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Kristian Garic

Talk sports and more with Kristian and T-Bob Hebert on "Double Coverage!" 

Weeknights 8pm-Midnight

Twitter: @kristiangaric1
Email: kristian@3wl1350.com

Kristian: Saints battle rainy first day of practice

Wet Practice: The Saints started training camp getting tested right away, with a steady rain falling throughout the first half of practice. The skies cleared toward the back end of practice and several players started making plays. Aside from one fumbled center-QB exchange and a fumble on a passing attempt from Luke McCown the weather didn't effect practice that much.

Play of the day: Saints defensive back Keenan Lewis had a diving intercepting today on a deep pass from QB Ryan Griffin. Lewis later deflected another deep pass from Drew Brees a few plays later. Brees did however find a streaking Nick Toon down the sideline later in practice victimizing rookie P.J Williams, on a perfectly thrown pass. Brandon Browner was also very active getting his hands on some footballs, deflecting a couple of passes.

Snead Who: I realize it's very very early, but a player that flashed a couple of times today in the passing, was Willie Snead (WR Ball State). He made a couple of nice catches high pointing the football and fighting off a defender in coverage. "He definitely stood out today, that's what it's about at this point in camp is make a few plays and keep stacking those solid practices one after another" explained Saints color analyst Hokie Gajan.

CJ Spiller: Looks like a really good fit for this offense, you could see several defensive mismatches he'll present for Sean Payton to game plan around. "He's explosive, he can do it all in the running game, and he passing game," said fellow backfield mate Mark Ingram. I'm really interested to see him grow in the offense once the Saints get into pads and pre-season games.

No Music: Last year, the Saints had music blasting in the background during portions of practice, that was one noticeable change this year. The only noise coming from the coaches hollering at the players, not the latest hit from Lil Wayne. The music theme was actually part of the Saints playoff run in 2013 before the Eagles game that season. It appears as though it's all a part of a renewed sense of focus around the team "After you have a year like last year, everybody is back to ground zero, we have a long uphill climb and we haven't even started yet" said defensive end Cameron Jordan.
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Kristian: Saints equipped to overcome adversity

Closing the book on Junior: As training camp opened today for the Saints, General Manager Mickey Loomis and Coach Sean Payton were pelted with questions regarding their recent decision to release outside linebacker Junior Galette. Mickey and Sean both took the moral high ground and had nothing but positive remarks about Galette. "It's not easy, yet at the same time, the mistake magnified is pretending it doesn't need to be done if it needs to be. It became a decision about the team" Payton explained. "As a coach you want to see your players have success. I mean what I said, we wish him well. Yet there is a part of you that gets frustrated that you can't make that happen while he was here," Payton added. The decision to release Galette looks to be the right one on the surface, but in the middle of the season if the Saints are struggling to get pressure on the QB, it will be questioned.

Adversity: The Saints weren't very good at overcoming adversity last season. General Manager Mickey Loomis is confident this team will be different. "There were some things that we didn't anticipate last year on our team that we had to address. I think we've done that and we'll see the results of that this coming season," Loomis said. The core values and emphasis on talent and character has served them well, aside from last season. Character trumps talent in a lot of ways, but there are plenty of questions surrounding this team.

PUP list: Saints safety Jairus Byrd and Wide Receiver Marques Colston will begin the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list (PUP). The designation doesn't spell doom for either player - in fact it's the safe play. Byrd is coming off a knee injury last season, and Colston has started camp on the list before. Sean Payton didn't disclose the reasons Colston or Byrd will start camp on the PUP but did say he doesn't them expect to miss too much time. If a player starts training camp on the PUP list, and then suffers a setback while rehabbing an injury the team is forced to place him on injured reserve, and likely lose him for the season. Once a player comes off the PUP list same applies. If Colston or Byrd are on the PUP list after the final roster is determined then they would be forced to sit out the first 8 games of the season.

Soft: You've heard it, or perhaps thought it - 'Did the Saints get soft from holding training camp in West Virginia?' If there is some degree of failure it's reasonable to ask that question. "I think we're smart enough to look at things and look closely at why. You gotta be careful you don't start operating on the wrong parts," Payton said. I can rattle off more issues than the venue of training camp as to why the Saints struggled last season. Team chemistry, poor leadership in the locker room, inability to get off the filed on third down, and inconsistent offense are just a couple of reasons that come to mind.

Conditioning test: As expected, Payton put the team through a conditioning test today, and said he was pleased with the results. Now the Saints will hit the field at the Greenbrier for their first practice tomorrow morning at 7:50am, and Payton said he expects this camp to be "more challenging" than last year. The collective bargaining agreement prevents teams from putting the players in pads right away, so the Saints will be in shorts & helmets (shells) for the first three practices.
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People : Junior GaletteMarques ColstonMickey LoomisSean Payton


Saints officially release Galette, sign two others

Monday afternoon before they begin training camp in West Virginia, the Saints officially released Junior Galette and also signed TE Kevin Brock and G Cole Manhart and waived injured center Michael Brewster.

Both Brock and Manhart are long shots - to say the least - of making the roster. I hate to call them "camp bodies," but if there is such a thing, these two certainly meet that profile. That being said, there are guys who were brought into teams this way before that went on to make the team, so you never know Regardless, these guys are very low on the depth chart.

The Saints report to the Greenbrier on Wednesday and have their first practice Thursday.
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Kristian: Releasing Galette right move for Saints

The Saints obviously mean business releasing their top pass rusher less than a year after naming him a defensive captain and signing him to a huge extension last season. Galette made a series of poor decisions this off-season, involved in a domestic dispute and of course there is the video alleging Galette's involvement in a beach brawl. Galette was scheduled to make $1.2 million dollars in base salary this season through bonuses and incentives, and the Saints will have to eat about $16.2 million dollars of the 4-year $41 million dollar contract they signed him to last September.

PREVIOUSLY: Kristian: Saints are in a tough spot with Junior Galette

The NFL is currently looking into the off the field incidents involving Galette, and the Saints delivered a pre-emptive strike to a possible suspension handed down from the league. Coach Sean Payton and the Saints have talked all off-season about getting the "tough, smart, and good football players" that had 'Saints values' in terms of character. Translation? They don't want to deal with a bunch of distractions, and clearly Galette became one of those distractions this year.

The move is clearly risky. Galette lead the Saints in sacks the last two seasons, and while he's a bit of a headache, the lost production is now another question mark the Saints will have to answer this season. Galette suffered a pectoral injury this off-season and would have to pass the physical before his release would become official.

This was the right move for the Saints even though it's painful to eat the amount of money. The value in not being a distraction was worth the price in the Saints eyes. If you're touting character as an attribute in your players, keeping Galette would have went against that. If nothing else, you can say Galette's poor decisions forced the Saints hand.
Saints release Junior Galette

Kristian here, Saints fans are you going to miss Junior Galette? Who's gonna step up in his place?

Posted by WWL Radio on Friday, July 24, 2015
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Kristian: Five concerns as Saints head into training camp

Last week I wrote about five things I liked about the Saints, positive things the Saints have in their favor headed into training camp. Here are some questions that remain unanswered at the moment.

1. Inexperienced WR corps: Aside from Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks, the lot of receivers that will be counted on this season for New Orleans is largely unproven, or have been inconsistent through their careers. Nick Toon, Joe Morgan, Josh Morgan, Brandon Coleman, and Seantavious Jones figure to be the six players that will compete for three or maybe four roster spots. Toon has flashed some ability in the past, and was starting to turn the corner toward the end of last season. Joe Morgan has another shot after being released last season, and when he's focused, he can be a real asset in the vertical passing game. Josh Morgan has some skins on the wall from his time in San Francisco, and could surge in camp. Brandon Coleman and Seantavious Jones are the two un-drafted prospects from a year ago that have made pretty big strides in their game. The Saints want Jones and Coleman to step up and take advantage and it looks like they recognize the opportunity. By the way, in 2006 the Saints were explosive on offense without a star-studded cast at WR. Michael Lewis, Terrence Copper, Marques Colton, and an aging Joe Horn were among the receivers on that team that made it to the NFC championship game.

2. Kicking it with youth: Zach Hocker and Dustin Hopkins are both young players with big time legs, and the kicking competition will be one of the most intriguing in camp. Hocker and Hopkins both lack the big game experience of kicking in clutch situations, but that doesn't necessarily spell doom. Garret Hartley was an unproven kicker that bounced around before sticking with the Saints and kicking them into the Super Bowl. If a big kick is missed by one of the two players in the regular season, the fans and media will immediately second guess the decision to part ways with Shayne Graham.

3. Defensive line: The depth along the defensive line is a concern for the Saints. Broderick Bunkley has to stay healthy this season at nose tackle, and John Jenkins will have to be better in his third season if he's called upon to play significant snaps for Bunkley. Jenkins struggled last season when Bunkley went down with an injury. Akiem Hicks is the player that I will be watching closely during camp and the pre-season. Hicks was primed for one of those breakout seasons last year, and to be honest looked very average at times at defensive end.

4. Lost production from Jimmy Graham: The Saints had to pull the trigger trading Graham to Seattle. It was the only way they were going to fetch enough currency to re-make the offensive line and defense this year. I can't get on board with the idea that it was a 'great' trade, simply because of the production the Saints are now looking to replace. I've said all along the production will be replaced by committee, at tight end, running back, and wide receiver in different ways. The biggest concern about the production lost in the Graham trade is the red-zone. Who will assume that role when the Saints are trying to score touchdowns and who presents the mismatch with size and speed in that area? Sean Payton is creative and I'm sure he's got a plan, but I'm curious to see how effective they can be.

5. Are the Saints mentally tough? At some point early in the season, the Saints are going to be tested mentally, trailing late in the game or dealing with an injury or dropping a game they should have won. How will the Saints handle that will be key for the season. Last year the Saints seemed pretty fragile when things weren't going their way in ball games, things kind of snowballed and mistakes kind of piled up at critical junctures. They hope the roster turnover and leadership will help remedy that issue when it comes up this year.
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Kristian: Five things to like about the 2015 Saints

The Saints have some warts headed into training camp, but they also have some redeeming qualities for the 2015-2016 season. Some of this list might make me come off as a bit of a homer, but go ahead and refute them if you can!

1. Drew Brees: Go ahead, doubt him! Let's not forget this guy has made a career out of proving the naysayers wrong. "Too short! Not enough arm strength! No way he can come back from that shoulder injury!" Brees heard those critiques early in his career. "He's declining! He's lost some skill!" Brees is hearing those critiques now! I like Brees' chance to rebound with a big year, even without Jimmy Graham.

2. Sean Payton: 'Humbled and hungry' is a combination I love in any head coach or player. Payton admitted himself to be as such this off-season, and I expect a re-focused head coach with a re-focused organization following. At his best, Payton is a tone-setter with an infectious leadership style that exudes through the organization, from the ticket sales staff to the equipment staff. Payton loves a challenge, and he has one this year with a roster that has only four players left from the 2009 Super Bowl team.

3. The schedule: The 2015 schedule for the Saints couldn't be any better from a team, media and fan perspective. There aren't any crazy twists and quirks like back to back road games with a short week on a Sunday night to a Thursday night on the road. The Saints play the AFC and NFC south, which were the worst divisions in in the league last season. Oh and by the way, the Saints only play one potential cold weather game this season on the road against Washington on November 15th. The schedule screams 9 wins!

4. History: Under Sean Payton, the Saints have never had back to back seasons with a losing record. Also, the Saints have only missed the playoffs in back to back seasons just once in the Sean Payton era (2007 & 2008). History also shows us that the NFC south is very wide open, and the Panthers won't repeat as division champs. No team has won three straight NFC south crowns in the history of the division.

5. Who Dat Nation: Yeah you heard me! The Superdome is one of the best home field environments in the league. I've been to nearly every stadium in the league and Who Dats are amazing! It's hard to believe the Saints are riding a five game losing streak in that building, but I expect the Black and Gold to get back to their dominant ways this year with a raucous crowd that creates confusion for the visitor.

Next week, I'll give you five things that concern me about the 2015 Saints. To be honest - I have more concern than I do hope.
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People : Dat NationDrew BreesJimmy GrahamSean Payton


Mortensen: NFC South will come down to Saints and Panthers

Here we are, smack dab in the middle of the 'dog days' of the summer, clawing, scratching and waiting patiently for football to arrive, and while we're just a few short weeks from Saints training camp, we're relegated to wondering about the chances the Saints have of recapturing the NFC South from the Carolina Panthers. ESPN's Chris Mortensen thinks the division will come down to those two teams. "When you pick the NFC South, the Saints and Panthers are going to be the teams to beat. This is Saints and Panthers in my eyes - the Falcons maybe." Mortensen explained. The Panthers won the South last season with a 7-8-1 record while the Saints finished at 7-9.

Mortensen continued to highlight the importance of Brandin Cooks in his second season with the Saints. "Getting Max Unger was a big thing. I thought losing Jimmy Graham was a pretty big deal. Brandin Cooks has to come in and have a big year," he added. Cooks has been highly impressive this off-season during workouts, and looks primed and ready to build on a solid but injury-shortened rookie campaign. Cooks and Nick Toon have spent time working with Drew Brees working in San Diego this off-season, according to a source.

The national perspective on the Saints is always interesting, but Mortensen also weighed in on the Saints QB of the present and the future in Garret Grayson. "Different evaluators in the draft, had different grades on him. It's in the eye of the beholder. That's the problem we've had in this league is giving these guys time to develop. Sean Payton has had good success identifying talent at the QB position in his career. I think behind Drew Brees he has a chance to develop," Mortensen added. ESPN's NFL insider stopped short of saying that Grayson is a sure thing, but had some conviction about Drew Brees future. "I have no idea weather Grayson will play in this league, they obviously think someday he can. I don't see Drew abandoning that job anytime soon."

I agree with Mortensen on nearly every front. The NFC South is a team race between the Panthers and Saints, Drew Brees is just fine and Brandin Cooks is vital to team success this season.

Is it football season yet? Soon! Very soon!
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Kristian: Saints are in a tough spot with Junior Galette

A video re-surfaced over the weekend of a man believed to be Junior Galette in a beach brawl striking one man with a belt in a fight, and later turning and striking a woman at least twice during the fracas.  Galette’s already scheduled to meet with he NFL at the end of this month stemming from his January arrest on domestic violence (charges in the case were dropped).  Galette’s attorney told Nick Underhill of The Advocate that it’s not Galette in the video.  The NFL is investigating the incident that apparently occurred in 2013. The Saints apparently are aware of the video.

WARNING: The video contains disturbing images and profane langauge.

The Saints are trying to let the league handle the process of investigating the matter, but some of the onus is on the team, if they’re truly preaching chemistry and re-establishing a winning culture.  The Saints model their franchise after the New England Patriots, and I wonder how the Patriots would have handled Galette’s January run-in, and this latest alleged video?  I understand the possibility that it isn’t Junior Galette in this video, but what about the possibility that it is?  If it is determined to be Galette, the Saints need to cut ties with Galette no matter what the cost.  

Releasing Galette would cost the Saints $17.5 million dollars of cap space next season if they parted ways with Galette based on his contract that was restructured on March 9th.  I’ve talked to a few legal analysts with knowledge of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and they’ve all told me the NFL cannot reasonably apply the 2015 Personal Conduct policy to the alleged incident from 2013.  One source I spoke with said “The Players Association would go crazy on the league if they decided to do that.”  On the flip side, the league could argue that this video wasn’t ‘reasonably discoverable until now’.  Also the league or the Saints could argue that Galette failed to report the incident in question and could try and recoup some money from his contract. 

The NFL designed a new personal conduct policy last year, and it calls for a minimum of a six game suspension for the first offense involving domestic violence or assault/battery.  Under the new policy, the second offense could result in a lifetime ban. 

Galette lacks perspective, maturity and character. “Really, at this level, you can conduct yourself as good as choir boy as you want, but sometimes the trouble comes to you,” Galette said last week at the teams minicamp.  Trouble doesn’t find Zach Strief, Drew Brees, Marques Colston and other players on the Saints roster.  Galette finds himself in bad situations because he puts himself in those situations.  

If it is Galette in that video hitting a woman with a belt, the Saints can’t keep him around no matter what the NFL deems as appropriate punishment.  The cap hit would be painful, but not having him around would be worth any price.  Also, the Saints would create a void at Outside Linebacker/Pass Rusher but it’s better than having that guy in your locker room and in you organization. 

Galette is becoming more of a problem while the Saints are looking for solutions.  One source I spoke with described Galette this way: “He needs to grow up, he’s troubled, he’s a party guy and kind of flashy.”  "Flashy" and "troubled" are not flattering descriptions but Galette insisted that he’s focused on football, and that his teammates have been supportive through a rough off-season.  He also maintains that he learned some lessons.   

The Saints will have no choice but to release him if it’s determined to be Galette in that Miami Beach Brawl.  Every NFL contract has specific language in the contract based on conduct detrimental to the team, it’s the catch all in just about every deal. If the league or the Saints exercise that clause, Galette could be suspended for a maximum of four games and fined 1 weeks pay.  Galette would be re-instated after those four games.

We might be in the sports "dead zone" until training camp starts, but the Galette saga will keep our interest. 
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Saints wrap up 2015 mini camp; Breaux, Coleman looking great

The Saints' on-the-field work is finished until the team reports to training camp at the end of July, after three days of mini camp at team headquarters on Airline Drive.  Sean Payton decided to cut practice short today by about an hour. “I think we got a lot of stuff done. This time away will be fairly quick, and before we know it, we’ll be back at training camp,” Payton said following practice.  The rookies have to report for camp a week early and the injured players follow, with the veteran players reporting two days ahead of the 29th of July.  

Stand outs:  If there was one particular player that made a ton of plays consistently it was defensive back Delvin Breaux. “I said that after the first practice, you can tell he belongs in the NFL - he’s a confident player that made a number of plays, and all of a sudden the Saints have some pretty good depth at cornerback, opposed to last year where that position was a weakness,” said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert. Another player on the stand out list is WR Brandon Coleman.  I don’t recall one dropped pass from Coleman during the OTA and mini camp practices. “He’s been really sharp, you can tell he’s much more comfortable being able to play faster and he’s looked really good making plays on a number of different throws from the QB,” added Hebert.  

Off Time:  Most players will take a few days or week on vacation while they mix in some training, but the pitfalls are there for NFL players at this time of the year. Payton says he spends a lot of time talking about the trouble that could lurk during this break. “We go through it and talk about ‘no news’ and talk about different things,” Payton said; by ‘no news’ Payton means off-the-field incidents that could turn into distractions heading into training camp.  

Final thoughts:  I’ve talked about this a lot during the off-season, and I’ll say it again.  Everything positive you hear about a player standing out or making plays should come with some tempered enthusiasm, and jobs aren’t on the line right now.  The coaches are really measuring football smarts more than anything else at this time of year.  Every training camp that I’ve covered there is always one or two players that separate themselves when the pads go on, and some players that looked great in OTA’s and Mini Camp sometimes disappear.  
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Cooks, Anthony shine at Saints minicamp; Galette avoids surgery

The intensity was ramped up on Airline Drive today as the Who Dat Nation filled the stands for their first glimpse of the Saints in day one of Mini Camp.  “The schedule’s a little different in regards to our times and the amount of time we’re on the field, meeting time,”  Payton said after the Saints worked for about two hours on the field in front of packed house at team headquarters.  The format for practice wasn’t all that different from what the media saw in three previous practices.  

Galette:  NFL network reported that Saints OLB Junior Galette will not require surgery to repair a pectoral injury he sustained in the weight room.  Coach Sean Payton confirmed the news today following practice, and said the team is optimistic about getting Galette back on the field soon. “All along, we were just making sure that all eyes were on him and making sure we do the right thing as we approach this break.”  Galette is the team’s best pass rusher, registering double-digit sacks in back to back seasons, and sat out of practice today in camp.  “That’s clearly positive news for the Saints, because whether you like Galette or not, he’s a really good pass rusher with some vulnerability as a run defender,” said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert. 

PHOTO GALLERY: Saints minicamp day one

Highlights:  Undrafted rookie WR R.J Harris had the play of the day, chasing down a long pass from QB Ryan Griffin, making a diving reception forty yards downfield in one team portion.  Tight End Benjamin Watson also continued build on a solid off-season, hauling  a deep seam pattern early in practice.  CB Kyle Wilson made back to back nice plays in pass defense, batting down one attempt and gathering an interception after a Drew Brees pass slipped through Nick Toon’s hands. Stanley Jean-Baptiste also put together a solid practice, coming up with a very athletic pass break up down the sideline that would have gone for a touchdown if not for the leaping deflection from Jean-Baptiste.  

Bobby sounds off on what impressed him at #Saints camp today - plus we're also asking, Stephone Anthony stood out big time.. would you be okay with a rookie linebacker leading the Saints defense?

Posted by WWL Radio on Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Bumps and Bruises:  Two players left practice early, S Kenny Vaccaro and CB Delvin Breaux. Sean Payton was not asked about their status following practice, so at this point it’s unknown the reason for their early exit from the field.  Both players were escorted by a member of the Saints training staff into the team locker room.  DE Akiem Hicks, WR Marques Colston, and DL Broderick Bunkley were among a handful of players that did not work.  Colston told the media later in the locker room that the team is simply managing his workload and added that he’s practiced two days a week in the organized team activity portion leading up to this week.

Hey Rookie:  Linebacker Stephone Anthony doesn’t look like a rookie out on the field right now for the Saints, he continues to make plays around the ball. “You can tell he’s got a high football IQ - it doesn’t look like it’s too big for him,” said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert in his observation of the rookie.  Sean Payton continued to heap praise on Anthony: ““He is around the ball. He certainly can be a leader. I think that first, by nature, an inside linebacker is potentially a guy who would have a headset and have some of those traits. He has really done a good job of getting acclimated to our system quickly. I would say he is pretty mature. When you are around him and visit with him he is ready for the competition and opportunities.”  

Saints Rookie LB Stephone Anthony another solid showing at Mini Camp.

Posted by WWL Radio on Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Cooks will be a stud:  Saints WR Brandin Cooks is the best playmaker on the roster right now.  That is very clear at this point in the off-season. “You can see he’s just got a different gear that not too many players can compete with. He catches the ball, and he’s up the field past defenders in a hurry,” said Saints Color analyst Hokie Gajan.  Cooks made several nice catches today, darting up field leaving defenders in his wake.  

Kicking battle:  Dustin Hopkins and Zach Hocker were both perfect on their attempts during the special teams portion of practice today ranging from 34 to 48 yards.  As I’ve said before this kicking battle will play all the way out in the final roster pairings in the pre-season.  Former Saints Kicker John Carney was at camp today working with both kickers “He’s spending three days here, just kind of working with these young guys. He’s kind of been close to the program and stayed involved” Sean Payton explained.  

The Saints are back on the practice field tomorrow on airline drive at 11am at team headquarters, the practice will be open to the public weather permitting. 
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