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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
Posts from May 2014

Kristian: Byrd has surgery, defense forcing turnovers
What's the word on Byrd? Saints Safety Jairus Byrd is having surgery today on a disc in his back.  Saints Coach Sean Payton described the ailment as asymptomatic, meaning it was basically an elective procedure.  If it were the regular season, the Saints would have just treated Byrd instead of opting for surgery.  The team decided that now would be the best time to get it done, and Payton says he expects Byrd to be a full go by training camp.  Ultimately, it’s not a big cause for concern.  Also, the defense performed well without him today in team drills; more on that later. 

READ MORE: Jairus Byrd has back surgery

Where's Jimmy? It was a little odd not to see tight end Jimmy Graham out there with the Saints offense, but then again, we’ve seen Drew Brees miss OTA’s and off-season training, so I guess it’s not all that strange.  Graham is still “unsigned” after being slapped with the franchise tag designation in March and has until July 15th to sign the one year franchise tag tender.  Graham and the NFLPA filed a grievance against the Saints that will be held in New York on June 17th and 18th. 

While I’m going to refrain from formulating opinions until three or four days into training camp, one thing that stood out today from the team period of practice was the emphasis on forcing turnovers.  The Saints 1st and 2nd team units forced two fumbles and two interceptions, all while getting their hands on a few pass deflections.  

Champ Bailey looked like he was moving well despite the injury concerns surrounding the fifteen-year veteran.  Bailey worked with the 2nd team today, and while he didn’t pick off any passes, he was contesting several passes, and forced an interception after swatting a ball in the air.  Don’t read anything into Bailey working with the 2nd team defense.  It’s very common for “newcomers” to work with the second teamer’s early in the off-season in order to learn the system.  

PHOTOS: Saints OTA's on Thursday morning

Saints wide receiver Joe Morgan was limited in practice today.  Morgan tore his ACL during training camp last year, and missed the entire 2013 season.  Linebacker Victor Butler participated fully in practice today.  Butler was a big signing during the 2013 off-season, but suffered an ACL injury last year in OTA’s.  Cornerback Patrick Robinson also coming off a knee injury was out their going full speed, and not wearing a knee brace.  
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Kristian: Armstead goes from small school to incumbent starter
Saints offensive tackle Terron Armstead is entering his second season with the Saints, but his first as the penciled-in starter at left tackle.  “This off-season has been very productive, coming in and knowing what to expect.  Being comfortable with the playbook has helped me out a lot,” Armstead told me. 

Armstead was a small-school standout that was described as "very talented, but raw" last season as a rookie out of Arkansas Pine-Bluff.  The rookie had to watch and wait for his turn.  Charles Brown was the starter at left tackle for the first three quarters of the season until an embarrassing performance against St. Louis. In week 16 against the Panthers, Coach Sean Payton made a bold move and turned to Armstead to man the blind spot for Drew Brees.  The move came with some skepticism.

Armstead struggled in that first half against Greg Hardy and company, but settled in nicely in the second half and played well in the regular season finale. “It was great being able to get that experience last year, I think is going to help me a lot.” explained Armstead. 

With two regular season games under his belt, Armstead gained more valuable experience starting in both of the Saints playoff games in January of this year.  The Saints offensive line really performed well after making the switch at left tackle.  The Saints protection issues were better, and the running game improved dramatically.  He’s not the only reason for the improved play, but a big part of it according to his teammates. 

Armstead is the guy this year.  He won’t have to wait his turn to play. He’ll be the starter from day one of training camp, and says he’s worked hard this off-season to get better. ”I have focused on my technique more than anything, being more familiar with the plays.  Not thinking in my stance, and just being able to play and react is going to help me.” 

The Saints already have two pro-bowlers on the offensive line in guards Ben Grubbs, and Jahri Evans; Armstead might prove to be the third pro-bowler tasked with protecting franchise Quarterback Drew Brees!
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Kristian: Tom Benson in ATL hospital after podium fall
Following his presentation to NFL owners in Atlanta in an effort to bring Super Bowl LII to New Orleans, Saints owner Tom Benson accidentally fell off the podium and bumped his head. He is being treated at a local hospital for concussion symptoms.

He is expected to be released tonight and fly home. 
  READ MORE: NFL owners select Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII

The Benson camp released this statement:

“First, I would like to congratulate Minnesota on securing Super Bowl LII and to applaud Indianapolis on a great bid. I want to thank the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation and everyone from our great city and state that worked tirelessly to put forth the best Super Bowl bid I have ever been a part of. We will be back in the mix to get another Super Bowl to New Orleans soon. As we stated in our presentation, New Orleans is the perfect Super Bowl city.”
“Following my presentation, I accidentally tripped and hit my head, having had knee surgery just over a week ago. Out of an abundance of caution, the doctors wanted to clear me before we fly back home tonight.”
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Tags :  
Locations: AtlantaMinneapolisNew Orleans
People: Greg BenselTom Benson

Kristian: Saints rookies try and impress!
Under the watchful eye of head coach Sean Payton, 70 players participated in rookie mini camp this weekend for the Saints.  Some were true rookies others were journeyman players hoping for one more shot at the NFL like former LSU running back Jacob Hester.  

We didn't get to see much of practice, and it's hard to gain an understanding about how a player looked when they're in shorts and helmets.  With that said I'll give it a shot.

Cooks-in:  The Saints first round draft pick, Brandin Cooks can absolutely roll.  "You can feel his speed on the field," said defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.  Cooks looked like a first round draft pick.  "He's smooth; he uses his hands well to catch the ball.  You can tell he's polished," explained the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert.  Aside from the obvious talent on the field, Cooks is a young man of great character answering questions from the media with, "Yes sir or no sir" in nearly every response.  Coach Payton watched the receiver drills with great interest "That's 100 times better, that's 100 times better..." telling Cooks after a rep.  Oh, by the way, Payton isn't cutting the first rounder any slack, "Finish another 10 yards after you catch it."

Brandon Coleman:  He might be the most intriguing of the undrafted rookies.  He's huge at 6'6 and will be an interesting player to watch in training camp. "He's slow, but that's not the end of the world.  I trusted Eric Martin with my life as a receiver, and he ran a 4.8 forty-yard dash," said Hebert.  The passes from some of the tryout quarterbacks weren't exactly what you're going to get from Drew Brees, but Coleman made a few nice adjustments on the ball plucking a few high passes out of the sky that for a smaller player would have fallen incomplete."  "What you like about Coleman from a quarterback perspective is, he gives you a bigger margin for error.  He's going to get to a few more balls that other guys normally would not," observed the former Saints QB.

Jean-Baptiste:  We didn't get to see much from him during the open portion of practice, but he passes the eye ball test that's for sure.  Jean-Baptiste has long arms with massive hands.  "He's got good ball skills; he's picking things up quickly.  He's done a nice job so far," said Coach Sean Payton.  Jean-Baptiste will be in stiff competition in a crowded cornerback field in OTA's and training camp.  Depending on how he grasps the system, he could work his way into the nickel rotation this season. 
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Kristian: Saints get to work on undrafted rookies
The Saints have the 2014 draft class wrapped up, and have quickly turned their attention to the players that were not selected. The Saints signings are trickling out.  

Sean Payton values this process of the draft.  His team had 7 undrafted rookie free agents in 2013, and the current roster is littered with players that made the team in years past after going undrafted.  Moments after the draft finished, players started tweeting about their decisions. Here is a list of players that have agreed to sign undrafted rookie deals with the Saints.  I will try and update the list as it comes out. 

New Mexico State LB Treshuan Nixon
Michigan State DT Micajah Reynalds
Middle Tennessee State QB Logan Kilgore
Sam Houston State RB Timothy Flanders
University of Louisiana Monroe WR Ja’Ron Hamm
University of Southern California DT George Uko 
University of Calorado DE/OLB Chidera Uzo-Diribe
Brigham Young University OLB Spencer Hadley
Valdosta State WR Seantavius Jones
N.W Missourri St. CB Brian Dixon
Kansas Sate CB Ty Zimmerman
Jacksonville State S Pierre Warren
Grand Valley State C Matt Armstrong
South Connecticut St. TE Jerome Cunningham
Tulane CB Drrick Strozier
Rutgers WR Brandon Coleman

Saints Coach Sean Payton said after the draft, the team would look to sign 18-20 undrafted players.
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Kristian: Saints add depth on O-line
The Saints added some depth to the offensive line with their 6th round selection of Tavon Rooks Offensive Tackle out of Kansas State University. 

NFL analyst Mike Detillier says "He’s athletic! Real athletic from a movement skills standpoint.”  Rooks played right tackle at KSU and could be the eventual successor to Zach Strief.  

READ MORE: Jordan: Defense getting better and more physical

The Saints also really liked Kansas State left tackle Cornelius Lucas. New Orleans doesn’t have a 7th round pick, so this could round out the 2014 class.  

Rooks is 6’5" 289 lbs, so not a huge man, but praised in several draft publications as an extremely athletic guy.  

4 out of the 6 selections for the Saints were on defense.  
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Kristian: Saints catch more defensive players in Round 5
With two selections one pick apart in the 5th round, the Saints added two SEC defensive players to their team. Their first selection is another safety in Alabama’s Vinnie Sunseri.  Sunseri suffered an ACL injury late in the 2013 season, but is praised for his high football I.Q.

READ MORE: Kristian: Saints add to D with 4th round pick

NFL analyst Mike Detillier says Sunseri is a “Tough, hard nosed football player who has terrific football instincts, and he is like a coach on the field.”  This move has special teams written all over it.  "He’s a dynamic special teams player,” Detillier continued. 

With the Saints' second pick in the 5th round they went with Ronald Powell (OLB) out of Florida. 

“Great athlete, he’s an outside linebacker, I think if he can stay healthy, he’s a long, lean player that can flat out run!”  Detillier said of Powell.  Powell was the number one recruit in the country coming out of high school, but Detillier pointed out “the concern with him has been injuries.” 

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Tags :  
Topics: Sports
Locations: AlabamaFlorida
People: Mike DetillierRonald Powell

Kristian: Saints add to D with 4th round pick
The Saints continue to add to their young and talented defense.  Khairi Fortt OLB out of California is their pick in round 4.  Fortt is described by NFL analyst Mike Detillier, “He has 1st rate straight line speed, who zeroes in on a ball carrier quickly. He’s a power player.”
Fortt originally went to Penn State before transferring to California.  He ran a 4.7 in the 40 yard dash at the combine.  The Saints are adding to depth at OLB with this selection.  
Fortt was one of 12 semifinalists at the collegiate level for the Butkus Award given annually to the nation’s top linebackers at the high school, college and pro levels.  He started at the WILL Linebacker position for all nine games he played, before missing the final three games due to injury.  Fortt recorded 64 tackles to rank tied for third on the team…adding 3.5 tackles for a loss. 
Khairi Fortt fits the Saints emphasis on size with defensive players since Rob Ryan took over as the team's defensive coordinator.

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Topics: Sports
Locations: CaliforniaPenn
People: Khairi ForttMike DetillierRob Ryan

Kristian: Players to watch in rounds 4-7
The Saints could target three specific positions in the later rounds of the draft, a part of the draft were New Orleans has done well under Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis.  The fourth round has produced offensive linemen Jahri Evans and Jermon Bushrod; the Saints tabbed offensive lineman Carl Nicks in the fifth round in 2008; and wide receiver Marques Colston was selected in the 7th round back in 2006.

The Saints still have a need at center, and perhaps some depth needs along the offensive line, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them draft another WR.  Here are a few names to keep an eye on today.

Offensive Tackle, Cornelius Lucas (Kansas State) He’s 6’8 330 lbs and the Saints love his size.

Cornerback, Pierre Desir (Lindenwood) Several mock drafts had Desir going in the third round, and if he’s there in the fourth round for the Saints, he would be a great value selection.  You can never have enough long corners.  

Wide Receiver, Brandon Coleman (Rutgers) One NFL scout told me he’s a logical fit for New Orelans as the potential replacement for Marques Colston. 

Center, Bryan Stork (FSU)  The Saints have an obvious need at Center and visited a while with Stork at the Senior Bowl.  However, I still think former Saints center Jonathan Goodwin is back in play now.  If the Saints don’t nab their center, I would expect Goodwin to potentially land back with New Orleans. 

Sean Payton said yesterday before they selected cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, the team had discussions about LSU RB Jeremy Hill and Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde. That leads me to believe they could target a running back today.  Keep an eye Devonta Freeman (FSU).  

Lousiana Tech DT Justin Ellis is another intriguing name to watch today.  Several mock drafts had him going in the third round. Ellis could land in New Orleans.  The Saints worked him out privately at his Pro Day this spring and defensive line coach Bill Johnson is from the Monroe area, where Ellis is from.  

The first round has the drama and big names, but I love this part of the draft.  Who’s going to be the next Richard Sherman?  Marques Colston? Does this class have a Tom Brady in the 6th round?  The foundation of a championship team is built in the first round, but the load-bearing walls are finished on day three.
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Kristian: Saints nail it with 2nd round pick
In two picks, the Saints have addressed serious needs and acquired really good players.  With the teams second round pick, the Saints grabbed a huge cornerback in Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska).  

The big corners are the en vogue trend in the NFL.  Jean-Baptiste is huge at 6’3 215 with a massive wing span. He’s a former wide receiver, much like Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman.  The Saints are clearly modeling or mimicking the success of the Seahawks. 

READ MORE: Jordan: SJB has echoes of Seahawks' Sherman

“His technical skills need some work,” NFL analyst Mike Detillier said of Jean-Baptiste.  Detillier likes the selection as a great counter to some of the other moves in the NFC South.  

“It ended up being a good fit for us; he stood out on our board.” Saints Coach Sean Payton said. “Starting a year and a half ago, we’ve placed a bigger emphases on size, and I think we were able to do that tonight,” he continued.

VIDEO: Bobby Hebert reacts to SJB pick

“I think every year, we take the same numbers of players at cornerback to camp every year.  It’s pretty normal.  When we go into training camp we’ll make sure we have the correct amount of depth on the roster,” Coach explained.  The Saints have a ton of cornerbacks on their roster; Keenan Lewis, Corey White, Champ Bailey, Patrick Robinson, and Rod Sweeting.  

Payton said the Saints discussed moving up in the 2nd round but decided to stay put with their selection 58th over all.  “We also had an exit strategy just in case he wasn’t there.”

Stanley Jean-Baptiste has only played cornerback for three seasons.  
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Kristian: Saints turn their attention to Round Two
The Saints made a big splash trading up for wide reciever Brandin Cooks in round one of the NFL draft.  I love this pick for New Orleans!  Cooks will fit in so nicely in Sean Payton's offensive scheme.  Drew Brees has another toy, and the Saints have a deep threat that can change the game and stretch the opposing defense. Lets take a look at possible round 2 targets for the Saints. 

READ MORE: Now were Cooks-in', Who Dat Nation!

CB Pierre Desir (Lindenwood University):  Desir fits what the Saints are looking for with great size at 6'2".  As we've learned from Payton and company, they're not shy about selecting players from small schools.  Desir viisted the Saints in the pre-draft process and very well could be on the board when the Saints go on the clock with the 58th over all selection. I'm told they have significant interest in Desir. 

OT Morgan Moses (Virginia):  Moses had a first round grade according to several draft publications.  The Saints also brought Moses in during the pre-draft work out process.  Moses might be gone before the Saints go on the clock, but if he's there, the Saints would be ecstatic.  

C Marcus Martin (USC):  This is the player that I kept hearing was the potential target for the Saints in the first round. Martin fills a definite need for the Saints at center after losing Brian de la Puente in free agency.  Martin is a huge center at 6'3 and 320 pounds. 

READ MORE: WWL resident pros react to Saints moves on Day One of NFL Draft

ILB Yawin Smallwood (Connecticut):  The Saints do a great job of getting great intel on players that are "off the radar".  Smallwood could very well be exactly what the Saints are looking for at inside linebacker in round 2. Smallwood is an excellent tackler, a trait the Saints covet in defenders.  

ILB Christian Jones (Florida State):  The Saints spent some time with Jones at the Senior Bowl.  Jones can also play outside linebacker, so versatility is a characteristic in his favor with New Orleans.  NFL draft analysts describe Jones as an "outstanding overall athlete who has been very productive at any of the linebacker positions he played at FSU".  
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Kristian: Saints execs sound off on Draft, free agents, camp and more
"With the 27th pick in round one of the NFL draft, the New Orleans Saints select..." Well, no-one in the Saints organization is saying - but the scouts love this Draft class!

Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis, Peter Charmichael, Jr, Rob Ryan, Joe Vitt, Greg McMahon, Rick Reiprish and Regional Scouts Dwaune Jones and Josh Lucas all stopped by the radio huddle today live from Saints camp with the Voice of the Saints Jim Henderson and Color Analyst Hokie Gajan. 

FULL AUDIO: Jim and Hokie talk to Saints executives about the NFL Draft and more

Starting things off with Payton, he called the NFL Draft "the life blood of the program,” and pointed out that "teams are always looking for pass rushers and corners in the draft." 

What's going to happen at center? Coach said "On offense with us, there is change, there is a competition that will evolve at center."

Finally, speaking on an ESPN report that the Saints have interest in Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo, he called those reports "completely false.” ESPN reported earlier today the Saints would take a QB in rounds 2 or 3 and Garoppolo would be the target. 

Saints GM Mickey Loomis told us “We haven’t done a lot of mock drafts this year, because we feel pretty good about who the top 15 picks are going to be.” 

Will the Saints trade up or down from the #27 perch? “One thing about trading up, you’re trading up for a specific for a player that fits what you do.  If you sit back and wait to see what comes to you, I think that’s more of a crap shoot.” 

What about splitting training camp between the Saints facility in Metairie and West Virginia?  “We need to do something different every 4 or 5 years.  I think the change in scenery is good for our team... it would do us some good to get into a cooler climate.  I think that helps with soft tissue injuries.  I’ve got a good feeling the cooler climate will help.” 

On the Jimmy Graham grievance, Loomis confessed “I dont’ know why it came out when it did.  Their camp informed me they were going to file it a few weeks ago.  I don’t have any hard feelings about it."

Saints Director of Player Personnel Ryan Pace said, “It’s a deep draft, there is a lot of talent in this draft.”  The Saints could have their pick of a handful of players they really like when they go on the clock with the 27th pick in round one. “Our board is a little more narrowed in, as far as guys that are for us” Pace said. 

Saints Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan touched on a couple of topics, including the turnaround of his defense. “We had great talent already here, and we were just glad to be a small part of our team's success”.  Speaking of Champ Bailey, he had high praise, saying "I can’t wait to work with Champ Bailey, he’s got an aura about him... he kind of glows!"

Talking about South Carolina DE Jadaveon Clowney, Ryan said "He can do anything he wants! If he’s not a great pro, I’ll be shocked.”

How does Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt feel about the two extra weeks leading up to NFL Draft? “I think you can get paralysis by analysis at times.  You’ve gotten to really know the players better.” Loomis chimed in on that too, saying “There are some benefits to it.  I don’t like it but I can’t point to something specific.  I love the draft process from beginning to end.”  

Kenny Vaccaro is ahead of schedule, coming off his foot injury that shortened his rookie season. Vitt said “He’s got great intelligence, great instincts.  He’s got a lot of great things going for him. And when you meet Champ, he takes great notes, he gets along great in the locker room.  All the young kids gravitate toward him.”

Special teams coordinator Greg McMahon on replacing Darren Sproles: “I hate to use the word replace, because we loved Sproles. I tell you a guy we are excited about is Travaris Cadet.  We’re excited about him and I think you guys will be too!” How about at kicker? “It’s wide open, and Shayne (Graham) knows that.”

Director of College Scouting Rick Reiprish on USC WR Marqise Lee: “You look at both years, if you have a feel for the player and you like the player, you go back and do a little work on him.” Also bullish on Champ Bailey, Reiprish said “he’ll get your attention no matter where he plays.”

What was Rick Reiprish's take on Johnny Manziel? “He’s a different talent... the translation to the pro game should be no problem!”
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Kristian: Hokie sizes up the Saints Draft needs
The NFL Draft is right around the corner, and who will hear their name called when the Saints go on the clock with the 27th pick in round one?  It’s truly anyone’s guess.  Heck, Coach Sean Payton and General Manager, Mickey Loomis won’t have an idea until around pick twenty-two.  

READ MORE: Detillier: Beckham gone fast, Saints may get a linebacker

“With the moves they’ve made in the off-season, they’re doing exactly what they’ve done in the past, and that’s get in the position to take the best player available,” explained Saints Color Analyst Hokie Gajan.  The Saints have the luxury of picking the best available after signing Jarius Byrd and Champ Bailey in free agency along with a few other shrewd moves by Loomis and the front office.

I tend to lean to a offensive selection; the Saints could be targeting the wide receiver position with their first pick. The average age of the starters on the Saints offense is 28.8 years old, and that’s the oldest starting offensive line up in the league. Keep in mind, QB Drew Brees is 35 years old, so the number is tilted a bit.  

“I don’t look at it now like they’ve got glaring holes anywhere. The Saints are in the position right now where they can truly take the best player available,” continued Gajan. The former Saints running back and scout wouldn’t venture a guess as to where the Saints might be leaning with their first round selection.

READ MORE: Deke: An exclusive interview with Saints GM Mickey Loomis

LSU has a ton of draft hopefuls, and several that are expected to be selected in the first three rounds Thursday and Friday.  The Saints currently don’t have a Tiger on the roster but running back Jeremy Hill might be a target. Gajan says he’s not as high on the bruising runner as some: “I don’t think he’s a make-you-miss kind of guy, there is definitely a role for him in the NFL, but it has to be the right round.”  

The Saints have spent a considerable amount of energy and money this off-season adding youth to the defensive side of the football.  The Saints have drafted a defensive players with each of their last six first picks in the draft. The last time the Saints selected an offensive player with their first round pick was in 2007, ironically with the 27th pick (WR Robert Meachem). 
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Kristian: Loomis playing it close to the vest on Draft eve
Often times before a Draft, NFL executives will say they're after the best available player on the board when it is their time to pick, and the Saints don't appear to be shifting from that philosophy anytime soon.  The Saints own 7 selections in the 2014 draft, and predicting what the Saints might do with the 27th pick in round is anyone's guess, even for General Manager Mickey Loomis. "It's tough when it's that late in the first round, it would be easier if we were picking in the top 5. We have a pretty good idea on how the top 15 will go". 
In regards to that trip out west; The Saints made headlines last week when 50 or so members of the front offices and coaches went to Las Vegas ahead this weeks Draft. "it's a trip Sean (Payton) and I do every year with the staff on the same weekend." The NFL Draft prior to this year has been held in the last weekend of April. 

Listen to the full press conference below:

FULL AUDIO: Saints GM Mickey Loomis addresses the media ahead of the NFL Draft
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Tags :  
Topics: Religion_BeliefSports
Locations: Las Vegas
People: Mickey Loomis

Kristian: Is it time to start grooming a new Saints QB?
Saints quarterback Drew Brees is 35 years old, probably feels like he can play at least another three years, possibly five.  Is it time to draft Drew Brees’ eventual replacement? Is that time this year?  

The Packers did it with Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers; the 49ers had Steve Young sitting behind Joe Montana as his eventual successor.  While it’s a valid question, I don’t think the Saints are worrying about three years from now.  The off-season moves the Saints have made this spring scream “we’re in it to win it this year.”   The QB of the future doesn’t need to draft this year.  “I don’t think it will happen this year, but I could see it in another year,” said WWL’s Jim Henderson.  Some of this conversation is based on Brees' health over the next three to five years. 

The Saints currently have three quarterbacks on the roster.  Long time veteran Luke McCown returns for his second season with the Saints and second year man Ryan Griffin will also be in the mix for the backup position behind Brees.  Griffin landed with the Saints on the practice squad last summer, after going undrafted out of Tulane, and was later placed on the active roster after a few teams tried to sign him away.  The Saints are impressed with Griffin, and might be intrigued enough to give him the chance to be the eventual replacement for Brees a few years from now. 

The Saints would waste a draft pick on a quarterback this year.  That could be another defensive lineman, or linebacker, or cornerback to add to an emerging secondary.   It’s not out of the realm of possibility for the Saints to draft a QB this year if the right guy is available.  The Saints continue to focus their attention on giving their current franchise QB another shot at Super Bowl with some more offensive weapons and defensive playmakers.
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Kristian: Saints opt out of Ingram option
Ahead of Monday's deadline to execute a 5th-year option on running back Mark Ingram's contract, the Saints have decided not to pick up the option allowing Ingram to become a free agent after the 2014 season.  

It doesn't mean the team doesn't believe in Ingram as a running back, they simply don't want to pay him the money that it would cost in 2015.  Ingram's been plagued by injuries and inconsistency since arriving in New Orleans as a first round draft pick in 2011.  
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Topics: Sports
Locations: New Orleans
People: Mark Ingram

Kristian: Saints should trade up in next week's Draft
The Saints have clearly and decisively rebuilt their defense in two off-seasons, and might be just one player away from being a truly dominant defense that can smother elite quarterbacks.  Who is that player? Khalil Mack, OLB out of University of Buffalo.  Herein lies the problem. Mack’s going to be long gone before the Saints select in round one of the NFL draft May 8th.  Mack would make an immediate impact on an already young and talented Saints D. Most mock drafts don’t have him getting out of the top five picks.  

Maybe I’m off my rocker, maybe I’m a little out there with this one, but I think the Saints should mortgage next year’s pick(s) to get him.  That’s right, trade up from 27th overall to the top five! 

READ MORE: Steve: Draft preview - Top LB's and DB's in 2014 Draft class

If you’re the Saints, you don’t pull the trigger on this deal until he slips past the Texans and Rams with the first and second picks.  Jacksonville is sitting pretty with the third overall pick, and might be in the best position to land Mack.   The Saints would pay a hefty price to move up 24 spots to select him but I think it’s worth it.  Mickey Loomis and company have been very willing to trade up in the first round of the draft. Since becoming the GM 12 years ago Loomis has pulled the trigger on three deals to move up in the first round.

It would likely cost New Orleans their 27th pick in 2014, their second round pick in 2014, their first rounder in 2015, and maybe a 3rd rounder in 2015.  Maybe it’s too much of a Hollywood scenario, but maybe it’s a move that helps land the Saints back in the Super Bowl.  Is Mack worth potentially three or four picks? Maybe not to a team that is rebuilding, but not for a team that has a legitimate chance at a Super Bowl this season.

READ MORE: T-Bob: Draft preview - guards are the glue that holds O-line together

Khalil Mack has been viewed by some draft experts and league personnel guys as the better prospect of South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney, who’s likely going to be the first player selected by Houston or any other team that moves up to the top spot.   Sure Mack went to a small school, and the “level of competition debate” is used against him.  The NFL is littered with players that have proven big finds from small schools; Vincent Jackson (Northern Colorado,  Jahri Evans (Bloomsburgh), Marques Colston (Hoftsra), Joe Flacco (Delaware) just to name a few. 

Photo courtesy ChadCooperPhotos, Flickr
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Kristian: Saints targeting receiver spot in round one
The 2014 NFL draft is a little more than one week away, and the Saints are likely settling in on a “cloud” or a “cluster” of players that might be available to them with the 27th pick in round one next Thursday night.  

General Manager Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton have done a terrific job this off-season of filling the needs during free agency, providing them the chance to truly select the highest graded player on their board.   What positions could the team address when they go on the clock in the first round?  NFL draft analyst Mike Detillier says he expects New Orleans to look long and hard at the offensive side of the football: “Wide Receiver, a deep threat is where I suspect the team to go,” Detillier explained.  

The question then becomes, will a player they like be there with the 27th pick?  Detillier doesn’t think the Saints can sit still. “I think if they stay put, it’s a defensive player. If they move up, a small trade right up the board to get a guy like Marqise Lee from USC.”   Lee visited the Saints early in the pre-draft visiting period earlier this month.  Most mock drafts have Lee going in the late teens to early twenties picks in round one.

Jordan Mathews is a player to keep an eye on if the Saints don’t move up the board and trade in the first round.  Mathews was a standout with Vanderbilt and had an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl. “He put them back on the football map offensively,”  Detillier said. “If you don’t respect him, man, he’ll beat you deep”.   Detillier describes Mathews as a possession-type receiver more than a deep threat. “The Saints are looking for a guy that can take the top off the coverage, someone that can hit the homerun.” explained Detillier. 

Later rounds:  The Saints have typically done better in the Draft in the middle to late rounds in terms of finding talent.  I wouldn’t be surprised to the see the Saints draft two wide receivers on May 8th, 9th, and 10th.  Coach Sean Payton has often said he prefers the bigger wide receivers to fit his offense.  Joe Morgan is back with the Saints a one year deal, but coming off an ACL injury last summer and is no lock to make the roster, as the teams primary deep threat.
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Topics: Sports
Locations: New Orleans
People: Joe MorganJordan MathewsMickey LoomisMike DetillierSean Payton

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