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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


Kristian: Cam Jordan gets 5-year extension with Saints

After saying last week that there haven't been any "mind blowing" offers from the Saints, defensive end Cameron Jordan and the Black and Gold have apparently made up a lot of ground, and the two sides have ironed out a five-year deal.

Jordan was on the club option year of his rookie contract and was scheduled to earn just over six million dollars this season. Jordan's new deal has $33 million dollars in guaranteed money, with $27 million dollars in the first two years of the contract.

Jordan had a solid but not stellar 2014 season with 7.5 sacks, after racking up 12.5 in 2013. The Saints drafted Jordan with the 24th overall pick in the first round back in 2011.

The Saints have maintained that Jordan is a part of the answer on turning around a 31st ranked defense from a year ago, and will provide them with a stout run defender and some pass rush off the edge. The Saints have always found ways to keep players they like.
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Kristian: Tigers show they can win in more than one way

For the 11th time in LSU history, the Tigers are moving on to the Super Regional round of the NCAA baseball tournament.

Starting pitcher Jared Poche was dominant in the 2-0 win over UNC Wilmington this afternoon in Baton Rouge. Poche struck out eight Seahawks hitters in 8 and 2/3 innings of work. After hitting a rough stretch in his last two outings, Poche responded in a big way with his best outing of the season. LSU will host the winner of the Houston Regional (Rice or ULL) next weekend in a best of three series for the right to play in the College World Series.

Andrew Stevenson saved at least one run for LSU with an incredible diving catch in the top of the fourth inning. Stevenson came up with the diving grab and robbed UNCW of a sure-fire double and a run. It might be one of the better catches I've seen at any level of baseball. He not only caught it, but had the awareness to double up the UNCW baserunner trying to get back to first base.

LSU only scored two runs in the second inning, but that's all they needed. Alex Bregman was hitless during the regional, which if you had told me that was going to happen then I would assume LSU wouldn't have made it out of the Regional round.

The Tigers offense has struggled a bit, but baseball is so cyclical. The Tigers showed during the regional they can win in a variety of ways - if the pitching is off, the hitting can make up for it. Defense? Yeah, the Tigers have plenty. Pitching? With the rebound outing from Poche, LSU is armed with two solid options with Lange and Poche for next weekend.
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Kristian: No "mind blowing offers" yet for Saints DE Cam Jordan

Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan is entering his fifth year option season with the New Orleans Saints, and while he’s going to get just north of $6 million dollars this season as part of the club option year, he says the team and his representatives continue to talk numbers and extension.

"We’ve talked since last season, but I wouldn’t say it’s been any 'mind blowing offers.'" He describes the the offers so far as “eye popping” but also conceded that if it was that significant he would have signed it already. Jordan also added that his base salary this season is “eye popping” considering the amount of money that NFL players get paid in general. 

Jordan’s sack numbers dipped in 2014 to 7.5 sacks after racking up 12.5 QB take downs in 2013.  Jordan said he is more worried about the ‘overall performance of the defense this season than his contract.”  Jordan had the right answer, and the Saints are notorious for pushing the contract year to the brink and seeing a particular player cash in with a solid season during the final year of a deal. Case in point is Mark Ingram last season.  Jordan was the club’s 1st round draft pick (24th overall) along with Ingram in 2011. 
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Kristian: CJ Spiller will play a major role for the Saints this year

Running Back C.J Spiller was a really nice find for the Saints in free agency this spring.  He wasn’t an original target for New Orleans but once he was released from Buffalo, the Saints made a big play for him.  

The early returns on Spiller are very positive. “ He’s explosive.  He knows what to do.  I think there’s a real good fit for him with what we’re going to do offensively.  We’ll put him in a role where, whether he’s in the backfield, or flexed out, the key I think when we study him is finding him ways to get him the ball in space and let him utilize his skillset and speed,” Coach Sean Payton said following the first week of Organized Team Activities. 

If you’re looking for the lost production of Jimmy Graham, you might find it in Spiller.  Think Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas combined.  He’s that kind of player.  He might not be as fast as Sproles, but man, you can see defenders really struggle to get the angle on him in practice.  

Spiller has to stay healthy, and that’s something that he’s struggled with in his career, but so much of that is about luck.  If he stays healthy I could see him having a major impact on the Saints this season.  He’s got unique skills that Sean Payton is a master at utilizing, so sit back and relax. A healthy Spiller will be a fan favorite this season. 
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Kristian: Saints kicking it with two unproven kickers

Several positions on the Saints roster received a makeover this off-season, and the kicking position ended up being no different.  Shayne Graham was released last week after two seasons with the team.

 The Saints liked what they saw in Zach Hocker and Dustin Hopkins enough to part ways with Graham: “It’s kind of difficult to have a competition with three kickers.  We were not going to do that.  And after the rookie minicamp we felt real confident about how (Zach) Hocker worked and made that decision. We will see how they do,” coach Sean Payton explained. 

Hopkins was added to the roster (practice squad) towards the end of last season, and Hocker impressed during the rookie mini camp. Payton offered “We kind of know the backgrounds of certain players, but it was once we had him and looked at it, it was after that evaluation.” Hopkins and Hocker both have big legs but lack the experience of kicking in pressure-packed situations, but so did the recently waived Shayne Graham until someone gave him a chance. 

Payton also added that the intention wasn’t necessarily to get ‘younger’ at the kicking position. “I like the idea of just a good kicker at that position whether or not he is young. I am not partial to his age, I am not partial to whether he is tall, short, fat... I like the idea of not having to worry about the new rule change at 15 yards.  Hopefully we can see what we get from these two guys.”

It’s been a position of constant change for Sean Payton and the Saints since 2006 - they've used seven different kickers. 
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Saints' Vaccaro played entire 2014 season with torn hamstring

Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro had a bad sophomore season in 2014, after a solid rookie campaign in 2013.  Vaccaro was caught out of position at times and missed several tackles.  He even saw his snap count reduced later in the season, in what he and coach Payton failed to term as a demotion when it was clearly just that.  

Vaccaro revealed today that he played nearly the entire 2014 season with two torn muscles in his leg. “I tore it on the first series of the Atlanta game (Week 1)," he told reporters today.  Vaccaro explained the injury as a ‘grade two’ tear. Vaccaro also added that he tore his quadriceps muscle in the second meeting with Atlanta in week 16. “It sucked,” Vaccaro said but refused to offer the injuries as an excuse for his poor play in 2014 “I mean, I was out there and if I’m out there and I’m playing, then I have to execute.”  

Vaccaro said he spent more time this off-season training and rehabbing. “I started training way earlier this off-season, basically right after the Super Bowl.” Last year after a meeting with coach Sean Payton he described as "career changing," Vaccaro said he learned a lot from 2014. “It doesn’t matter about talent... a group has to mesh together, and come together with one goal.  When you go through a season like that last year, you really study what it takes to win in the off-season,” he explained.  

Vaccaro’s play was disappointing last season, but so was the entire defense, so with that said, if he can rebound with a bounce back year this season the nightmare of 2014 will be a distant memory. Vaccaro also said the coaches have made it very clear that “everyone is competing for their spots this season.”  That mindset and message has always served the Saints well in the past.
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Kristian: Saints "compete" in OTA, will share Greenbrier with Patriots

Payton's Props: Throughout his time as the Saints head coach, Sean Payton has used baseball bats, cartoons, gas cans, and other items to send messages to his football team.   Payton used a clever tool this week as the Saints opened organized team activities deciding to post a sign right outside the locker room visible to the players as they take the practice field. 



The sign is about “creating a sense of urgency, and that desire not to let your teammates down sort of thing,” Payton said. It’s hard not to see the sign as soon as the players leave the locker room - its right in front of their face.  Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro says the coaches made it “very clear, that everyone is competing for their spot this season.”

Visitors for Training Camp: The Saints will hold three joint practices with the New England Patriots in training camp in West Virginia.  The Saints and Patriots face off in the pre-season on August 22nd in New Orleans. The Saints and Patriots have worked against each other in two previous training camps. “It can pick up the focus and attention to detail. Typically our experience when we’ve practiced against New England, we’ve done a good job of focusing on certain periods. It gives you a different look on offense and defense” Payton explained.  
 
 

Excuse me. Coach Sean Payton can you help the Saints find N. Compete St?

Posted by WWL Radio on Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Saints were originally scheduled to work against the Houston Texans in training camp before the two teams played in the pre-season on August 30th in New Orleans.  The Texans were selected as one of the featured teams on "Hard Knocks" for this season, but Payton said that didn’t have anything to do with the decision to not practice with Houston. “We discussed and talked about a second team, the decision was more about getting back into a schedule here in New Orleans. It was really more about our team and what’s best for us.”  

Insert the #Deflategate joke here Saints fans!

Big Ben:  The player of the day was clearly tight end Benjamin Watson. Drew Brees connected with the veteran tight end on a long catch and run today during team portion of practice.  Brees and Watson connected on several passes throughout the day. “He’s a stud, and one of the most respected guys on this team.  He’s played for a long time, and at a very high level.  There is no better guy to have on a team, and no better guy to have at that tight end position,” Brees said of Watson after practice. Watson looked really spry today showing great athleticism and speed getting behind the defense on several plays.  At 34, Watson still looks like he has plenty of gas left in the tank. 
 
Jones and Coleman:  Wide Receivers Seantavious Jones and Brandon Coleman were two players that made the team last year as undrafted free agents, and both look live they’ve developed heading into their second season. Jones was on the receiving end of several nice plays from Drew Brees, one deep ball down the sideline that went for a thirty plus yard gain. Coleman caught a nice pass down the seam from QB Luke McCown. Coleman outraced defenders to the end zone for the score. Brees says both players recognize the opportunity in front of them. “Light years ahead of where they were compared to last year.  You can tell it’s just been at the forefront of their mind this entire off-season,” he said. Coleman and Jones are players to keep an eye on heading into mini-camp and training camp. 

Speed, Speed, and more Speed:  Saints running back C.J Spiller was another player that raised eyebrows today at practice. You quickly notice his speed getting to the edge on running plays, but he’s so versatile out of the back field as a receiving threat.  He’s kind of a combo Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles.  Spiller has cat-like quickness like Sproles, and is powerful and sure handed like Thomas. 

Notable absentees:  Center Max Unger was not at practice today, instead being present for the birth of his child. Rookie QB Garret Grayson is attending the rookie symposium. Defensive Tackle Broderick Bunkley was also not at practice.  Payton didn’t offer a reason as to Bunkley’s absence.  Running Back Mark Ingram also sat out with what Payton described as a minor foot/ankle injury. “We just backed off the reps,” Payton said. 

Junior Galette:  Last season Junior Galette was a liability against the run, and his role was reduced to passing downs, and it was interesting to see him in the same role during the installation of the base defense today. Galette is a tremendous pass rusher but had the tendency to over pursue on running plays.  We’re in May and clearly there is room for shuffling on the Saints depth chart, but I found it interesting that veteran Anthony Spencer was working with the first team defense in the installation period.  
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Kristian: Can LSU make the run to Omaha?

After a dissapointing early exit from the SEC baseball tournament, the Tigers still impressed enough during the regular season to earn the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA baseball tournament.  Baton Rouge will host a regional round of the tournament for the twenty-third time.  

LSU fans might be salty about UCLA securing the No. 1 seed overall, but keep in mind a No. 1 seed hasn’t won the national championship since 1999.  When you’re a top 8 national seed it hardly matters where you’re seeded, especially when you have the home field advantage the Tigers do at the Box.  UCLA is 42 and 14 on the season, the Tigers finished 48-10. 

The Regional Teams are set up nice for LSU, hosting Lehigh, Tulane, and UNC Wilmington in the first round.  If the Tigers advance to the Super Regional, they’ll be paired against one of four teams in a best of three series; Houston, Rice, ULL and Houston Baptiste.  Not to get oto far ahead of ourselves, but a Super Regional series between ULL and LSU would be awesome.  The top 8 national seeds are: #1 UCLA, #2 LSU, #3 Louisville, #4 Florida, #5 Miami, #6 Illinois, #7 TCU, and #8 Missouri State.  

Here is why I like the Tigers’ chances to make a run to Omaha in the CWS; there is no other college baseball environment that can top Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge.  LSU is at home for the Regional and Super Regional, and every year the Tigers have made the trip to the CWS they’ve done so on the momentum of playing at home.  LSU has a veteran defense and hitting line up.  The Tigers are mashing the ball as a team, hitting .321 for the season.

Of the every day players, Jared Foster has the lowest batting average at .294.  Hitting will be crucial in this tournament, and the magic numbers are between 6 and 9 runs per game.  The Tigers are 29-2 in games when they score six ore more runs.  More importantly, the Tigers have to get off to a fast start - they’re unbeaten this season when they’ve scored in the first inning.  

Now, there is some caution with this Tiger team, or some reason to be somewhat concerned that the Tigers won’t make it to Omaha.  The bullpen has been a trouble spot for LSU this season, and they’ve overcome those shortcomings because of a solid hitting line up.  If the Tigers can’t gain consistency with relievers they could be in trouble.  

What’s more, Jared Poche has struggled in his last two outings as a starter, and that could spell trouble in a three game Super Regional series.  The good thing is all of what ails the Tigers is fixable - it’s not a major weakness that they’re trying to patch up.  I fully expect the Tigers to navigate the regional and super regional round and into Omaha.  At that point, it’s anyone's tournament, and the Tigers are in a good spot to make a deep run in the post-season.  LSU is in search of their first national championship since the 2009 season.  The Tigers last trip to Omaha in 2013 resulted in two games and out, hopefully it will be different this time around. 
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Saints CB Lewis: "Everyone is holding themselves accountable"

The Saints have a logjam at cornerback heading into OTAs, mini-camp, and training camp.  Keenan Lewis has been the most consistant factor in the secondary during his two seasons with the team, and he’s also the longest tenured player at corner.  

He’s gone from prized free agent pick up to a valued leader this off-season: “I’ll take that role, I have to step up and show them the ropes.  I’m ready for the challenge.  I push them every day to be the best player that they can be.”  Brandon Browner was added this off-season to play opposite of Lewis, but there are a number of players that are fighting for time in the sub packages on defense, including Delvin Breaux. “You are definitely going to hear from him.  I can promise you he’s going to be a starter in this league this year,”  Lewis said of Breaux.  

FULL AUDIO: Keenan Lewis talks to Kristian and T-Bob on "Double Coverage"

Rookies P.J. Williams and Damian Swann were also added to the mix of an extremely crowded lot of cornerbacks. Veterans Kyle Wilson, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Brian Dixon, Terrence Frederick are among the other players that will compete for playing time this season.  

Lewis also said the leadership and professionalism has improved: “You can see the change in the team already.  We’re hanging with each other outside of football.  Everybody is holding themselves accountable.  I’m excited to see where we go this year!”

Frankly the accountability and maturity lacked severely last season, as the Saints stumbled their way to a 7 and 9 record.  
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Saints release K Shayne Graham

A day after Shayne Graham told reporters he was "not worried about competition" at the kicker postion with two other players on the roster, the Saints announced Tuesday that they have released the veteran kicker. Now, Dustin Hopkins and Zach Hocker will be the two players competing for the Black and Gold kicking duties.

That position has always been a revolving door in the Sean Payton era, and Graham started to lose a litle leg strength last year. Hopkins and Hocker both have strong legs, but lack the experience. 

The move doesn't surprise me - you're rolling the dice a little bit, because these guys dont have a proven track record like Shayne, but then again, the team must think highly of Hopkins and Hocker and I would say right how Hopkins praobly has the inside track to get the job.

Here's the full release from the Saints:

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The New Orleans Saints announced Tuesday that they have signed wide receiver Lance Lewis and terminated the contract of kicker Shayne Graham. The announcements were made by Saints’ Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis.
 
Lewis, 6-2, 207, comes to New Orleans after spending the entire 2014 campaign on the practice squad of the San Francisco 49ers. Originally signed by the Washington Redskins as an undrafted free agent out of East Carolina in 2012, Lewis appeared in three games for the Redskins in 2013 after starting the season on their practice squad and was also on the Dallas Cowboys practice roster for Week 17 of that campaign
 
The Concord, N.C. native played two seasons at East Carolina and following his senior campaign, ranked first in school record books in touchdown receptions (22), third in receptions (149) and fifth in receiving yardage (1,716).
 
Graham, 6-0, 210, is a 15-year NFL veteran who was first signed by the Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2000 out of Virginia Tech and has played for nine clubs. The 37-year old kicker ranks seventh in NFL record books in field goal accuracy (85.5%), booting 266-of-311 career attempts. Overall, in 173 games, he has scored 1,219 points, tied for 35th in NFL history.
 
In his first full season with the Saints in 2014, Graham drilled 19-of-22 field goal attempts (86.4%) and finished as the club’s leading scorer with 103 points. He was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October based on his first three games in the month when he converted all nine of his field goal attempts and led conference kickers with 36 points.

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