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Steve Geller

"WWL First News" Sports Anchor
Weekdays 5am-10am

"Sports Talk" Producer
Weekdays 4pm-8pm

Twitter: @stevegellerWWL
Email: steve@wwl.com

Steve: Ingram hopes for bigger role on Saints offense

For the Saints, one of the few bright spots from last season was Mark Ingram's break-out year. Whether or not it was the thought of a new contract that fueled his fire, he certainly produced on a high level. Ingram rushed for 964 yards and 9 scores with 145 receiving yards in the 13 games he appeared in. How did it feel to be on the practice field for day one of training camp? "It was good to be back with the team, good to be back to work," said the running back. "First day is always an important day, sets the tone for the entire camp; for the year." The Black & Gold seemed to lack passion and focus in 2014, which in the end resulted in a 7-9 record that included 5 losses at home where the Saints once seemed invincible. Since last year was such a huge letdown, does Ingram expect this camp to be a lot tougher? "I believe so," nodded Ingram. "Our year wasn't what we expected so I think we're going to be more disciplined; the coaches are going to be on us heavier. The players, we need to be more encouraging. When somebody is not working up to par we need to lift them up. We just all have to work together and be a team from top to bottom. That's what championship teams do, that's what championship organizations do. Encourage each other and pick each other up."

Ingram is also hoping to help pick the team up by getting more opportunities in the offense. Even though the Saints added CJ Spiller, who is a pass catching RB, to the backfield, Ingram is hungry for an increased role in the offense. "Yeah, I hope so. I want to contribute in every aspect. Running the ball, catching the ball, screens, running routes, picking up pass protection… I'm a complete back. I've been saying that since forever."
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Steve: Who will be Saints #2 receiver with Colston on PUP?

It's still way too early to get worked up over guys starting training camp on the physically unable to perform list, but if Marques Colston does have an injury that will keep him out for an extended period of time; who will replace him as the teams' #2 receiver?

I have Brandin Cooks slotted as the #1 guy, despite it only being his 2nd season. The 2014 first round draft pick is returning from a hand injury that limited him to just 10 games in his rookie season. Cooks really seemed to be clicking well with QB Drew Brees before getting hurt, and expect that bond to only get stronger this training camp.

That brings us back to the whole "who will be the #2 WR?" discussion. When the players hit the field today I fully expect to see Nick Toon as that guy. He is entering his 4th season as a member of the Black & Gold and 3rd in the system since he missed all of year 1 due to injury.

Toon has seen very limited playing time thus far in his career, but did start to be involved more towards the end of last season. In the Saints final 6 games he caught 17 passes for 215 yards and 1 touchdown. While I realize those aren't jaw dropping numbers, it is significantly better than the previous 2 years.

He has good size at 6ft2, 215 lbs. and has routinely impressed during practices. The key is to turn in those highlight reel moments when in game situations.

Some will ask, "But what about Seantavious Jones or Brandon Coleman?" While I am excited about see what both 2nd year guys can do, I do not expect two practice squad guys from a year ago to come and snag the #2 job right away. Both are going to have to continue their stellar OTA and mini-camp showings in order to have a shot at earning that role.
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Byrdman: Or (The Unexpected Injuries of a Saints safety)

When the Saints swooped in last offseason to sign the top free agent on the market, there wasn't a single soul who thought it was a bad decision. But now, in just year two of safety Jaruis Byrd's 6-year $54 million contract, doubt and concern have crept into the minds of the Who Dat Nation.

The Byrdman will start his 2nd straight training camp on the physically unable to perform list. Last year was because of back surgery, and this season he is recovering from knee injury that limited him to just the first 4 games of the 2014 season. Now, this could just be a precautionary move by the Saints since Byrd was back on the field in OTAs and minicamp in a limited role.

He could come off the PUP anytime during training camp, but until then cannot practice with the team or play in any games.

While we hope that is the case, it doesn't mean that you cannot wonder if New Orleans made a poor investment. Did the Buffalo Bills let the All-Pro safety walk because they knew he was damaged goods?

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Steve: Pelicans adding Kendrick Perkins

The Pelicans and unrestricted free agent Kendrick Perkins are in the process of finalizing a contract, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports. Stein adds it will be a one-year deal for the veteran's minimum.

Perkins played little for the Cavaliers last season after being dealt to Cleveland from Oklahoma city at the halfway point. His season average was 17 minutes with 4 points and 5 rebounds per game in 2014-15.

The 30 year old center is basically just a big body at this point in his career. He will provide some veteran leadership and play the role of enforcer, but I cannot imagine he will have more than a limited role. Bringing Perkins into the mix also means that Jeff Withey will likely not be back in the mix.

Side note: Perkins should bring Tyrke Evans a cookie cake and all should be good
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Steve: Les Miles says eight wins is certainly not enough

The final day of SEC Media Days finally brought out the guy we've all been waiting to see. LSU head coach Les Miles showed off his shoe game, which was the trend this year among the coaches, by putting purple & gold Converse on the table. OK, back to football! The Bayou Bengals finished 2014 with an 8-5 record, while going 4-4 in the SEC, and in the final contest of the year, lost to Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl. Miles knows it wasn't good enough.

"Our team, eight wins, certainly not enough", Miles admitted. "We played some really good ball clubs in that eight-win season and played them very close, but our goal is the playoffs, our goal is the SEC championship. We're shy of our goals, and we want more. The things that we've done, I think we're in really good shape."

The only way this team is going to improve this season is if the play at quarterback gets better. Last season both Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris struggled with hitting open receivers and were also victims of drops. Any new info on who could be named the starter week 1 vs. McNeese State?

"I think Brandon Harris has gotten most of the summer work," Miles stated. "I think he has really improved. I think I'm confident in both guys, and I think competition will end up making the call there who will start. But, again, I think we're nothing but improved at the quarterback spot."

He thinks Harris has gotten most of the summer work? Les, your other QB is suspended indefinitely for breaking into a student's apartment to allegedly retrieve items that were stolen from him. Of course Harris has gotten most of the summer work! Miles did say that he does expect Jennings to be cleared by the time summer camp begins next month.

A bright spot on the offense last season was freshman running back Leonard Fournette. He rushed for 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns and led the SEC in all-purpose yards at 137.4 per game.

"He's one of those guys that is a hard worker," said Miles. "He's quiet, does not speak much. He truly is a leader of our team. He's a guy that does the work in the classroom, does the work in the weight room, and when we talk about what our team goals and the direction of this team, he's the guy that's integral to those thoughts."

Another emerging player for the Tigers is on the defensive side of the ball. In his freshman season, safety Jamal Adams had 66 tackles and made the 2014 Freshman All-American and All-SEC Freshman teams. Miles called him one of the finest safeties in the conference and also discussed improvement on the defense despite the Tigers ranking No. 1 in the SEC in passing and total defense.

"Our defensive line, Davon Godchaux and Greg Gilmore, Christian LaCouture, and a number of guys behind him inside I think will push the front very well. On the perimeter, Tashawn Bower and Lewis Neal and a host of other guys will really give us good position and speed on the perimeter there. Our linebackers may be the biggest, fastest that I've been around."

The Tigers will begin the 2015 season at home against McNeese State on Sept. 5. The following week, conference play kicks off at Mississippi State.
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Steve: Pelicans sign two more

The Pelicans turned their attention to their two centers after securing Anthony Davis to a 5 year extension. First up was Alexis Ajinca who agreed to a 4 year $20 million deal with the team. He was very productive last season coming off the bench. Ajinca averaged 6.5 points and 4.6 rebounds in just over 14 minutes per game. His biggest issue was getting into foul trouble along with a lack of defensive prowess, but is still a quality backup. Then late Wednesday night word came down that Omer Asik is finalizing a 5 year, $60M deal to remain with the Pelicans. While it's still unclear how the big man will fit in new coach Alvin Gentry's system, the team just couldn't let him walk in free agency. New Orleans gave up a first-round pick last year in order to acquire him from the Houston Rockets. Asik averaged 7 points, 10 rebounds and 1 block per game last season.
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Pelicans make no additions to the nest in NBA Draft

The Pelicans did not possess a 1st round selection in last night's NBA Draft, and wound up trading away their 2nd round pick. New Orleans drafted Michigan State forward Branden Dawson with the 56th overall pick, but shipped his draft rights off to the LA Clippers for cash considerations.

Maybe that money can help add new speakers to the gym for coach Alvin Gentry, who said he likes to play music during practices. The Pels will likely focus on adding some talent to surround Anthony Davis with in free agency. The period to negotiate with players opens next week on July 1st. The team is also hoping they can lock up "The Brow" to a long term max-money deal at that time. This is the final year of Davis' rookie contract.
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Steve: Pelicans introduce new head coach

With change comes excitement about the unknown - and also hope. For the Pelicans, their new head coach brings a fresh new perspective, coming off an NBA Championship victory with the Warriors. Alvin Gentry was an assistant at Golden State this season and helped that squad produce the top scoring offense in the Association. The year before, he was an assistant with the Clippers and guided that offense to the top scoring unit in the league.

Now he joins a Pelicans ballclub that is coming off its 1st playoff berth in 5 years and has one of the best players in the world in Anthony Davis. The Pels gym where the press conference was held just oozed of positive energy. "I'd like to thank Mr. and Mrs. B," said Gentry. "It was so great when I came here visiting with them. This whole organization, this whole franchise is run like a family; so if you're part of it you're part of the family." The family should be a lot of fun to watch this year as Gentry will make this Pelicans team more uptempo and centered around superstar Davis.

While he is known for his offense, Gentry stressed the need to play solid defense. "I think one of the things that I think you'll see us do is that we're going to play a lot faster and give him (AD) an opportunity to be in the open court," Gentry stated. "One of the areas we've got to get better in, obviously, is on the defensive end, and I think we'll see that happen. We're going to be a very good defensive team that happens to be good offensively. And I think in order to win, that's what it has to be." Gentry admitted it was hard to stay focused on his job with the Warriors after being hired as New Orleans new head coach, but knew he had to keep his head in the moment. Soon after winning though his attention shifted immediately to his new nest in New Orleans.

"Like I said to AD," Gentry smiled, "Why can't this be our time? No one's more deserving then this city right here."
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Steve: The "Breaux and Cooks Show" entertains at Saints OTA

The local media has been talking a lot how Saints cornerback Delvin Breaux has looked confident and like he belongs on the field at organized team activities; today, he was even better. The former CFLer broke up a number of passes. There was even a play where he got beat that he still looked good.

Brandin Cooks caught a perfectly thrown ball from Drew Brees despite Breaux blanketing the receiver, but the play of the day came when Drew Brees intended a pass for Josh Morgan only to have Breaux pull off a one handed interception that made every member of the media say "wow!" It was completely effortless and I can't remember the last time I saw anyone of the Saints defense make such a pretty play.

Meanwhile, its pretty safe to say that Brandin Cooks is fully healed from his broken thumb that caused him to miss 6 games last year.  Forget about raving over his next level speed, the kid is a human vacuum when it comes to catching passes. He easily had over 150 yards today and he seems to be on a different level then the rest of the WRs out there.  
A number of players did not take part on today's workout like Marcus Colston, Cam Jordan and Ryan Griffin.  Head coach Sean Payton said all were excused - and he did talk more about Junior Galette's situation.  He confirmed that the outside linebacker has a pec injury and is trying to avoid surgery.  

Also, Mark Ingram was back on the field after missing the previous two OTAs that the media got to watch.  He did not look like he was hurting or moving funny.  Payton said last week they were just being cautious with the running back's snaps.

This week concludes OTAs - mandatory mini-camp starts next week and is open to fans, weather permitting. 
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Steve: Ingram misses Saints OTA again

For the second straight week, Saints running back Mark Ingram did not participate in the organized team activity practice the media was able to view. Coach Sean Payton would not say anything specific as to why, only stating that they were being cautious with him.

Back in March, Ingram inked a new four-year deal worth $16 million dollars.  He busted out last season rushing for 964 yards rushing and nine touchdowns averaging 4.3 yards per carry. The 25-year old has battled some injures in his four year career, playing an entire 16 game season only once in 2012.

We shouldn’t read into this too much at the moment.  But it will start to become a concern if he continues to miss time when mini-camp kicks off on June 16th.  
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