Byrd in the 2014 off-season and paid him $23.6 million dollars in guaranteed cash. "That's what this week is for, to gauge where I'm at physically. With all that, I'll know more as we go on," he added. "I just want to get a week in under me and see how things go, and get some feedback from the trainers, and go from there. It's not my call. It's Coach Payton and the medical staff's decision."

Injury Report: Defensive End Cameron Jordan is listed with a back injury and did not practice, along with Offensive Lineman Jahri Evans, who's dealing with an undisclosed knee injury. Quarterback Drew Brees (shoulder) was limited along with the Safety Jairus Byrd (knee).  WR Brandin Cooks, CB Keenan Lewis (hip) and LB Dannell Ellerbe (toe) also were limited in practice. 
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