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Kristian Garic's Blog


 WWL Saints Sideline Reporter

 Kristian@wwl.com

 @Kristiangaric1
Posts from May 2013


Kristian: LSU's Bregmen can play Saturday
Kristian@wwl.com  -  @kristiangaric1 on Twitter

Talk about tough:  LSU short stop Alex Bregman, the SEC Freshman of the Year, has been released from the hospital after colliding with outfielder Raph Rhymes.  A source tells me Bregman suffered a "small fracture" in his cheek.  The two TIgers had an ugly collision in the 4th inning of LSU's 11-7 win in the opening round of the NCAA tournament against Jackson State.  Bregman is available to play tomorrow night.  He has passed concussion tests, and will be re-evaluated Saturday morning.  

The Tigers will play  Sam Houston State Saturday night at Alex Box Stadium. 
 
Rhymes recieved a few stiches in his lip, and it's unclear if he will play tomorrow.

 The injury bug is really taking a bite out of LSU in rescent weeks.  Outfielder Mark Laird is still hobbled by a sprained ankle, and could be availbe later in this tournament.  Jacoby Jones just returned from a wrist injury.

Very good to know that Bregman is available, but if one (or both) can't go tomorrow, it would be a big blow to the Tigers lineup. 

Rain on their parade?  I really don't think the early rain delay is what threw Eades off.  He just struggled, and everyone has a bad day.  He just picked a bad day to have a bad day. 
 
Saturday:  Sam Houston beat a ULL team that many thought would be the biggest threat to LSU this weekend. However, as we saw with Jackson State, when you get to this tournament, everybody you face is a quality opponent, no matter where they are seeded. Expect a great game for Saturday. 

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Kristian: Competition wide-open at Saints OTA’s
Kristian@wwl.com

Tenacious D? The Saints have the second week of Organized Team Activities in the books, and the defense continues to digest the new 3-4 scheme implemented by Rob Ryan.  However, it's hard to get a gauge on the progress they are making without pads.  

Saints color analyst Hokie Gajan pointed out to me that if the D sometimes looks less than spectacular at practice, consider whom they are going up against.

"When you're facing Drew Brees, he's going to make you look bad at times," Hokie said.  Thankfully, the Saints D won't have to face #9 every week of the season when it comes game-time.

One thing we saw at practice is the aggressive scheme from Ryan and the players.  In team drills, the defense forced Drew Brees to pull the ball down and go to his third for fourth read in the play. 

"It was a little more exotic out there with our looks (on defense) and there were some mistakes so it made it look more exotic," explained Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan. 

Morgan:  After wide receiver Joe Morgan's arrest over the weekend on a charge of driving while intoxicated, Coach Sean Payton had this to say:  "I've had a chance to visit with Joe, the club is on top of all the specifics.  I'm going to leave it at that."  

The off-the-field brush with the law isn't ultimately going to decide Morgan's fate with the Saints, but a second incident very well could.  Morgan is in serious competition at the receiver position with Nick Toon and rookie Kenny Stills.  

Depth chart?  What depth chart?  Saints linebacker Victor Butler said today, "There is no depth chart in May."  Judging by the shuffling on defense and offense in this OTA session he's right on the money.  

Rookie Terron Armstead worked with the 1st team offense today.  After practice, QB Drew Brees said, "If he earns the job, I trust him."

Rob Ryan is still trying to get to know his players, and it shows.  Butler worked with the 2nd team defense after working with the 1st team last week.  Jabari Greer was back with the first unit after spending last week with the second team.  

Get the theme here?  The Saints are no rush to settle on a player at a particular position this early in the process.  

Harper:  Saints safety Roman Harper restructured his contract last week, providing the team with some salary cap relief.  "It's a better move for the entire team, for myself.  A little more security and things like that.  It answered a lot of questions, and it came at a perfect time, too.”  

Harper has at times drawn the ire of fans for his vulnerability in pass coverage, and after the team drafted Kenny Vaccaro some fans wanted to send Harper packing.  Today, Harper told us, "I didn't feel like packing up and moving anytime in the next couple of years.”
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Kristian: LSU just wants to win, not concerned with seed
Despite winning the SEC tournament over Vanderbilt the LSU Tigers open the NCAA baseball tournament as the 4th over all seed, two spots back of Vandy.   The Tiger coaches and players insist the most important thing is they'll be at home for the Regional and possibly the Super Regional rounds of the tournament.

"We want to play at home, you like to sleep in your own beds, and be comfortable with your surroundings.  Statistically and historically it shows your chances of getting to Omaha are better," says Coach Paul Mainieri. 

The Tigers will play Jackson State on Friday afternoon at 2pm in the opening round of the Regional.  It's a double loss elimination format this weekend, and if the Tigers win the Regional they'll host the Super Regional round next weekend.

Senior Mason Katz knows not to overlook anyone.

"I've been here long enough to know we can't look at Omaha yet, we gotta win this weekend and move onto the next one," the Tiger first baseman insisted.

Katz says he wants to play for a national title in the worst way.

"I don't care what happens.  I could go oh-for the rest of the year, and we go and win the national championship, I will be happier than anybody else... I promise you that,"  he said.

The Tigers are hosting UL-Lafayette, Sam Houston State, and Jackson State this weekend in the Regional round.
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Kristian: Saints back on the field for week 2 of OTA's
The Saints are back on the practice field today, as they open week 2 of Organized Team Activities.  Coach Sean Payton said that the coaching staff is doing more teaching than evaluating at this point.

"We're installing offense and defense and the same in the kicking game," the coach explained last week.  "There are a lot of new faces and a lot of learning." 

Payton and the Saints have boasted 100% attendance in the offseason conditioning program and OTA's. 

The Saints are installing a new 3-4 scheme under Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan.

"Obviously they're putting in a new package and getting players acclimated to new positions, so from that standpoint, it's going real well," Payton said after the first three days of practice. 

The Saints will host mini-camp next week, June 4th through 6th, at the teams training facility on Airline Drive.
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Kristian: Saints' harper signs extension, restructures deal
Saints safety Roman Harper has restructured his contract, according to a league source.

We don't know the numbers, but he took a pay cut, and they added a year to his contract.  I'm told the new deal has less guaranteed money.  

Harper was scheduled to have a base salary of $7.2 million this year.  This will now free up some salary cap space. 

It also will make it easier to cut Harper next year, because it spreads the money out over a longer period and there are fewer guarantees.

Harper, who came to the Saints as a 2nd-round draft pick from Alabama in 2006, has been a Pro Bowl safety.  However, the drafting of Kenny Vaccaro with the team's first draft pick this year has prompted this move.
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Harper restructures contract, signs extension with Saints
Saints safety Roman Harper has restructured his contract, according to a league source.

We don't know the numbers, but he took a pay cut, and they added a year to his contract.  I'm told the new deal has less guaranteed money.  

Harper was scheduled to have a base salary of $7.2 million this year.  This will now free up some salary cap space. 

It also will make it easier to cut Harper next year, because it spreads the money out over a longer period and there are fewer guarantees.

Harper, who came to the Saints as a 2nd-round draft pick from Alabama in 2006, has been a Pro Bowl safety.  However, the drafting of Kenny Vaccaro with the team's first draft pick this year has prompted this move.
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Kristian's 1st look at Saints OTA's: A team with a chip on their shoulder
Kristian@wwl.com

The Payton factor:  The media got their first look at the Saints during their third Organized Team Activity session this morning at the team’s training facility on Airline Drive.    Very few people have as strong a presence at their workplace as the one felt from Sean Payton.  He was back with his team as they worked through the 90-degree heat at practice.  You can tell Payton is running the show again, just in the energy level alone that you see from the players on the practice field.  You can feel and see it in everone, from the coaches down to the water boys.  

Ryan’s D:  Most of the attention was squarely on the new defensive scheme of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.  While Ryan admitted they’re throwing a lot at the players right now, he said, "They are picking it up on the board as fast as any defense I’ve been in charge of."

Besides the obvious change in alignment, the defense already has a different look to it, and a different attitude.

"We all have a chip on our shoulder after last season.  I don’t like getting fired.  I know I had a job in five minutes," he said somewhat sarcastically. "I know I got my feelings hurt and so did our players, and we’re looking to something about it.”

Coming off the Bounty Scandal from a year ago, the Saints defensive coaches before now were a little resistant to say things aloud, but that’s clearly changed in the practice I watched today.  You could hear the coaches barking orders and coaching tips regularly to the players.   

It was also nice to see Joe Vitt back with the linebacker group.  Vitt was suspended for six games last season, and upon his return he was handling the interim head coaching duties.  Rob Ryan was obviously glad to have Ryan back in the fold as well.  

"I have the best assistant coach in football already here this side of (Steelers Defensive Coordinator) Dick Lebeau in Joe Vitt.  He didn’t coach a snap of defense last year, that’s like getting a first round pick," Ryan said.

Early observations:  It’s only May, so we can’t crown anyone yet, but a few players stood out today.  Defensive back Kennan Lewis was active around the football in team drills and picked off one pass from Luke McCown on a deflected ball.  Lewis just missed another interception, stepping in front of a Drew Brees pass intended for Lance Moore.  Linebacker Martez Wilson was impressive, flashing solid speed coming off the edge.  Victor Butler also flashed some of his pass rushing skills.  Though, keep in mind:  It’s hard to tell who wins the trench fights without pads.  

Did not practice:  Sean Payton wasn’t willing to disclose to much about injuries but the following players did not practice today.  Jonathan Vilma (LB), David Hawthorne (LB), Malcolm Jenkins (S), Kenyon Coleman (DE), Ben Watson (TE), and Charles Brown (OL).  Payton said Browns injury is from weightlifting.  "Nothing significant, we’ll just keep monitoring it.  He got some work in the walkthrough," Payton told us.  Jenkins missed practice battling a sore hamstring.
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Kristian: Will Smith is 'cool' with changing positions
Kristian@wwl.com - In a new defensive alignment, Saints veteran Will Smith is starting Organized Team Activities today at outside linebacker.  
“On paper it’s outside linebacker, but it’s still defensive end.  I’m cool with it,” Smith told me.

“It’s still the same role, I’m still rushing the passer.  The difference is instead of being in a three point stance, I’m in a two point stance.”  
Smith has spent his entire 9-year career with his hand in the ground playing in a 4-3 scheme.  Entering his 10th season in the NFL, Smith has tallied 67.5 career sacks.

The “Cajun Cannon” Bobby Hebert says the move makes sense to him.  “I think they know what they have in Will Smith as a defensive end, they want to see what he can do as a rush linebacker,” said Hebert.  “I think you can get five to six sacks out of Will Smith at this point in his career.  That would be pretty productive.”  

Yes, it’s a drastic change for Smith, but this sounds like a bit of an experiment.  If it doesn’t work they could still move him back to defensive end in the 3-4 under Rob Ryan.

The Big Question in Hebert’s mind for Smith is, “How well can he run?  How well can he cover running backs out of the backfield?”  Smith does have 25 career pass break-ups, with several of those coming at the line of scrimmage, batting down passes.  

Smith took a $6 million pay cut and restructured his contract this off-season.  Bobby says Smith looks to be a lock to make the roster.  “He’s still in the mix after taking the cut in pay.  The only way Smith doesn’t make the roster is if he completely falls on his face,” Hebert said.  

Smith is a veteran guy, and he’s “their kind of guy,” so it makes sense to take a look outside linebacker. At the end of the day, if it doesn’t work out you know they can move him right back to the defensive line.  The competition at the linebacking spots will be one to watch during OTA’s, mini-camp and Training Camp.
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Kristian: Saints gear up for OTA's
Starting this Tuesday, the Black and Gold get underway with Organized Team Activities, which is a fancy phrase for “practice.”  These  workouts are voluntary, but as in previous years under Sean Payton, attendance at OTA’s are expected to be near-100%.

So, what exactly are Organized Team Activities?  Basically, it is the first time that the coaches and players can be on a field at the same time practicing.  Yes, OTA’s are voluntary, but the standard that Sean Payton has set since he’s been there is to expect everyone to deliver at all levels.  There is essentially no off-season any more in the NFL, and Payton sets an extremely high level of accountability.

Yes, it’s a cliché to say that championships are won in the months before the season, but it’s true.  I’ve heard that from many Saints players, and they will tell you that these are months, days, and hours you can’t get back if they pass on the opportunity to improve.    Look back to two years ago during the lockout, when Drew Brees led the players in their own version of OTA’s.  Even during the labor dispute, the players recognized that it was important enough for an eventual season to be in peak shape.

The NFL is more physical than ever, so every day of practice is important.  Now, that being said…there is virtually no contact in OTA drills these days, following the newest collective bargaining agreement between the players and the league.  Back when Gregg Williams was installing his defense in ’09, you’d actually see some pushing and shoving at OTA’s…but that’s likely a thing of the past.   That’s not to say that OTA’s aren’t important, but it’s not as gritty as it used to be.   These days, the worst friction you’ll see at OTA’s is harsh language.

 Although the hitting may not be there, the competition is still pretty fierce.  Rob Ryan will have his first real opportunity to start installing his 3-4 D this Tuesday, and there will be a lot of guys trying to make their mark for their new coach.  Position battles will start to take shape on the D side of the ball.
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Kristian: Lance Moore is more than ready
It's hard to believe but Lance Moore is the elder statesman of the Saints wide receiver corps.  Moore joined the Saints back in 2005 as an undrafted free agent out of Toledo and has been mainstay since the 2006 season as perhaps the Black and Gold's most reliable receiver.  
 
I spoke with Moore as he and his teammates are about three weeks into offseason condition at the Saints training facility on Airline drive.  
 
"We're all focused on the 2013 season, and not thinking about what happened last season," Moore told me.  Saints fans, and Moore, don’t need to be reminded that New Orleans finished 7 and 9 and missed the play offs for the first time in three seasons.  Moore told me there is "renewed sense of focus" and "energy level' during this off-season. 

Click here to listen to my interview with Lance Moore...
 
Moore and Marques Colston are the only two veteran playmakers at wide-out for Drew Brees.  The rest are talented but unproven.  Joe Morgan caught 10 balls last season, and flashed deep speed, but those totals must improve this season.  Nick Toon was drafted in the fourth round in the 2012 draft, but spent the season on Injured Reserve in what amounted to a "redshirt season."  
 
The Saints also drafted another receiver this year in the 5th round in Oklahoma's Kenny Stills, a player that #16 says he’s ready to help develop.  "He's an exciting player, I'm anxious to work with him and get him in our offense," Moore said.  
 
The wide receiver position is an area to keep an eye during training camp.  Devery Henderson is not in the plans at this point, so someone has to step up and play that 3rd WR role.   Veteran special tams ace Courtney Roby is also in the mix for some playing time, but Toon, Morgan, and Stills have the edge.  
 
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Kristian: Tebow should play the indoor game
Kristian@wwl.com - Let me start by saying Tim Tebow might just be the greatest college player of my generation.  He was fantastic at Florida, winning two national titles.  Tebow seemed to WILL the Florida Gators to win after win.   Tim Tebow displayed fantastic leadership ability and was just a tough, gritty player who propelled fans to the stadium and got them glued in front of the TV.   If you like college football, this is what it was all about.  Tebow was college football.  

With that said, please spare me the talk that Tebow could be an NFL starter, or that you would want him as your quarterback.  Please spare us he “he hasn’t gotten a fair chance” argument.  You can’t help but root for Tebow, but when you watch him, you get nauseated at his attempt to play quarterback in the NFL.

The Broncos gave Tebow a shot, and concluded they couldn’t advance past the second round of post-season with him as their signal caller.  The Broncos somehow managed to squeeze a 4th round pick out of the New York Jets for Tebow.  I would’ve paid the Broncos a fourth rounder to keep him.   Let me be clear, I wouldn’t want Tebow as my backup Quarterback, and certainly wouldn’t want him as my starter, unless I was playing a motivational speaker game or college football.  He’s likable; Tim Tebow’s a man of God.  All that is nice, but it doesn’t help you play quarterback in the NFL.  

Tebow would be better served playing in the Arena League.  Even then I would have questions about his game.  However, the field is smaller…the windows for passing are larger…and he would be a huge draw for fans.  There is a reason Tim Tebow went unclaimed on the waiver wire.  32 General Managers and pro scouting guys know the deal.  He’s not the answer at quarterback.  Not to mention it will be a circus with his arrival, just ask the Jets how that went last year.  “Yeah, but he won a playoff game with Broncos.”  I get that argument all the time.  Is that the goal?  Winning a playoff game…or winning a championship?  How are quarterbacks measured?  Lombardi trophy collections!  That’s how!  In 37 career games as an NFL QB Tebow has thrown 361 passes and completed 47.9% of those passes.  He’s just not accurate enough in the pocket.   Teams usually want their starting QB’s to complete a minimum of 60% of passes.  

So, can we end the “I feel sorry for Tebow” party?  I don’t feel sorry for Tim.  He was drafted in the first round by a coach who clearly didn’t know what he was doing.  He won two national titles at Florida.  He has a Heisman trophy.  He’s a man of God.  Tebow is a fantastic human being!  He’s just not a good NFL quarterback.  He’s made a decent wage, so what is there to feel sorry about?  Tim Tebow was given ample opportunity to prove he can play at the NFL level.  His body of work says he can’t!   Tebow should count his blessings, and the fans should dispense with the love affair of a guy so grossly overrated.
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