Defensive Coordinator: Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan didn't sugar coat his defense's performance last week today when he spoke to the media. "You have to obviously fix something, when you give up that many points and that many yards. It's shocking, but we've all been there before. At the end of the day, that wasn't a real good game by us and we're going to fix it. We'll be better, you watch. I guarantee we'll be better," Ryan explained.
The Saints will likely be better this Sunday when they face the Browns. The truth is, it's hard to get much worse than last weeks abysmal performance against the Falcons, not to mention the Browns don't have the assortment of weapons on offense that the Falcons do. Ryan does expect to see an up-tempo offensive attack from Cleveland: "I'm sure they will, they're at home so they can operate even more effectively." The Browns used a lot of "hurry up" offense last week to erase a huge second half deficit against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Saints vs Browns: New Orleans is favored by 6.5 points on the road against the Browns. I know the defensive performance has some concerned, but I'm not in that camp yet. If the Saints struggle on defense against this offense, then there is reason to pull the fire alarm. Yeah, I picked the Saints in a blowout win in week 1 against the Falcons, but did you anticipate the D missing 23 tackles? I didn't! Did you see Matt Ryan playing the game of his life? I didn't! If the Saints hadn't dropped the opener, I could make a case for this one being their slip up game; the Saints are usually good for one or two of those a season. I don't see that happening now, after last week's wake up call. I expect a hungry and angry football team Sunday in Cleveland. The Browns are at home and that crowd will be fired up, but in the end the defense just doesn't have enough to slow down the Saints. New Orleans 31 Cleveland 20.
Injury report: Saints WR Kenny Stills (groin) is listed as probable on the final injury report of the week. CB Keenan Lewis (knee) is listed as probable along with LB Curtis Lofton (shoulder). FB Erik Lorig (ankle) and S Marcus Ball (hamstring) have both been ruled out this week. On the flip side for the Browns, RB Ben Tate has been ruled out for Sunday. TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder) is listed as questionable for the match up against the Saints.
No-Goodell: Saints coach Sean Payton would have every right to lash out and pile on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell following the Ray Rice video debacle that has swept the league since Monday. "Our focus has really been on Cleveland," he said, stopping a reporter in mid-question asking about Roger Goodell. "When you look at our workweek, and our workdays, our time and energy from morning till evening is on the opponent," Payton added. Payton was suspended by Roger Goodell for the 2012 season as a part of the team's bounty scandal.
Stills getting better: WR Kenny Stills is working his way back from a quad injury that has plagued him the entire preseason, and forced him to miss the opener against Atlanta "I felt I could have played last week. I think coach wants to be cautious and make the right decision so it doesn't happen again," Stills said after practice today. Stills suffered the initial injury in the offseason working out with Drew Brees in San Diego, and re-aggravated it on the first day of training camp, and suffered a setback in the third preseason game against the Colts. Stills admitted he's not a very patient person and suggested it's probably a good thing the trainers and coaches are keeping such a close eye on his progression so he wouldn't try to come back to early.
Injury report: LB Curtis Lofton (shoulder) and CB Keenan Lewis (knee) were back on the practice field today taking every rep in practice. Lewis and Lofton were both listed as limited participants on Wednesday. WR Kenny Stills (quad) was limited for the second consecutive day, but is making strides working his way back and hopes to play this Sunday vs the Browns. FB Erik Lorig (ankle) and S Marcus Ball (Hamstring) did not practice.
Tackling: That singular word came up several times today in the locker room in discussions with the players and Coach Sean Payton. "Tackle!" "Tackle!" "Tackle!" Cornerback Keenan Lewis said it several times when asked a question, regardless of the topic. Lewis went outside after practice today and worked on a tackling dummy after the Saints missed 16 tackles against the Falcons. "We have individual periods out here where it's strictly fundamentals. You're working location, landmarks, leverage; the number one thing is population to the ball. So all of those things we work on." Coach Payton said tackling was an emphasis on the first practice of the week, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Memory lane: The Saints notched their first win of the Sean Payton/Drew Brees era in 2006 on the road against the Cleveland Browns 19-14. "We came out of training camp with a lot of questions I think. It was kind of a one possession game, back and forth we were able to make a couple of plays in the end," Payton said. "It seems like a long time ago."
Road Woes: The Saints have been one of the best road teams in the NFL since 2006, but not recently. New Orleans has lost four straight regular season games going back to 2013. The Saints spent the offseason focusing on a handful of areas; improved running game, increased turnovers, playing better on the road, and handling the crowd noise. For the most part the Saints handled three of those tasks pretty well in the opener, with a good effort running the football. Payton isn't ready to mix up the pregame itinerary: "I think one of the things you gotta do when you evaluate a loss is making sure the adjustments or corrections aren't one you're chasing ghosts".
Injury report: Wednesday's participation report looks fairly good for the Saints. WR Kenny Stills (quad) was officially listed as a limited participant in practice. CB Keenan Lewis (knee) was also limited, along with Linebacker Curtis Lofton (shoulder). Keep in mind if a player receives treatment on an injury they have to be listed on the injury report. I wouldn't read too much into Lofton and Lewis being on the injury report. Lofton banged up his shoulder in the first half of the Atlanta game and later returned. Lewis worked after practice on the tackling dummy so I would say he's fine if he's taking extra work. FB Erik Lorig and S Marcus Ball both missed practice today.
Humbled: The Saints were left scratching their heads after losing to Atlanta in the season opener yesterday in the Georgia Dome. "Last year was last year, it's a new year. We're not panicking, but we have a little sense of urgency," explained linebacker Junior Galette. Perhaps the Saints bought the hype of best team on paper, or the sexy super bowl pick among experts. The Saints allowed over 500 yards of offense to the Falcons in the overtime loss 37-24. New Orleans became the 21st team since the NFL/AFL merger to allow at least 500 yards in a season opener. Of the previous 20 teams, only 6 ended up making the playoffs. Cause for concern? Maybe, but it's still very early.
Galette says the defense will not play that poorly again. "We just didn't get it done. It was terrible; I know we'll never rush like that again. That's a fact. The Saints vaunted pass rush generated just 1 sack against the Falcons. "Definitely ate that humble pie last night. Only good I can take out of it is; that it happened early in the first game of the season let's get this out the away and never have this feeling that I have right now," Galette continued.
Wake up call: It sounds very much like the loss to the Falcons was a bit of a wake up call for a team that has very high expectations. Typically in a season, every good team has a hiccup, a loss that is bit inexplicable. Unfortunately for the Saints it happened in week 1. "We're focused; we gotta get on it now. We have to go out there and take it," Galette said. We'll see if the sense of urgency is increased this week as they travel to Cleveland Browns squad in their home opener.
Kick-off: We're just 48 hours away from kick off between the Saints and Falcons in week 1 of the season in Atlanta. "I think we've got a team that is figuring out what we're doing and we have to play like we want to be perfect," said defensive end Cameron Jordan, who was noticeably excited about the match up. The Saints have enjoyed tremendous success against Atlanta in the Sean Payton era going 13-3 since 2006.
One of the best offenses in the league: Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said just that about the Atlanta Falcons offense today, despite losing tight end Tony Gonzalez to retirement in the off season. "They have all these weapons, these receivers are special and so is their quarterback. They're an excellent offense. We're going to have our hands full," explained Ryan. The chief concern for New Orleans is WR Julio Jones. "He's really that special. He looks like he's at full speed of the four minutes I saw on Hard Knocks," Ryan said with a smile. Last year in the opening game against the Falcons the Saints doubled Jones nearly every play and he still caught 7 passes for 76 yards and a touchdown.
#Saints vs #Falcons 3 pt spread. Close game or blow out? season predictions?
Prediction: Conventional wisdom and experience would tell me this is going to be a close game between the Saints and Falcons, but I'm ignoring that. I'm going with what I've seen out of the Saints in the preseason and training camp. The Saints offense reminds me so much of the 2011 attack that set numerous offensive records (broken last year by the Broncos). Atlanta just has too many questions on defense and the offensive is a concern for the Falcons. I like the Saints 38-17 in a big opening win. I know it's a rivalry, I know it's the opening game for the both squads, but the Saints are that much of a better team.
Injury report: Wide Receiver Kenny Stills (quad) is officially listed as questionable for Sunday's season opener against the Falcons. . Fullback Erik Lorig (ankle) and Safety Marcus Ball (hamstring) are both out for week 1.
Road Struggles: The Saints had a nice rebound season in 2013, going 11-and-5 and 1-and-1 in the playoffs before falling 23-15 to the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round. The Saints were unbeaten on the road but surprisingly struggled on the road on their way to a 3-and-5 mark away from the Superdome. Three of the Saints five road losses were by six points or less. "One of the points of emphasis in the offseason on offense was finish and securing a game, there were times where we got into our four minute (offense,) and you need a first down, and we have to do a better job with that," explained Sean Payton. The Saints rank top three in the NFL on the road under Sean Payton at 35-29 since 2006, and second by New England at 23-17 since 2009.
Griffin back on the practice squad: The Saints officially announced the re-signing of QB Ryan Griffin to the practice squad today, also waiving LB Todd Davis from the practice squad. Griffin said he was a little caught off guard after initially making the final roster on Saturday "Yeah, when it happened it happened I didn't know it was coming!" Griffin said. While it might be harsh, it's reality of the NFL. Aside from a very few players, nobody's roster spots is completely secure, especially on roster cut-down day, and the days after. The really good teams like the Saints have mastered the art of manipulating that bottom part of the roster and practice squad.
Uh-Oh Julio: The Saints don't have to defend Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez this Sunday, as he retired at the end of 2013. That's a welcome change for the Saints and Payton: "He's a guy that did it forever, it seems like. We sent him his retirement card." Now the problem becomes wide receiver Julio Jones, who's coming off a foot injury that kept him out of the final eleven games last season. "You have to be aware of where he is on the field every play. He's got great size, great athleticism, he can run, and has fabulous hands." Payton said they'll mix up the coverages and try and keep Atlanta guessing as to how they're covering Jones.
Stills a no go: Saints WR Kenny Stills did not practice today, and he was limited in practice on Wednesday. Stills injured his quad on the first day of training camp, and played briefly in the preseason against the Colts and re-aggravated the injury in that game. Safety Marcus Ball and fullback Erik Lorig both sat out of practice again today. Ball and Lorig are yet to practice this week. Lorig is listed on the injury report with an ankle injury.
The Saints rolled the dice and it payed off. A league sources says QB Ryan Griffin has been signed to the 10 member practice squad.
Griffin was waived on Tuesday by the club, after initially making the final roster on Saturday.
At this time we don't know the corresponding practice squad spot roster spot to make room for Griffin. Another NFL team can still sign Griffin off of the Saints practice squad, but would have to add him to their active roster.
Fear the beard: Linebacker Junior Galette has gone from undrafted long shot to team captain, and is signing another contract extension with the Saints. Galatte's deal is 4 years reportedly worth $41 million with $23 million in guaranteed cash. "This is the best week of my life" Galette said after he was also voted a team captain by his teammates earlier this week. "I know what it feels like have a chip on your shoulder. I believed in that,when people didn't believe in me; I believed in myself" Galette explained. Don't worry, Galette says he'll continue to have a chip on his shoulder: "I'm motivated by pride, not money." Galette arrived in New Orleans in 2010 as an undrafted player out of Stillman college, and now has his sights set on reaching the pro football hall of fame in Canton. Hey most doubted he could make the roster, and look what happened. It's possible.
Roster roulette: The Saints continued their game of roster roulette today, announcing WR Robert Meachem has resigned with the team, after releasing him on Saturday in the final roster cuts. Meachem's roster spot could be manipulated later in the season but Sean Payton says Meahcem still brings something to the table "He's someone that knows what we're doing. We were able to get through the transactions and make that move". Kicker Shayne Graham was also brought back to the roster yesterday "You know what happened happened, I just think this is what the team wanted and what the team did. It is what it is". Graham said he spent the three days prior to re-signing with New Orleans relaxing with his fiancé and didn't pack up all the while remaining in New Orleans.
Injury report: Ahead of Sunday's clash with the Falcons, the Saints are relatively healthy outside of WR Kenny Stills (quad). Stills was limited in today's practice. FB Erik Lorig and Safety Marcus Ball missed practice today.
The Saints have re-signed WR Robert Meachem to the active roster after releasing him in the final roster paring on Saturday.
This might be an indication that WR Kenny Stills might still be hampered by a quad injury that has kept him out almost the entire preseason. I originally was told Meachem would make the final roster on Saturday. I guess I was right after all!
At this time, we don't know the corresponding roster move for Meachem yet. I'll keep you posted, check back here.
Every player, every coach approaches "cut down" day in the NFL a little differently. Saints coach Sean Payton and his coaching staff are charged with the task of formulating the teams' final roster they’ll carry into the regular season. NFL teams have to pare their rosters down to 53 players by tomorrow afternoon at 3pm. The Saints have some tough decisions to make at kicker, safety, and wide reciever. The Saints could have a few veterans and younger players released that will then likely be top targets for other teams in the league.
The kicking battle between Derek Dimke and Shayne Graham is a particularly tough one to call. Graham has the veteran experience and Dimke has the stronger leg. The Saints could roll the dice a little bit with Dimke, and if doesn’t work out, the team could always go back and make a play for Graham or another kicker that will be available. Graham is a vested veteran, and if he’s on the roster past week one of the regular season, his salary is fully guaranteed. I think Dimke ends up winning this competition.
The Saints apparently are collecting safeties, and five out of the six currently on the roster are virtual locks to make the final 53. Jairus Byrd, Kenny Vaccaro, and Rafael Bush figure to play prominent rolls on defense this season. Marcus Ball could also find his way into some defensive packages in games. Rookie Vinnie Sunseri’s likely contributions will come on special teams in the kicking game. Undrafted rookie free agent Pierre Warren is the wild card. He’s played well enough to merit a roster spot, but the Saints might feel comfortable in trying to slip him onto the practice squad. I think Warren also makes the roster, and could be a player the Saints move up and down the active squad based on injuries at various positions.
Have we seen the last of Robert Meachem? One week ago I thought it was a near certainty. Today, with the nagging injury to Kenny Stills (quad) I think it’s possible the team keeps 6 wide receivers. Meachem rejoined the Saints last season after Joe Morgan was lost for the year with an ACL injury. Stills, Marques Colston, Brandin Cooks, and Morgan are firmly in place. Nick Toon has made just enough strides and Meachem looks like he’s the odd man out. If the Saints release Meachem it will be a sure-fire sign they feel good about Kenny Stills’ recovery and availability for week 1 against Atlanta.