The New Orleans Saints announced today the team has made the following transactions to reduce their roster to 53 players. The announcements were made by Saints’ Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis.
The team terminated the contracts of the following veteran players: WR Greg Camarillo, K John Kasay and TE Derek Schouman.
The following players were waived by the Saints: LB Kadarron Anderson, DE Braylon Broughton, LB Ezra Butler, QB Sean Canfield, DE Alex Daniels, TE Michael Higgins, CB Nick Hixson, S Jerico Nelson, G DeOnt’ae Pannell, T Aderious Simmons, WR Andy Tanner, C/G Matt Tennant and LB Lawrence Wilson.
The following players were placed on reserve/injured: RB Joe Banyard, S Jose Gumbs, CB Marquis Johnson and WR Nick Toon.
The following players were placed on the reserve/suspended list: LB Ramon Humber and DE Will Smith.
The New Orleans Saints begin regular season play on Sunday, September 9 versus the Washington Redskins at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (12:00 p.m./FOX/Saints Radio Network). The Saints’ roster currently stands at the NFL-mandated 53 players. Practice squads may be established tomorrow afternoon following the end of the waiver claiming period.
No snooze-fest here: This one was exciting, unlike the previous three sleepers in the preseason the Saints and Texans were both impressive with New Orleans coming out on top 34-27. I like how the Saints battled adversity…after they quickly fell behind 14-0 to the Texans, they roared back with two touchdowns in 7 seconds.
Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt agreed that it was a much improved squad in the Superdome against Houston.
"We improved tonight. We improved on our tackling and we had much better poise on the field than we did a week ago against Jacksonville," Vitt said. "We’ve got to be able to protect the ball better. Our team knows that and we will work hard on that. We still have to take the ball away a couple more times. If we do that, it will give us the chance to be the team we want to be."
Offensive machine: Yeah, the Saints offense looked ready for the opener with 24 points in the first half. You saw great tempo, and disbursement of the football to all the offensive weapons. Tight end Jimmy Graham made his presence felt with a touchdown grab. I thought the Saints ran the ball much better this week. Clearly the offense is fine-tuned and looks ready for the season opener against the Washington Redskins on September 9th.
Assistant Coach Aaron Kromer played a more extensive role on the sidelines against Houston, kind of a dress rehearsal for when he takes over while Vitt is out on suspension. QB Drew Brees said there were no snags with Kromer calling plays.
“No, everything seemed to be very, very smooth...I felt like the mechanics of him continuing to carry on his responsibilities with the offensive line like he normally would, as well as some of the little things, head coaching responsibilities so to speak. I feel like we have done things the right way throughout this whole process," Drew said after the win.
Defense adjusts: So, what did Coach Spagnulo tell the defense after giving up the early TD? Safety Malcolm Jenkins said Coach Spags told them just to settle down.
"We knew the Texans had an explosive offense," Jenkins said. "They made some plays on the first drive and we played conservative. (He told us) just to settle down and get after them with pressures a little bit and it turned us around. It helped that we got a touchdown on the kickoff.”
Stepping up: Defensive end Cameron Jordan is in line for a stellar 2012 campaign. He's turning into a force as a pass rusher, and it's something that we've noticed since training camp. Jordan's emergence is sorely needed with the looming four game suspension of Will Smith.
Kristian@wwl.com - @kristiangaric1
I am highly impressed with Aaron Kromer, who spoke with the media today following practice.
"I'm going to hold this thing over until Joe Vitt gets back. I'm going to hold the fort," Kromer said. "It's important that Drew Brees feels this is Sean Payton's program."
The Saints announced yesterday that Kromer, the offensive line/running backs coach, with take the helm when Joe Vitt begins serving his six-game suspension in week one of the regular season.
I've heard him speak in the past, and I was surprised how candid he was with the media. At the same time, you can see and hear that this guy has that "it" factor that you’re looking for in an head coach, even if it's on an interim basis. You can see where the players would rally around him. They trust him, they believe in him.
Although Joe Vitt's suspension doesn't begin until week one, Kromer will be making the calls for the final two upcoming preseason games. It will be a transition period, a dress rehearsal for him, a time to work out any kinks.
Joe Vitt said today that he'll work close with Kromer on the sidelines for the next two games.
"(We will go over) some game day procedures, talking to the officials beforehand, going over the procedure for a replay review, going over some procedures postgame when you get the injuries and you have to talk to the media, things like that so he can start to set the routine of practice," Vitt said. "That is why Mickey chose to make the announcement now, so we’d have two full games together.”
I don't think it's going to be as big a deal as some people are making it out to be. Sure, it will have an impact, undoubtedly it will. I mean, it's unprecedented...you're going from Payton to Vitt to Kromer, then back to Vitt after six games. That will take some adjustments and getting used to. But this is an organization that doesn't do things frivolously. Everything's calculated, they plan it, and they study it. There are a number of guys who could have taken it over, but clearly Aaron Kromer made the most sense. And, it should not affect Kromer's ability to work with the offensive line.
The thing that he stresses is that he has to "be himself." He knows he can't be Sean Payton, and he can't be Joe Vitt. However, he's going to follow Payton's method, which they've done that since Payton left the building to begin serving his season-long suspension.
I think it was smart to announce this decision NOW, when you're in the preseason, instead of waiting until week one, when you're trying to prepare for a game that counts. You won't have this kind of distraction, and all of this will have been put to bed by then.
Injury updates: Coach Vitt said that WR Adrian Arrington will be ready for the Redskins game.
Vitt also said that WR Andy Tanner is walking better. "He has not been outside at any practice with us yet. He is still in the training room but he is out of the boot. He is not limping and he is really making good progress," Vitt said.
As for RB Mark Ingram, Vitt said that he's ahead of schedule. "I think he has gone as much as three back-to-back practices and then (we) take him out for a day. As we are getting closer to the end of the process, we held him out a little earlier in the week. He put (in) two back-to-back practices this week. I see the quickness and the explosiveness in practice and now I think it is a confidence factor on his part. He is progressing well. I am excited about him.”
Saints Coach Joe Vitt made his point with the defensive players this week. He's had them in pads, and they've been tackling! "They're hitting each other, that's why we have the pads on," Vitt said. The Saints missed roughly 16 tackles by my records in the preseason loss to Jacksonville last week. "Two days in a row, it's been a main emphasis. That's why we work on it. There is an expectancy level," Vitt added. The Saints have done a number of drills to improve tackling. At practice you can often hear the coaches screaming, "Angles! Take good angles to the ball." I think you'll see a better performance this week from the defense after being challenged during practice.
Another linebacker down:
Ramon Humber! Stay with me here, he is the back up to the back up to the back up at middle linebacker. He is out for the next ten days with what Vitt described as a “grade one hamstring pull." Humber would have had his chance to catch the coaches' eyes with the starters Curtis Lofton (ankle) and David Hawthorne (knee) out for this week. Remember Chris Chamberlain blew out his knee and is out for the season. With Humber, that makes four middle linebackers that have sustained injuries for the Saints in less than a week. Now who's the next man up? Lawrence Wilson. Who? Lawrence Wilson is a rookie out of Connecticut. Wilson has been impressive playing with the 3rd team defense, but he has Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson to contend with this week. Oh and by the way; the Texans two-time Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster.
No Sproles or Lofton:
You will not see running back Darren Sproles this week against the Texans. Sproles is working his way back from soreness in his knee, and the Saints are content with letting him rest until the regular season. The same, I think, could be said for middle linebacker Curtis Lofton. "If this were a regular season game, Lofton would be out there," Vitt said after practice. Lofton is battling a high ankle sprain, but it doesn't look too concerning.
Newly acquired linebacker Barret Ruud logged his first practice with the Black and Gold, and right now he's just trying to familiarize himself with the defensive playbook. "Football is football, the biggest difficulty will be verbiage. This will be my fifth system, I'll pick it up pretty quick," Ruud explained. The trade for Ruud was a little surprising to the fans, and even Ruud. “A lot of surprise actually, it's something I've never been through before. Usually when someone trades for you, that means they want you. To go to a team like New Orleans is a bonus," Ruud said. Vitt told us that Ruud will likely not play Saturday night against Houston. You'll have to wait another week to see the new linebacker.
The Saints were forced to trade for veteran linebacker Barrett Ruud this week. It came after injuries decimated the linebacker position. "He's 29, so I think he's got a lot of football ahead of him," Asst. Coach Joe Vitt said. Ruud took a physical today and should be on the field tomorrow. Ruud is an experienced veteran that can provide good depth and versatility. Ruud can play middle linebacker and the weak side linebacker position.
Lofton: Saints middle linebacker Curtis Lofton has never missed a regular season game over his four-year NFL career, and says his high ankle sprain won't keep him out of the season-opener on September 9th against the Redskins. "It's still preseason, once week one rolls around, I will be ready to go," Lofton said.
The Saints have lost three linebackers in the last week. Chris Chamberlain went down with an ACL injury, and David Hawthorne is on the shelf recovering from meniscus surgery.
Lofton says it's just bad luck right now. "We're going to be OK, Dave will be fine, you know I will be out there any day."
I think you can exhale, Lofton will be on the field for that all-important season opener.
On the mend:
Saints running back Darren Sproles returned to the practice field for the first time in two weeks. A sore knee kept him on the sidelines after the Hall of Fame game against Arizona. The Saints do a really good job of managing injuries to the point where they don't overdo it with a player to quickly. Vitt said if this preseason game (Houston) were a regular season game, #43 would play. Sproles' absence has given rookie Travaris Cadet his chance to impress the coaches. There is no doubt that the offense is just a little bit more dynamic with Sproles in the backfield.
Defensive end Turk McBride (ankle) also returned to the practice field today for the first time in more than two weeks. Defensive back Marquis Johnson missed practice today because of swelling in his knee. Johnson is battling for the 3rd or 4th cornerback spot with Johnny Patrick, Corey White, and Elbert Mack.
Humber and Wilson:
You can expect to see a lot of linebackers Ramon Humber and Lawrence Wilson this Saturday night against the Texans. The injuries to the linebacking corps will give the Saints a chance to evaluate some of the younger guys at the position. Depending on how quickly Ruud grasps the system, you could also see him in the middle against Houston.
That's one word you could use to describe the Saints injury situation at linebacker. In Friday's game against the Jags the Saints lost back up middle linebacker, Chris Chamberlain (ACL) for the entire year. Starting MLB Curtis Lofton sustained a high ankle sprain. WLB David Hawthorne suffered a meniscus tear that will require surgery.
Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt says, "We certainly think Curtis (Lofton) is going to be ready for the first game (of the regular season)."
Hawthorne injured his knee early in the preseason contest against Jacksonville and played through it. "He's got a chance to be back for that game (week 1)," Vitt Said. The pro scouts have always had a list of players at the ready. "Our pro personnel people do an outstanding job of acquiring talent for us. We will see what other talent is available to us on other rosters and potential trades or picking some people up when they are waved. We're happy with what we have now and we're excited," Vitt insisted.
Remember, the Saints also lost MLB Jonathan Vilma to a season-long suspension.
Next man up:
Who is the next man up? Chris Chamberlain was that guy in the middle until he went down with an ACL injury. David Hawthorne then moved inside, but he's down. Hello Ramon Humber! That's right, the guy that got here just before the Patriots preseason game. "He's got a great chance to show his skill level, and what he can do. We're excited to watch him play," said Vitt. Humber was with the Saints last season and was available all offseason before the call finally came. Humber said he was in constant communication with the Saints during the summer, and they told him to stay ready. Well, we'll find out if he's ready. Regardless, Humber is suspended for three games in the 2012 season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. I think it's safe to say the Saints will be making a trade for a middle linebacker soon enough. Any player that is on the open market right now is not an upgrade over who they have currently on the roster, though. If the Saints don't pull the trigger on a trade that means the ankle injury to Lofton is not expected to keep him out of the week 1 match up against Washington.
The Saints are in regular season mode and began their work on the Washington Redskins. The intensity level is up a bit here on Airline Drive. The Saints and Coach Vitt started looking at film of RGIII (Robert Griffin the third) back in April. "You've got to prepare for your upcoming opponents. We did the same thing last year with Cam Newton," Vitt said. He explained that the Saints began doing their homework a week after the draft. The Saints have started to sprinkle in some "game plan" work on the Redskins both offensively and defensively.
Vitt says he kind of wishes he had taken the team to practice in the Superdome before Friday night's preseason game against the Jaguars. The Superdome installs new turf before each season, and it takes a while to get used to. Not to mention that the Saints suffered two knee injuries (Hawthorne and Chamberlain). In the past, Payton had traditionally brought the team to the Dome for a workout prior to the first preseason game… as a way of getting a feel for the new surface.
Odds and Ends:
Saints rookie WR Nick Toon (foot) is on the mend, and Vitt told us he has a chance to get back on the field before the Saints wrap up the preseason against the Tennessee Titans on August 30th. Defensive end Turk McBride (ankle) is "awful close" to returning to the field. DT Tom Johnson is another couple of weeks away. WR Adrian Arrington (knee) says that he hopes to get in the pool next week and be back in time for week 1.
Not bad: As far as preseason games go, this one wasn’t too bad in terms of excitement. We had some big plays, and some ‘’feel’’ of a real game. However, you could still tell it was the preseason on a number of fronts
Tackling: No doubt the Saints will place a huge emphases on tackling and pursuit to the ball in the next week of practice. The first-team defense started the game with sloppy tackling, missing 8 tackles by my count in the quarter-and-a-half of play they were in on.
“That’s the mark of a good defense and a good defensive player is good tackling,” Coach Joe Vitt explained. “I’m not going to mask my emotions, the tackling was a disappointment.”
Morgan: Wide receiver Joe Morgan might have atoned for some errors this week in practice with a nice long touchdown reception after he slipped past the Jaguars secondary. Morgan did have a couple of alignment issues on a couple of plays. At times he looked like he has this team made, and at other times he looked like he’s not going to make the roster. That’s the element he brings though, he can definitely blow the top off the coverage.
Replacement officials: Ok, I’ve said this once, and I’ll say it again; The NFL is in trouble if they don’t resolve the labor dispute with the regular officials. The replacement officials blew three calls down the stretch that ultimately put the Jaguars in position to take the lead with less than a minute to go. What if this had been a regular-season game? The calls were obvious.
Yea, I know, it’s a preseason game, and easier to swallow…but what if this happens in the regular season? What if a team loses a game because of a labor dispute which requires untrained and unqualified officials to referee an NFL game? I’m really concerned, and you should be to.
It’s a wrap! The Saints wrapped up training camp in the indoor facility as they turn their attention to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The players say camp was tough, but they got “the work in.” Under the new practice rules of the C.B.A, the early reviews are in and players feel like they’ll be fresher after practicing only once a day.
Out: RB Darren Sproles (knee), DE Turk McBride (ankle), WR Nick Toon (foot), WR Adrian Arrington (knee), and DB Jabari Greer (groin) will not play in the Saints pre-season home opener against Jacksonville. Sproles didn’t practice all week, but it’s nothing to be concerned about. The Saints are always smart about giving banged up players the right amount of rest. Toon is expected back on the field next week. McBride will lalso ikely return within the next week.
What to expect: The starters figure to go about a quarter or so…“a little longer” than last week explained Coach Joe Vitt. The Saints installed a “mini” game plan trying to get the players in a routine. The offensive players I’ve talked to are anxious to get some points on the board after scoring just 6 last week against New England. I think you will see a little less “vanilla” offense and defense against Jacksonville.
Jimmy takes gold: Saints QB Drew Brees and his teammates deemed TE Jimmy Graham the most likely player to be an Olympiad. Graham was sporting a fake gold medal around his neck following practice. “I think I could do some hurdles or maybe volleyball.” Graham displayed the medal proudly at his post practice press conference.
Joe Morgan: I haven’t seen so much intrigue surrounding a player in a while. WR Joe Morgan looks so good one play then not so great the next. “We are looking for more consistency from him,” said offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael. Morgan will make the tough catch and drop the easy one at times. You can see him conferring with Brees all the time. I think Morgan isn’t quite on the same page with the QB. He’s been seen running the wrong route at times during camp. His speed is undeniable, but if Brees can’t trust him to be where he’s supposed to be, I think it will be really difficult for him to make the final roster. At one point in camp I thought Morgan was a virtual certainty to make it. Today? I’m not so sure. Drops and mental errors are not tolerated in the Saints offense.
Heat casualties & injury update: After leaving practice early yesterday with heat-related issues LB Curtis Lofton, WR Courtney Roby, and OL Jermon Bushrod all returned to the practice field. RB Darren Sproles (Knee) WR Adrian Arrington (knee), CB Marquis Johnson (knee), and DT Turk McBride (ankle) did not practice.
Dropsy’s: The Saints offense hasn’t had their way so far with the defense in training camp, and today was no different. However, it’s hard to move the football with receivers dropping catchable passes. Just about every receiver had their turn at it today. Colston dropped a pass…heck, even Lance dropped one. That’s a little out of character, but I think the heat is really becoming a factor for the players.
Tight windows: Several of the passes thrown by Saints quarterbacks are “contested,” which means defensive backs and linebackers are getting a hand close to or on the ball. Several Saints defenders batted passes away from Brees, Daniel, Canfield, and McCown. Linebacker Jonathan Casillas continues to impress with another interception of Drew Brees. I wouldn’t get too concerned with the interceptions Brees is throwing in training camp. He threw a lot in the 2009 training camp, and we all know how that season turned out. Brees is testing the defense, feeling his way around the D, and taking more chances in practice than he would in a game.
After practice, Drew said he knows this team has all the tools, but: "The mentality we have is; we know we're a contender in this league, but we have to go out and prove it every day."
Free Payton: One of the highlights of the day was a small airplane circling the practice field pulling a banner reading, “Free Payton.” The players noticed it and at one point Safety Roman Harper joked, “I paid for that! I paid for them to fly over here with that.” Now that’s not true, but none the less it provided a light-hearted moment. The people behind the flying banner plan on flying over all over the city at random until the NFL releases Sean Payton from his season-long suspension.
Kicking battle: Twenty-two year veteran John Kasay and five-year veteran Garret Hartley continue to compete for the kicking position. Each player looked sharp during the field goal portion of practice, booming kicks from distances of 42 yards. Clearly Hartley has the stronger leg, but the crafty left-footed Kasay knows exactly how much to put on his kicks. I expect this race to go down to the final cuts. The coaches don’t seem to be in any hurry to name their guy.
Rookie hazing: It happens across the NFL during training camp; rookies getting hazed by the veterans, as sort of a rite of passage. Today, several Saints veterans taped rookies Johny Thomas (safety) and Kadarron Anderson (linebacker) to a goal post and doused them with ice-water. The reason? They didn’t “know their role.” The rookies took it well; it’s healthy for team-building in environments like this. As a former Marine I can relate, I remember getting hazed a bit, and it was always positive. The veterans made it clear to the “rookies” on the team to use teamwork to get them out of the taped constraints. The rookies all ran over to the goal post and freed their teammates.
Heat and humidity: It was pretty hot out there this morning, and the heat was a factor for Saints players. A few were visibly battling heat-related issues. Three players left the field because of the heat: offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod, wide receiver Courtney Roby, and linebacker Curtis Lofton were all brought into the locker room. You could see the impact of extremely high temperatures...the play got a little sloppy at times.
Defense keeps up the heat: The Saints defense continues to look solid, getting the better of Drew Brees not once, but twice, with two interceptions. One was a really nice play by safety Malcolm Jenkins, jumping a route in the red zone. He would have scored, if it was a real game, with nothing in front of him but blades of green grass. Also, Jonathan Casillas picked off Drew in the team portion of the 3rd-down period.
I tell you one thing I've noticed...this defense is causing confusion at the quarterback position. Chase Daniel and Drew Brees at times appear a little unsure of the coverage, and that's not easy to accomplish when you're talking about one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. This defense is really making its mark…showing the offense a lot of different looks. If it’s presenting problems for our offense; we’ll definitely confuse other teams.
Feeling the heat: Courtney Roby has had such a great camp, but he had a bad day today. Roby, on special teams, got admonished pretty good by Special Teams Coordinator Greg McMahon for a holding call. Greg told him, "C'mon VETERAN, use your technique, you've got to be better than that!” Also, Joe Morgan continues to drop passes. If he wants to make this roster, Morgan has to improve on consistency.
Looking ahead, what will we see Friday? We should see a bit more excitement in the Jags game, but maybe not a whole lot more. In terms of the front-line guys, Darren Sproles is likely not to play, battling knee soreness. Joe Vitt told us this is more like their second preseason game, not their third game, in spite of the Hall of Fame game.
Double-A: Wide receiver Adrian Arrington had successful knee surgery, and will rejoin the team later today. No time table was given on when Arrington might return to the practice field. Running back Darren Sproles tweaked his knee in the Patriots game and rested today in practice. Coach Joe Vitt says he will be out for this Friday's preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Vitt added that if it were a regular season game, then Sproles would be able to go. DB Patrick Robinson (shoulder) and LB David Hawthorne (hip) returned to practice today. TE Jimmy Graham (back) participated in individual drills and the walk through portion of practice, but he sat out of the team portion as a precautionary measure by the Saints trainers and coaches. Defensive end Turk McBride also sat out of practice with ankle injury.
Ball security: Right now what may separate Chris Ivory from the other three running backs he's competing with (Sproles, Thomas, and Ingram) is his inability to hold onto the football. Ivory has coughed up the football on several occasions in camp, including another one today. If there is one sure fire way to ride the bench on this team, it's turning over the football. Ivory has to do a better job protecting the football if he's going to make his way into the rotation at RB. Rookie Travaris Cadet continues to push Ivory for a roster spot with impressive plays during camp.
Man in the middle: You can instantly tell what a difference maker Curtis Lofton is at middle linebacker for the Saints. Lofton is clearly guiding the defense on the field and is always around the football. Lofton is a force in the running game, and he always seems to sniff out the plays before they get a chance to get going. He might have the biggest impact on the defense this season. "I am just hungry. As soon as I step on the football field, I feel like I have something to prove. I want to improve, and I want to be the best. Whenever the ball is on the ground, I want to be the first one to get it. If the ball is in the air, I want to get my hands on it. I am hungry and want to continue to be the best that I can for this team," explained Lofton.
Defense wins: If you're looking for a winner and loser of the day from the team portion in practice, it was clearly the defense that came out on top. Brees and company started off kind of sluggish, and drew the ire of Coach Joe Vitt when they jumped off-sides during practice. Vitt made the offense run sprints instead of running the play over again. Chalk this one up to the defense. The windows for the quarterbacks are tighter, they don't have the instant reads they had under Gregg Williams' man to man blitz schemes. I've noticed an intriguing trend in practice and in the preseason games. Quarterbacks (including Brees) are not getting clean looks at the coverages and are having to pull the ball down and redirect the target on passing plays. That's all because of the zone concept of Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. The Quarterbacks don't have nearly the room to put the ball because so many defenders are looking at the quarterback dropping back into coverage. "They have a lot of moving parts to the defense, with Williams you knew what you were going to get, a lot of man blitz looks. With Spags you never know what's coming; they'll play zone, they'll play man." Saints wide receiver Lance Moore told me after practice.
Turnovers: The Saints defense placed higher emphases on forcing some fumbles and interceptions today in practice, and it paid off. Safety Malcolm Jenkins and CB Patrick Robinson each had an interception of Drew Brees in the team portion of practice. "Today was more of a short-yardage emphasis and just doing all of our heavy packages, getting to the ball, over-populating on the ball, first guy there stopping him with the second guy in trying to strip the ball," said middle linebacker Curtis Lofton. "Some things that we are doing well: We are stopping the man in our seven-man fronts, and I feel like we are starting to tackle well. Some things that we are not doing well: Some leaky yards after contact. We would like to see more balls out and get to the quarterback a little more." It's still a work in progress on the defensive side of the football, but you can see the players are buying into what Spags is selling.
Stretch run: The Saints enter the final week of training camp Sunday with some final installations on defense and offense. Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt says this team still has plenty to work on.
“It’s critical that we get some of the final things done that we do throughout the year,” Vitt said. “We give our football team those critical stats of what wins for us. We’re talking about the takeaway battle, winning the big play battle. We talk about pressuring the quarterback and things like that from an offensive and defensive standpoint. We have a lot of things to do this next week coming up as we prepare for Jacksonville and get through the next two days of evaluating the 53 that we have,” Vitt explained.
On the mend: The Saints should be a healthier team when they take the field Monday morning. Defensive back Patrick Robinson (shoulder), Linebacker David Hawthorne (hip), and Tight End Jimmy Graham (back) are all expected to be back at practice, according to Vitt.
However, rookie wide out Nick Toon will not be in that number. “No, he probably will be sooner than later, but he will not play this weekend (against Jacksonville),” Vitt said.
Vitt also said defensive back Jabari Greer is also making progress from sports hernia surgery, and is a bit ahead of schedule. “He’s moving better every day and the rehab has gone well. I don’t know that I’ve ever said the Houston game, but he’s on schedule and he’s doing well.” Wide receiver Adrian Arrington is still waiting on a second opinionabout his injured knee.
Film review: After taking a look at the film (funny how we all still call it “film"), Vitt walked away pretty pleased with several aspects of the game. “To be honest with you, I’ve looked at all the defense, all the coverage teams on special teams. I’ve watched the first unit of the offense, so I still have more film work to do tonight. I thought we did improve defensively. We played with better pad level.”
Vitt also liked the progression from the Hall of fame game through the Patriots pre-season game. “Our decision-making process was better. Our communication on defense was better. The intent to do some of the things that Spags (Steve Spagnuolo) emphasized all week long in practice was there with our gap control, with what we call our match principles.”
The Saints are back on the practice field Monday morning at 8:50, and the practice session is scheduled to be open to the public. I’ll be there tweeting updates – follow me on Twitter at @kristiangaric1
Defense: Well, even if it was a snooze-fest at times, there were a lot of positives to take away from the Saints-Patriots preseason game. In particular, the defense, and their ability to affect the passer and put pressure on the quarterback with their front four guys. Also, Curtis Lofton at middle linebacker. He had a number of solid plays.
Outside of the first-team defense, there wasn’t much to talk about. Now, you can see this defense is making significant strides under first-year Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, and they’re taking his new schemes pretty well.
Picking at the scabs: The fill-in referees caught a lot of flak from fans. There were a lot of flags last night that I didn’t think were necessarily penalties. They just don’t seem NFL quality. There was some stoppage of plays at time, and the NFL has to get that fixed. You don’t want games going three and a half hours in the regular season; fans will get restless. As an official, the goal is not to become part of the game. These replacements ARE becoming part of the game, which is a big no-no. So I’d like to see the NFL come to an agreement with the regular officials and get this thing rolling.
Who’s back next week: Linebacker David Hawthorne didn’t play, but I think you’ll see him return to action next week against the Jaguars, and I think you’ll also see CB Patrick Robinson. For the most part, I think Devery Henderson and Mark Ingram will be back. The big factor here, they’re playing five preseason games and they still have three to go…they don’t want to get anybody injured early. Jabari Greer probably won’t be back, but I think most everyone else who sat out the Patriots game will be back on the field next week at home against the Jags.
8.8.12 - Kristian@wwl.com - Reporting from Foxboro, MA
On the mend: Saints defensive back Johnny Patrick returned to practice after leaving Tuesday’s workout with a sore back. “Right now, I’m fine and I am going in the game,” Patrick told me after practice. CB Patrick Robinson (shoulder) worked in individual drills, his first action in over a week. It's likely Robinson likely will not play in the Thursday night game. LB David Hawthorne (hip flexor) and WR Adrian Arrington (knee), will not play against New England. Hawthorne and Arrington did not practice.
Big Scare: Tight End Jimmy Graham made a great catch in team vs. team against New England. Graham came down hard on his back after the diving catch, and jumped right up and spiked the ball. He looked to be fine, but once he got over to the sidelines he appeared to be in significant pain. Graham was holding his back as trainers looked at him. He seemed to get better throughout practice, and was later seen moving around. He did not return to the field, although he stayed with his team mates on the sidelines.
Coach Vitt later told us Graham is fine.
“If it was anything serious, the trainers would have told me about it, he’s fine,” Coach Vitt said.
I think it’s a safe bet the Sints will hold Graham out of the pre-season game against New England.
Defensive effort: I don’t know how good the Saints defense is going to be...It’s hard to tell just two weeks into training camp. However, the Black and Gold D clearly frustrated Tom Brady, forcing the three-time Super Bowl Champ to check down and settle for underneath throws a bunch in practices against the Saints. The defense seems to really benefit from having a chance to put their eyes on football with Coach Spags' Zone pressure scheme. The safeties are a big part of this defense, and both Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper have gotten their hands on a number of potential interceptions.
Brady vs. Brees: It’s a common debate...who would you take? If your allegiance is with the Black and Gold, your answer is simple. If you are a Patriots fan, you’re picking Brady. Me? I’m taking Brees, and twice on Sunday. Brees outshined Brady in two practices with the Patriots. Brady wasn’t awful; Brees was just that good.
National Star power: I was pleased to see the Patriots fans recognize a good football team when they saw one. After all, they should be well versed in what a good team looks like. Pats fans were very respectful towards the Saints. In fact, Drew Brees might have been the most popular player on the field aside from Tom Brady.
The Patriots organization and the fans are class! They cheered and applauded Brees and the Saints, even if it was at the expense of Patriots. Brees was highly sought after once practice closed. You could hear fans hollering “Drew, Drew, Drew can you sign this? Can I take a picture with you?" And of course, Drew obliged.
As a nice final touch, at the close of Wednesday's practice, the Patriots staff played "When the Saints Go Marching In" over the training facility's PA system. Great folks all around.
Depth erosion: The Saints’ depth at cornerback is really being tested. Jabari Greer had surgery last week on a sports hernia injury. Patrick Robinson is working his way back from a shoulder injury. Tuesday as the Saints practiced against the Patriots, defensive back Johnny Patrick went down with what is believed to be a groin injury. That leaves 2nd year veteran Marquis Johnson, and rookie Corey White running with the first team unit. Patrick will be evaluated and we will see if he’s on the field tomorrow when the Saints and Patriots practice against one another at 9am.
Bumps and Bruises: Linebacker David Hawthorne, running back Mark Ingram, and wide receiver Devery Henderson did not practice against the Patriots. For Ingram and Henderson it was described as a ‘’rest day’’ for both of them, given the number of reps they got in the Hall of Fame Game on Sunday. LB Will Herring replaced Hawthorne with the first team defense. Rookie offensive tackle Andrew Tiller also did not practice. Defensive back Patrick Robinson worked in individual drills in helmets and shorts today, so that’s a positive sign he’s coming back from his shoulder injury.
Star Studded cast: The Stars were plentiful both on and off the field in Foxborough. Jon Bon Jovi made an appearance with Patriots owner Robert Kraft. On the field, does it get any better than Drew Brees and Tom Brady on the same field? What about at TE where you had Alex Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, and Jimmy Graham all on the same field. The aforementioned three players are just match-up nightmares for opposing defenses. “Gronk” and Graham are big bodied guys that no matter how good the coverage is by the defender, the quarterback will still complete passes. “There are a lot of Hall of Famers on that field today, especially the two trigger men (quarterbacks). I believe they’ll have busts in Canton one day,” Saints assistant Coach Joe Vitt said after practice.
Winner and Loser: It’s hard to tell who beat who in these kinds of practices. The offense is at a clear advantage in the NFL with the rules, but even more so in practice with very little contact. You can’t tell if a player would have been separated from the football on a reception, or if the defense would have sacked the QB. The prevailing thought among the media members covering the Patriots and the Saints all felt like the Saints got the better of the Patriots.
Replacement game: The “scab” officials were out at practice, and I saw more flags in practice than I saw at the H.O.F game in Canton on Sunday. The league has to do something about this labor dispute with the regular officials. The league places so many emphases on efficiency and player safety, but to me it’s a contradiction in those principles to have replacement officials that are untrained at the NFL level calling the games. Typically the league would never put more than one “rookie” official on a crew. In this case you could have an entire crew of “rookies”. Not a good sign for fans, players, and coaches.
Different look: The Saints will hold two joint practices with the New England Patriots on Tuesday and Wednesday. Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt said that the Black and Gold is looking forward to the quality work against a quality team.
“When you take a look at the body of work of this organization, they’re like the Microsoft of our industry,” Vitt said. “The head coach, the scouting department, the class players that they draft. In the early stages of our program, we wanted to try to emulate them some by bringing in the right people and practicing the right way. So we look forward to it.”
The Saints practiced against New England in the 2010 pre-season before playing the Patriots in an exhibition contest in Gillette Stadium. The two teams will do it again on Thursday night.
What if: What if middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma has his suspension reduced by the NFL or wins the appeal in court? If so, is he still in the plans this season? Coach Vitt said, “I think a system like this is tailor-made for Jonathan Vilma. It’s a system where linebackers do a lot of checks. Jonathan Vilma is obviously one of the smartest players that I’ve ever been around. This is really kind of tailor made for him.” Vilma was suspended for the entire 2012 season for his alleged involvement in the Saints’ alleged ‘bounty’ program. He’s also coming off knee surgery in the off-season, and last week said he was about 85% recovered.
Double A: After missing the Hall of Fame Game with swelling his knee, wide receiver Adrian Arrington is visiting with orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews to get a further evaluation. Arrington “tweaked” his knee in practice last Friday and did not make the trip to Canton, and is not with the Saints in Foxboro. The fifth-year pro has had one of his better camps so far, and appears to be in command in the battle for the fourth wide receiver position.
Kristian@wwl.com - As the Saints get set to open the 2012 pre-season against the Arizona Cardinals in the Hall of Fame game on Sunday there are a couple of areas you should be watching. Injuries have forced the Saints hand at cornerback, but none the less it gives them an early look at who’s competing for certain spots on the roster.
Secondary: With Jabari Greer (groin) and Patrick Robinson (shoulder) out of the game because of injury, it gives some of the younger guys a chance to impress with what should be plenty of snaps. Right now, second year man Johnny Patrick appears to have the inside track on the “nickel-back” position. He’s made 3 interceptions in training camp so far and seems to have a nose for the football. Third-year man Marquis Johnson has played well with increased reps in practice, and could end up being a solid addition to the team. Also in the mix are rookies A.J Davis, and Laron Scott.
Wide receiver: We know Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, and Lance Moore have the first three spots at wide receiver locked down. Adrian Arrington has had his best camp of his 4-year career, and seems like the guy that’s ready to take over for the departed Robert Meachem. Arrington’s talent has never been the question; it’s his ability to stay healthy that has been his biggest obstacle. Will A.A. dazzle in the pre-season again? WR Joe Morgan is so intriguing…he’s got great speed and catches the ball well. He’ll be playing in a familiar setting, hailing from Canton and playing little league, middle school, High school, and College ball in Fawcett stadium. Rookie Nick Toon is out with a foot injury.
3rd quarterback: I know it’s hard to get excited about a position battle when in large part the player will be inactive for most if not all of the regular season games. However, it’s an interesting battle to watch between QB Sean Canfield (3rd season) and veteran Luke McCown. The Saints want to push Canfield a bit, but at the same time are always trying to improve their roster. McCown's experience (9 years) should give him the advantage over Canfield. Plus, I think they are taking a hard look of McCown to see if he can be the backup QB next season when and if Chase Daniel leaves for a starting opportunity with another team.
Saints defensive back Jabari Greer underwent surgery on his groin injury in Philadelphia. Greer injured his groin two days ago. Assistant Coach Joe Vitt said Greer "will definitely be ready for the start of the regular season." Greer had the same injury 2 years ago. Vitt expects Greer to start getting some work on the practice field by the end of this month. DB Patrick Robinson remains sidelined with a sore shoulder. I would expect Robinson to miss Sunday's Hall of Fame game. Offensive lineman Ben Grubbs returned to practice today after leaving early yesterday, team officials didn't say why. After having his best practice of camp, rookie wide out Nick Toon left early today with an apparent foot injury. Vitt said Toon would be evaluated.
After the whole bounty scandal assistant Coach Joe Vitt said he won't be as boisterous and loud during practice. You can still hear Vitt over everyone else at practice. He's not saying as much as he did last season, and it's not profanity laced… but it's still loud. You will hear him say things like "Body Language" or "Tempo, Tempo, Tempo" these days. He's constantly reminding players to pick it up, positive body language, don't slump your shoulders, etc.
The last two days the Saints have worked extensively on "situational football." By that I mean red zone, third down, goal line, etc. The Saints offense got the better of the defense in the red zone drills. It's really an unfair match up with all the weapons and Drew Brees pulling the trigger. Don't get discouraged, several defenses will struggle against the Saints offense this season, especially inside the 20 yard line. Pick your poison. Graham? Colston? Sproles? Moore? Get my point?
The Saints place a large emphases on condition and QB Chase Daniel told me that this might be one of the harder training camps he's been through. After practice today and yesterday, the Saints ran roughly 10 "gassers" (sideline to sideline sprints).
The Saints spent most of the day on situational football with "full go" live tackling. With the live hitting, there were some casualties... but nothing believed to be serious. Offensive lineman Ben Grubbs was rolled up on and left the field under his own power, but he did not return. Running back Mark Ingram banged up his knee, but appeared to be no worse for wear. You could see the energy level the guys had getting a chance for a little contact. You can see the physicality of these guys, and oh you can hear it big time. The nearby businesses on Airline Drive probably felt the collision between running back Chris Ivory and defensive end Junior Galette on the run game portion of practice. Ivory got the better of Galette rocking him back on the hit and moving on for three or four more yards.
For the better part of his 10 seasons in the NFL Scott Shanle has faced competition for his job at linebacker. Year in and year out, he comes out as the starter. Some fans ask, 'How does he keep winning the job?' The Simple answer is because he's the better player. Shanle is in competition again this season, but appears ready to thwart off would be challengers. He's still working with the first team defense.
"I guess if you say it long enough that Shanle won't be here anymore, eventually your going to be right," the linebacker said with a wry smile. "I guess people get bored with 58."
Here is the deal with Shanle: He's smart, he's dependable, and he's a team guy. It's that simple! You might not like that he's not dominant, but he keeps throwing the water out of the boat.
Defense vs. Offense (Red-Zone):
The Saints plethora of weapons in the red zone outmatched the Saints defensive unit today. It's an unfair advantage to match TE Jimmy Graham on a 5 ft 10 safety/cornerback. What play will they run? How about a jump ball? Cha-ching! TD! When the defense defended that play, it was 'OK let's check down to RB Darren Sproles and let him make a guy miss in space' and boom... TD! The truth is that the Saints are a nightmare from anywhere on the field for a defense to cover. Inside the 20 yard line they're just plain dominant.
The Saints went 1's vs. 1's for two drives today. The defense stalled the offense after a handful of plays to start the period. That didn't sit well with Drew Brees. So, he proceeded to lead the offense down the field with precision passes to Graham and Lance Moore. In the blink of an eye Brees had the Saints in the end-zone on a 35 yard strike to Marques Colston. "That's more like it" said one fan after the offense started out sluggish.
Johnny be good:
Second year CB Johnny Patrick continues his assault on the "nickel back" spot on defense. Patrick made a nice diving interception today on a busted route from Devery Henderson. Patrick also forced Henderson to fumble later in the period. "He just seems to have a nose for the football, some guys just have that innate ability," NFL analyst Mike Detillier said.
Obviously if this were breaking news it wouldn't be near the end of my column. However, it is a pretty big piece of information. Safety Roman Harper can catch! I'm serious! I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own two eyes, but Harper reeled in an interception when Marques Colston ran the wrong route, and Brees threw it where he expected Colston to be. Harper was there to collect on the charity. Harper and fellow safety Malcolm Jenkins have dropped a couple of interceptions this training camp, but for today Harper got it done.
Bumps and Bruises:
It's very early, but the Saints remain a little thin at cornerback. Patrick Robinson (shoulder) and Jabari Greer (groin) both missed practice on today. Offensive lineman Ben Grubbs left the field under his own power in the team portion of practice, but did not return.