Rumors continue to swirl online that running back Mark Ingram wants to be traded by the Saints. Today, Ingram addressed the issue head-on. Well, sorta head-on.
"No. Never came from me. I dont know who that came from. But I love New Orleans. It's home to me. I love this organization, love my teammates, love my coaches. I'm happy here. And we're 3-0. So I'm excited about that."
When asked if the report of him wanting to be traded was distracting or hurtful, Ingram said, "It doesn't matter to me. Anybody’s opinion, that’s their opinion. Everybody's entitled to their opinion. It doesn't bother me. I come out every day, work my butt off to be the best person I can be, the best player I can be for this team to help us go out there and have success. I do that every single day. And as long as my teammates, my coaches and everybody in this organization knows that, that's all that matters to me."
OK, he says a request to be traded didn't come from him. Do I believe him? Well, he didn't say that it didn't come from someone else, say, his agent. It could have come from someone close to him, trying to rattle the Saints' cage, which is not a wise move, in my opinion.
Ingram didn't practice today and was listed as having a toe injury. Also not practicing: Wide receiver Lance Moore, and that's an injury you pay attention to. If Lance Moore doesn't practice, it kind of forces the issue with WR Nick Toon. It's very serious when you're dealing with a wrist injury on a receiver. Now, I don't think it's something that keeps him out for weeks on end, but it's something to watch. If Moore's not able to go this week, you pay attention more and more to Nick Toon in this offense.
Following the Saints' victory over a very good Cardinals team, I caught up with Drew Brees for our weekly "Monday Morning Quarterback feature, which you can hear every Monday morning at 7:45 on First News with Tommy Tucker.
Drew, you were able to finish this like you want, in victory formation.
It’s just a great team effort all the way around. Defense played phenomenal, on offense, we sputtered at times, midway through. But we started fast, and finished strong, and that’s what it’s all about.
Talk a little about Jimmy Graham’s outstanding game.
He played great today. There were some favorable matchups, he made some great plays. They played us in a way they were going to single up a lot of guys, and get pressure on the quarterback, and we had to get it out faster than we wanted to. Once we settled in, we started to take advantage of some of those matchups, and get to some of those guys in space. You make one guy miss, and you’ve got the opportunity for the big play. I think we were able to exploit that.
Was it neat connecting with Robert Meachem in the end zone again?
Absolutely! We talked about it, great to get him back involved. I know he’s excited to be back, to be a part of this offense, and we can really utilize his strengths. There’s a lot of familiarity there, there’s a lot of time on task. It’s as if no time has passed, really. So, we just look forward to incorporating him even more.
What was Arizona doing early that gave you trouble?
The looks they were giving us early on were stacking the box, they were going to have an extra guy at times…there were times when we were running into tough looks, but we were trying to get the tough yards. They did a good job, they got some pressure on me, so I think that’s why we were negative rushing yards in the first half. But when you finish with over a hundred yards, it means you did your job in the second half.
You ran for one TD and threw for three, are we going to see the zone-read option coming any time soon?
Not so fast. (laughs) You know, there’s time on third down, and certain situations, where when the QB runs, they’re not accounting for you. If you can steal one or two of those per game, it’s all good. It sustains drives, and it’s tough on a defense when you’re able to add that element.
Tell us about what it’s like for your offense when you have Rob Ryan’s defense out doing what they’ve been doing.
They’re playing exceptionally well. I know they’re thinking, “hey, how do we continue to improve upon what we’ve done so far?” I think we’ve got a lot of prideful guys on that side of the ball that love this scheme, they love what Rob Ryan’s bringing to the table…they were able to do some kind of different things, based upon the personnel we have. Offensively, it’s fun for us to watch, but we also feed off that, from a momentum standpoint. We want to take those opportunities and convert them into points.
A win is a win, any way you can get it. The Saints looked much better in the second half. When you win 31-7, it’s tough to be picky, but I do have some concerns on the offensive side of the ball, on their ability to protect Drew Brees.
But, this defense is the real deal. They allowed just 7 points this week, 14 last week, 17 the week before that. They just don’t give up a lot of points, and they generate a tremendous pass rush. They don’t have to go manufacturing blitzes, it’s a constant pressure, and when you can do that in the NFL, you are going to find your defense rising in the stats.
And, not to nit-pick a win, but the inability to run the ball and the inability to protect Drew Brees are both problems. I don’t care if you are 3-0, or 6-0, when your QB gets sacked at this rate, it’s a legitimate concen. This kind of punishment will continue if the O-line keeps playing this way, and can expose Brees to a higher risk of injury. This whole offense is Drew Brees, and they don’t go anywhere if they don’t protect him.
So, what’s the problem? Well, yes, no question they’re not the same O-line as days of old. They lost Bushrod, Nicks, and Goodwin. And, that sort of thing happens every year, when you make the money decisions. But, also, as much as they want to downplay the lack of Jahri Evans in the lineup, I think it hurt them.
The Real Deal? It’s not too soon to call this team a contender. Statistically, 75% of the teams that start 3-0 make the playoffs. I like the odds. Now, every year, every team has its issues. This year, for the Saints, it’s along the O-line. Right now, the Saints are a legitimate undefeated team. They found a way to win in the first two games, getting it done, and wound up running away (pun intended) with a win vs. Arizona.
Work, work, work: The Saints are 2 and 0 and haven’t played their best football yet. They’ve spent this week trying to correct issues in the running game and red-zone while preparing for the Arizona Cardinals. It’s hard to believe the Saints have scored just 39 points in 2 games this season. 39 points is usually the norm for the Black and Gold in a single game. Nonetheless, the Saints have a chance to go 3 and 0 and take a commanding lead in the division if the rest of the NFC South cooperates this weekend.
Robinson or Cadet? If Mark Ingram (toe) isn’t able to play this week, it will be interesting to see who the Saints turn to as his replacement? Will it be preseason darling Khiry Robinson? The might seem like the logical choice, considering he’s more of the power runner the team would want in Ingram’s absence. However, Cadet has played in regular season games last season, and the coaches might just choose familiarity and experience over the undrafted Robinson. Robinson had some fumbling issues during the preseason, and that works against him if the coaches decide Ingram can’t go.
You got to see the special plan: Arizona Cardinals defensive back Patrick Peterson might just be the best cover corner in the NFL, but you could argue he’s the most dangerous punt return guy in the league as well. The Saints special teams has been leaky at times during the regular season. Coach Payton isn’t taking any chances. “We’ve gotta have a game plan, in special teams just devoted to punt coverage,” Payton said.
Expect the Saints to combat Peterson’s explosive return ability with high, angling punts to pin him into the sideline and allow the coverage unit’s good angles to keep him under control.
Bumps and Bruises: Offensive lineman Jahri Evans (hamstring), Safety Roman Harper (knee) and Running back Mark Ingram (toe) were held out of team drills on Thursday.
Nose Tackle Brodrick Bunkley (Calf) Defensive End Tom Johnson (hamstring) and Safety Isa-Abdul Quddus also sat out of practice.
Defensive ends Tyrunn Walker (knee) and Glenn Foster (ankle) were both listed as limited. Foster and Walker both missed practice on Wednesday, so that’s an encouraging sign of progress.
Sure, the Saints are 2 and 0 on the season, with heart-stopping wins in the first two weeks, but are the Saints living on borrowed time?
If you are 2 and 0 in the NFL, that’s reality.
The teams that are 0 and 2 are probably saying, “Just a couple of plays and we could be 2 and 0.” Bill Parcells used to say “You are what your record says you are in the NFL.” That’s true, but the Saints might be a 2 and 0 team with the most question marks. Where is the running game? Is the pass protection good enough? What is wrong with the Saints offense in the red zone? Those are my top three questions surrounding the 2013 Saints.
New Orleans is averaging 3.1 yards per carry as a team running the football. Mark Ingram is averaging 1.8 yards per carry on 17 carries this season. Pierre Thomas has been the most productive running back on the ground with a 5.1 yard per carry average on 14 carries. The Saints have to get their running game cranked up if they’re to continue winning ball games. Drew Brees will benefit the most from the emergence of a running game. Right now Brees has 3 TD’s and 3 INT’s, completing 64% of his passes through two games. However, Brees hasn’t been able to connect on the deep ball with the regular success we’ve seen in the past, partly because of the inability to run the football. Furthermore, Brees has been sacked 6 times in the first two games.
I never thought I would write this stat: The Saints are 1 for 7 in the Red Zone this season, a 14% efficiency. Last season they were operating at a 64% clip in the red zone. The 1-for-7 stat in the red zone is the lowest in the NFL. I expect that to be a focal point this week in practice as the Saints get ready to take on the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday at home. The Saints have to fix the running game woes, protect Drew Brees, and cash in on six points instead of three points if they have any hopes of sustained post-season run in January. The good news is we’re in week 2, and there is a lot of time to improve. And, we’ll need improvement considering the next opponent: The Cardinals are third in the league against the run, giving up just 58 yards a game on the ground.
No suspension for Goldson: Tampa safety Dashon Goldson will be able to play this weekend, after the NFL reduced his penalty for the illegal hit on Sproles from a suspension to a $100,000 fine. I just think ultimately NFL feels like maybe they shouldn't be taking impact players off the field. I know he's got a track record for this sort of thing, but I think a fine is appropriate. It's also very likely he's been told by league officials he will face one or more games on the bench if it happens again.
Cornerback Chris Carr's agent says he is re-signing with the Saints. It's a sign they're trying to shore up a squad that's been decimated wtih injuries. It also makes me think the injury to Patrick Robinson is pretty significant, to consider bringing in a new DB. Now, the Saints haven't announced what the corresponding roster move will be to make room for Carr, but it makes sense that they're bringing him in to replace P-Rob. That injury in the Tampa game looked pretty bad.
Carr was at the Saints camp, and I thought at times he looked impressive. He's a veteran that Rob Ryan is very familiar with, so you know what you're getting, and he's someone that can contribute.
What's next: The Saints have Tuesday off, then they'll get to work on Arizona tomorrow. They really have to get their running game cranked up, and also work on scoring more efficently in the red zone. They've been settling for way too many field goals, and that will catch up with them eventually. They've got to score TD's.
Plus, Arizona has a pretty good defense. There's no cupcakes on that squad. Plus, I'm looking forward to getting my first look at former LSU star Tyrann Mathieu.
Not going anywhere: For all the fans calling for Mark Ingram's head... Relax. That's just not going to happen this year, at least not during the season. If he is cut, it will be after the season is over. Now, he could be benced, if he doesn't improve, but that would be later in the season. If they cut hm now, you're on the hook for his salary, with guaranteed money. It's just not feasible, they're just not going to do that three games into the season.
Shortly after the thrilling, last-second victory over Tampa, I spoke with Saints quarterback Drew Brees for our "Monday Morning Quarterback" feature, which you can hear every Monday at 7:45 on WWL First News with Tommy Tucker.
Of all the team's come-from-behind wins, Brees said this one was huge.
"This was big, because...I think just because the 4th quarter couldn't have gone any worse for us offensively. We had the turnover they returned for a touchdown, we couldn't get anything going...not helping our defense at all, but to have that opportunity at the end, bang-bang-bang, three plays, and the next thing you know, we're kicking the field goal to win this game."
It was the 15th time that Drew Brees has engineered a 4th-quarter comeback for the Black and Gold.
"That's what it's all about, it's why you love this game," he told me. "Just give us a chance. Things we practice, and things we visualize and think about and believe...I think it just shows the type of team we have, the mental toughness, and the fact that we train ourselves for these types of moments. That's why we were able to get the win."
The Saints can go to 3-0 vs. Arizona in the Superdome next weekend, but Brees says it’s just one game at a time.
“We’re basically playing 16 one-game seasons…so there’s no bigger game than the one this week. We’re going to need our best, and show signs of improvement if we want to continue winning football games.”
The Saints today waived WR Andy Tanner to make room for defensive end Jay Richardson.
Richardson will be able to help out with their depth along the front seven. He can play a little OLB and DE.
I thought Richardson was more of the surprising cuts of the final 53 mna roster...I thought he did enough, but was a victim of depth issues. The Saints assumed correctly they could cut him and expose him a bit, then re-sign him if they needed him. He's a player that can come in and contribute, and have some quality snaps throughout a game.
Tanner's a fan favorite for a lot of Who Dats, but he's a victim of numbers and injuries along the defensive front. He is still eligible for the practice squad. Tanner still has to clear waivers, and that might be tough to get by 31 other teams. At this point in the season, teams typically add players that they feel like will be on the active game day roster, and can help them on the field. A team without a lot of depth at WR might grab him. I think he lands back on the practice squad.
The common question a year ago when the Saints got off to an 0 and 4 start was, "Would this be happening if Sean Payton was on the sidelines?"
No one could answer it with any certainty, but most of us thought it wouldn’t have happened.
I think the Falcons will now be the first to tell you that Sunday's game is proof positive that the "Payton Factor" is a very real force of nature.
Last season during his suspension, we saw a largely undisciplined football team that just didn’t have enough to win close games. Sure they had a terrible defense, but Payton would have made a difference in two games last season. We’ve already seen his impact in a week 1 win over the Falcons.
Since arriving in New Orleans, Payton has shown a knack for calling the right play at the right time. He always has his finger firmly on the pulse of the team, knowing just when to give them the carrot or the stick. Several players are just more confident having him on the sideline and that goes a long way. It’s a powerful element to winning when the coach can tell the players exactly how the game is going to unfold and what it’s going to take to get a W. Payton did just that leading up to the Falcons game, showing them a statistic that 7 of the 10 games between Atlanta and New Orleans came down to the last possession. Payton’s forecast came to fruition again.
The "Payton Factor" is very real and very viable for the Saints in 2013. Sure he doesn’t play the games, but he has a huge impact on preparing the team throughout the week. The attention to detail for the Saints is the key to winning, and with Payton in control, those details, however slight will not be overlooked. Plus, we've all seen The Stare. No player wants to be on the receiving end of that laser-eyed glare.
I’m sure they’ll be times that he won’t be able to win the game(s) by himself, but having him in the mix will prove the difference in 2013 for New Orleans.
Following the heart-pounding victory over the Falcons, I spoke with quarterback Drew Brees for our weekly “Monday Morning Quarterback” feature, which you can hear every Monday morning at 7:45 on Tommy Tucker’s show.
As you guys have talked about all week, a lot of these games against the Falcons seem to come down to a final possession.
Yea, theses seem to always end that way, 8 of the lass 11 have been down to the last possession of the game. Fortunately, we’ve been able to be on top of a lot of those. It’s been big plays, both offensively and defensively, HUGE defensive stops there, inside our own five. Can’t say enough about their effort all game long, just putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback, coming up with a couple of turnovers… man, a heckuva job.
Going into this game, knowing that most of the recent games vs. Atlanta have gone down to the wire, tell us about the formula to win… What does that do for the team’s confidence?
It’s tremendous. It’s tremendous because you know and trust the formula. There it is right in front of you, and it’s been a winning formula for us for a long time. We know what wins football games…the good teams do, the great teams do, and that’s what we’re trying to be.
It’s good to get this one under our belt. We have a lot of work to do. We’re going to turn on the film…and we’re going to see a lot of mistakes and things that need to be corrected. If we want to reach the level we thought we can be.
Do you feel like the offense left something on the field?
There’s no doubt. Any time you’re 1 of 3 in the red zone, that’s not what you want to be…we had some penalties, and some stuff happened that can’t happen. We’ve got to be more efficient there.
Your thoughts on Marques Colston surpassing Eric Martin’s reception record?
Yeah, that’s awesome, so well-deserved for Marques. This guy’s a true professional, and I’m so proud that he’s one of my guys. I have more trust and confidence in him than anyone, just the time we’ve had together…it’s unique when you get to be with a guy going on eight years now. Hopefully we’ve got a few more…man, it’s great. I’m so happy for him, it’s so well-deserved.
Even though it’s just one victory…talk a little about starting out the season with a win, that’s got to be huge for motivation.
It’s huge, it’s huge. What a big win…just, everything. The type of offseason we had, it’s been tough, it’s been grueling at times. In the end, we kind of gained that edge, preparing yourself to go out and have a great season. Obviously, this game’s been on the calendar for a long time, so we’ve had a lot of time to prepare for it, and they’ve had a lot of time to prepare for us. We knew the type of game it was going to be, we did the things that were necessary to win, and we got the W. All those things look good, but it’s the 24 hour rule…we enjoy it for 24 hours, and then move on to Tampa.
Looking ahead to Tampa, what are you expecting?
We’ve always kind of had a back and forth with Tampa. We’ve had some really good games over the past few years. Luckily, we were able to get them twice last year, but I think they’re significantly improved. They made a splash in free agency this year like they did the year before. I know they had a tough loss against the Jets, so I know they’re going to be chomping at the bit…it’s their home-opener, trying to make an impression. We’ve got to be sure we bring our best.
It was a game that went down to the wire, with the eventual division championship on the line, in just the first game of the season.
Yeah, it was a typical Saints-Falcons game.
Their last meeting a year ago also went down to the wire. This was a brass-knuckles affair that was about what we expected.
The good: The Saints defense was much improved, looked great on 3rd down, and were able to get pressure. But, it’s one game. I’ll wait to see if they continue the trend next week vs. Tampa.
The not-so-bad: Drew Brees was not at his sharpest, but he did throw two TD’s. There were also a couple of throws I think he wished he had back. And, maybe his completion rate was not what we’re used to, but as Bobby said, there are a lot of teams that would kill for Drew Brees on a less-than-stellar day.
The ugly: The Saints still have a problem with running the football, and there's going to be a point in this season where the ability to pass is taken away, and they need to turn to the running game. It just wasn’t that effective today. Beyond just having balance in the raw #’s of pass vs. runs, you also have to churn out some yardage on the runs.
How loud was it?It was pretty loud…When someone asked if it was the loudest moment in the last couple of years, to be honest, I thought the NFC Championship game final drive by the Vikings in the Dome was louder. Still, it was right up there with one of the loudest Superdome atmospheres I’ve heard.
Watching a hero up close: I was at ground-level to see Coach Sean Payton walk alongside Steve Gleason as Gleason rolled his wheelchair to center-field to bring on the Who Dat chant. It more than tugs at the heartstrings to see the connection current and former players have maintained with Gleason. It’s heartbreaking for us to see him like this, considering he was playing professional football less than a decade ago. But, he’s an inspiration to a city that has been through so much. His willingness to not give up is very much what this town is all about.
Counting the days: If you think you are counting down the minutes until Sunday, you’re not alone. The Saints players are as well. Several players are anxious for gameday, but they also understand there is still plenty of work to do before the Falcons come to town.
As for the injury front and availability of some recovering outside linebackers, Coach Sean Payton says Junior Galette is making progress.
“We will see. I think he is doing well. I anticipate him being ready to go," Payton said today.
Galette and Martez Wilson were listed as “full participation” for the second straight day.
Radio head: Saints middle linebacker Curtis Lofton will handle the defensive calls in the huddle in the opener against the Falcons. Lofton fulfilled the same role last season as the middle line backer. One player on both offense and defense have a radio receiver in their helment so that their coordinators can send the plays directly to them. On offense, this is obviously Drew Brees, and on defense, it will be Lofton's second year with handling this important duty.
“He is now the signal caller. He is now the guy who is playing 'Mike,'" Payton explained. "He is physical. He is a smart player. He brings that leadership to the room. A guy with experience and a guy that is a very good tackler. He is well built, so in that 3-4 front, you are playing someone over the guard that is uncovered, often times he is taking on a bigger lineman than maybe in a 4-3 scheme. He has handled that transition very well.”
Injury report: Two players missed practice today, Safety Isa Abdul-Quddus and defensive end Glenn Foster, both with ankle injuries. Everyone else including WR Marques Colston took every repetition of team practice.
For the Falcons injury sheet, WR Roddy White was limited (ankle), and CB Asante Samuel (thigh) was also limited. However, nothing to much to read into here. I think White and Samuel both play for Atlanta against the Saints.
Noise canceling: The Atlanta Falcons have been preparing for two weeks for what is sure to be a raucous and loud SuperDome Sunday when the Saints and Falcons meet at noon in the 2013 season opener.
“We play in a lot of loud venues, and the Supedome is one of the loudest,” said Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith. “We have ways that we prepare. We’ve been preparing since training camp.”
Coach Smith is right, the Superdome is one of the loudest in the NFL. However, it’s going to have a little extra zest this Sunday with Sean Payton returning to the sidelines in a game that counts.
Meachem returns: We got our first look at WR Robert Meachem today after he agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the team yesterday. Meachem looked no worse for wear after spending a year with the San Diego Chargers, and refuted reports from the media covering the Chargers that his body was broke down. “All that negative talk that my body was broke and all that, I heard all those things. That was flattering; I love to hear things like that. Now I get to go show the whole world my gift again."
His gift is getting deep, and quarterback Drew Brees says Meachem looks just like he did when he left.
“He’s all smiles, he’s happy to back,” Brees said. “He looks as good as ever. I look forward to getting him incorporated back in.”
Meachem says he is ready to go if he’s dressed and active for Sunday’s season opener against the Falcons.
Galette and Wilson return to practice: The two outside linebackers that did not take a snap in the preseason because of injuries were listed as “full participation” in practice on Wednesday. Galette has been nursing a hamstring injury since the early part of training camp. Wilson injured his elbow in the first week of camp. The Saints only have three players on their active roster that are outside linebackers, with the other being Parys Haralson whom they acquired in a trade last week with San Francisco. Wide receivers Marques Colston (foot) and Nick Toon (chest) also took every rep in practice today. Safety Isa Abdul-Quddus and defensive end Glenn Foster were the only two players that did not practice.
Update: It's official, Meachem has re-signed with the Saints for a one-year deal, likely at the league minimum. It's a bit of a surprise for me that they're signing him before week 2. Since he is a vested NFL player with more than 4 years, since they signed him before the first game, they're now on the hook for his entire contract for the whole season.
What I think: I think it would be low-risk, high reward. They can release him at any point (if they sign after the Falcons game,) and he's very familiar with the Saints system. He knows Drew Brees, and maybe he could make a couple of plays a game.
Atlanta: The Saints had what they call a bonus day today as they turned their attention to the Atlanta Falcons. “It’s an important game because it’s the first game. It is the one in front of us,” Head Coach Sean Payton said after practice. “Obviously it is a division opponent, we kind of look at it that way (as) a team in your division, a team that played really well last year and had a fantastic season. It’s a tough challenge right to start so we are going to have to have a good work week and play really well.”
Payton did not give an injury report today, he's not required to until Wednesday.
Haralson impression: By all accounts, newly acquired OLB Parys Haralson has made a strong impression with the Saints after coming over in a trade last week with the 49ers. “He’s real solid. He is a quick study. He’s has picked up what we are doing and he is someone that you can tell he is a veteran who has played real good football. His impressions have been real strong," Payton said.
Haralson, Junior Galette, and Martez Wilson are the only three outside linebackers on the roster, and all three have not taken a snap for the Saints in the preseason. Haralson received a lot of playing time with San Francisco. Galette and Wilson both nursed injuries and missed the preseason. Both Galette and Wilson say they're ready to play "I'm definitely geeked up about this one, I am ready to play but at the end of the day it will be up to coach Payton" Galette said.
And, Galette wasn't done talking. He said the rivalry between New Orleans and Atlanta is one of the best in the league and the team understands the NFC south crown goes through the Falcons for now "WE want to dominate the division, that's our focus."
Rivalry: You can certainly feel the intensity in the locker room, now that the preseason is over and "Game Week" is here. Players openly admitted both teams don't like each other very much, and that's the way it should be. The Saints have dominated the Falcons since Payton's arrival in 2006. New Orleans is 10-2 vs. the Birds, not counting the 1 and 1 split last season in his exile. To borrow a line from former New York Jets LB Bart Scott, "Can't wait". The Saints and Falcons are going to be one of the highlights of the opening weekend. It should be a fun one, with zany moments mixed in between. I'm wondering when Rhoddy White is going to pop off at the mouth. Tick, tick, tick goes the clock.