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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: Hump Day is reporting day for Saints rookies!

Folks, not only are we halfway through the week, but today Saints rookies have reported for training camp. The rest of the squad will join the newbies in seven more days. I think the team did a good job with the trio they picked up in the early goings of this year's draft.

Round 1: Louisville Defensive Tackle Sheldon Rankins

This selection was no surprise as most mock drafts foresaw this monster packing his bags for New Orleans. Defensive tackle has been a problem area for this team and Rankins looks like a kid who can come in and provide that inside push, applying QB pressure and taking down running backs in the backfield.

Round 2: Ohio State Wide Receiver Mike Thomas

Ok, I admit I thought the Saints should have gone defensive end with this pick. But after getting a sneak peak of Thomas in offseason practices and getting to talk to him, I love this choice. He has the best twitter handle in the game (@cantguardMike) and carries a calm, cool, and confident demeanor about him. The force is strong with this one.

Round 2: Ohio State Safety Vonn Bell

Bell makes up the other part of the Buckeye brothers in the Big Easy. He is one of those guys who always seem to be in the right place at the right time and we know he can make an interception in the Superdome (Sorry, Jordan).

Bell could actually see a ton of playing time in his rookie campaign since defensive coordinator Dennis Allen frequently deploys 3 safety sets.

Bonus! Check out this snag by Bell

The most important player to pan out in this draft for the Saints is obviously Rankins. He mauled the opposition in college and we'll see how he fares against a top rate center in Max Unger during camp. Creating some pressure up the middle from the defense isn't just on a wish list, it's a must.
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Steve: Pass rush remains Saints biggest concern heading into camp

Saints football is really just around the corner as training camp starts NEXT WEEK! The team is looking to resurrect itself from consecutive 7-9 finishes, and in order for that to happen they need to revive the defense.

It hurt to watch that unit a year ago, as they looked as sloppy as Rob Ryan's appearance. Now it's Dennis Allen's krewe to mold, and his biggest hurdle to overcome as defensive coordinator is find a way to generate a consistent pass rush. The team only sacked the QB 31 times in 2015 which was tied for 25th in the NFL.

What is his "D" missing? Crazy at it may sound… I say it's Junior Galette. OK, not the person, but for sure his back-to-back double digit sacks seasons opposite Cam Jordan.

There was hope that Hau'oli Kikaha would be the guy in that role this season, but t'was not mean to be as last year's 2nd round draft pick is now facing the challenge of coming back from a 3rd ACL injury. NEXT MAN UP! But what does that mean for the Saints? Heading into camp it looks like there shall be 3 young bucks vying for pass rushing snaps at defensive end.

Kasim Edabali is heading into his 3rd season and has flashed some sizzle on the edge. Hopefully the undrafted Boston College product's career path continues to trend up. Edebali sacked Aaron Rodgers twice in his 2014 rookie campaign then tallied 5 sacks a year ago while just getting 361 snaps.

An intriguing prospect on the Saints roster is Obum Gwahcam, who in limited time managed to tally 2.5 sacks as a rookie. He was originally drafted by Seattle in the 6th round, but was waived before the 2015 season began and was snatched up by New Orleans. He actually started out as a wide receiver in college at Oregon State before making the switch to defensive end in 2014. The kid was also a track star in college and could blossom with added strength.

Rounding out the group is Davis Tull who was drafted in the 5th round by the Saints in 2015 but missed his entire rookie season with a shoulder injury. He provided a few tasty morsels during this year's mini-camp practices the media was able to view. Tull had 37 sacks while playing at Tennessee-Chattanooga as his initial move is quick and lethal.

The pads will start popping next week as the Saints report to the Greenbrier in West Virginia for the start of camp on the 27th. Pressuring the opposing QB is a must for this team if they want any real chance of getting back into the conversation as contenders in the NFC.
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Steve: Saints add veteran pass rusher

The Saints have signed a veteran defensive end three weeks before the team reports to West Virginia for the start of training camp.

Tapp is a 13 year vet that will provide the team with some depth at DE. He was a 2nd round pick out of Virginia tech for the Seattle Seahawks in 2006, but has mostly been a back-up in recent years. He played in all 16 games last season for the Detroit Lions and recorded 26 tackles and 2 sacks while forcing 2 fumbles.

The Black and Gold were in need of some depth at the position after Hau'Oli Kikaha suffered a 3rd torn ACL in his left knee. Tight end Jack Tabb was reportedly waived in order to make room for Tapp on the roster.

Photo via USA Today
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Steve: Pelicans sign Solomon Hill

The Pelicans have dipped their beak into the waters of NBA free agency and have hopefully found an answer to their issues at small forward. ESPN's Marc Stein first had the news on the birds signing Solomon Hill: Stein adds that the deal is for 48 million dollars over four years and has incentives that could boost it past the $50 million mark. Hill comes to New Orleans after spending his 1st three seasons with the Indiana Pacers. The 25 year old from the University of Arizona was drafted 23rd overall back in 2013. His contibutions may not always show up in the box score but he is a good defender who can hopefully develop a 3 point shot under coach Alvin Gentry. His work ethic seems relentless as now-former teammate Myles Turner congratulated Hill on his new contract:
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Steve: Saints Coach Payton drops in NFL Network rankings

NFL Network analyst Elliot Harrison has come out with his annual coach power rankings.  The Saints' Sean Payton comes in at #9, falling 4 spots from his 2015 ranking.  Here are the other eight coaches that Harrison has ahead of  Payton:

8) Ron Rivera, Panthers
7) John Harbarugh, Ravens 
6) Andy Reid, Chiefs
5) Bruce Arians, Cardinals
4) Mike Tomlin, Steelers
3) Mike McCarthy, Packers
2) Pete Carroll, Seahawks
1) Bill Belichick, Patriots

To me, there is no question Belichick is #1, but after that I think its easy to argue about who goes where.  I don't think 9th is that far off for Payton.  It's like he says all the time, you are what your record is. After back-to-back 7-9 seasons I wouldn't have been surprised if Payton had fallen out of the top 10. 


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Voting starts today on Zephyrs final choices for new name

By this time next year, the Zephyrs baseball team will have a new name.  The franchise is rebranding the minor league baseball team in order to be "more New Orleans." 

The ballclub's current nickname actually comes from a famous Denver passenger train, not "The Zephyr" rollercoaster that used to reside at Pontchartrain Beach. 

The team asked fans for help and received over 2,000 suggestions that have now been whittled down to 7 finalists. Once again the team has turned to the fans to make a final decision.  Hold onto your hats, here are your choices. ...and now batting for your New Orleans

Baby Cakes
King Cakes
Night Owls 
Red Eyes 

Click here to cast your vote... 

Could these really be the best suggestions out of the 2,000 that were submitted? YIKES! What do you think? I don't like ANY of them, but am ready to have some fun with it. My vote is going for what I think is the absolute worst choice....the Baby Cakes. Isn't that a term of affection for your significant other? "Hey baby cakes, I missed you." 

Voting began today.  The poll closes on July 8th, and the winner wont be announced until later in the year.  Maybe that will be enough time to rethink things and just to keep the name Zephyrs.       
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Steve: LSU's Ben Simmons to go 1st in NBA Draft; but is he ready?

Not a big surprise here, but former LSU power forward Ben Simmons will be selected 1st overall by the Philadlephia 76ers 
The potential Simmons has is just too great for Philly to pass up on.  He is 19 years old and can score, rebound and bring the ball up-court like a point guard. Very similar to what Pelicans stud Anthony Davis brings to the table.

I personally am not sold on Simmons in the pros, but you can say that about every prospect.  His season at LSU just bothers me too much.  Forget the knock on a lack of an outside shot, I just got a bad vibe about his attitude while he was in Baton Rouge and felt it showed often on the court.  Maybe it was an issue with Tigers' coach Johnny Jones, but Simmons' body language and the way he carried himself makes me think he isn't ready for the bright lights of the Association.   

Photo via USA Today
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Steve: 2016 Saints mini camp is in the books

The Saints ended practice early today, as the team wrapped up their third and final day of mini-camp.  Linebacker Stephone Anthony was not in attendance and Jairus Byrd, Dannell Ellerbe, Kyle Wilson, Kasim Edebali, Jamarca Sanford and Thomas Morstead did not take part in team drills. Robert Meachem was back at practice and wearing his old #17 again.  Kyle Prater now has #12. While Meachem was present, he did not take part in the practice due to a foot issue.  

Last year at training camp, it was evident that tight end Ben Watson was going to have a large role in the 2015 offense, since he seemed to catch at least one touchdown every practice.  A love affair could be budding with Josh Hill. He ran a great route where he faked outside, then went in and caught a TD from Luke McCown. I'm interested to see if Hill is more interested in the offense this year.  The Saints clearly love him, or they would not have matched the Chicago Bears offer to keep him in New Orleans.  

Both kickers, Kai Forbath and Connor Barth, continue to struggle.  They missed a number of kicks throughout this offseason, but Coach Payton said he likes the duo, explaining that an issue with the field made for poor kicking conditions.  Payton added he believes that one of these two will be the team's place kicker, quelling any thought the team would bring in another player.  
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Steve: Could Davis Tull be the missing piece to Saints pass rush?

The Who Dat Nation suffered a panic attack upon hearing the news that last year's 2nd round draft pick Hau'Oli Kikaha suffered an ACL injury during OTAs, and will likely miss the entire 2016 season.  He was supposed to play a vital role in re-energizing a pass rush that allowed just about every opposing QB in 2015 to look like a Hall of Famer.  
After getting over the initial sting of losing a player, thoughts turn to who ca help fill the void, and the the answer might also be from Kikaha's draft class. Davis Tull was selected by the Saints in round 5 a year ago and missed the entire 2015 season because of a torn labrum. He had a really good day at mini-camp on Wednesday, where he would have had a few sacks, giving hope that maybe he could be at least be a part of the solution to the Black & Gold's pass rushing woes. 

“I said something to him, I thought he had two really good get-offs," said head coach Sean Payton. "He’s obviously quick, he’s healthy, he’s doing well. His weight is right around 250 so I’m sure he’s anxious for us to get the pads on and for him to receive some good work."

Training camp will kick-off at the end of next month so we will have a clearer picture soon.  Expect Kasim Edebali and Obum Gwacham for playing time at defensive end.  

Photo via USA Today
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Steve: Another CFL player looking to make NFL with Saints

Last season, cornerback Delvin Breaux was one of the few bright spots on the Saints defense.  His transition to the NFL from the Canadian Football League seemed effortless.  This year he did some recruiting for the Black & Gold, helping the team discover safety Erik Thomas, who also played ball in the CFL.

“I played with him for 2 years in Canada, that’s my guy,” says Beaux. “I went and talked to Sean Payton and was like, 'Coach, we need to get him down here.' Harris was in his contract year up there and he called me to say no teams were looking at him. I said 'WHAT!?' I went right up to Coach Payton and said look at this guy, I think he’s going to be a gem for us.”
Harris has definitely caused the media to take notice at the handful of practices we’ve seen this offseason.  First off, you can’t miss him because of his size.  He stands 6-ft-3, 220 pounds and has also played the linebacker position. 

Has Harris’ adjustment to the American game of football been as seamless as Breaux’s?

“It’s been good. With football, everything is kind of similar,” answered Harris. “It’s just learning a new terminology, almost like learning a new language. It’s not too hard to pick up on. I feel like I have pretty good football knowledge, but just repetition; that’s all it is.”

Meanwhile, Harris’ new Black & Gold teammates seem to agree with Breaux’s initial assessment. “Stud,” replied safety Kenny Vaccaro when asked about Harris. “He’s been playing good every practice. He’s competing. He’s making plays. He has a lot of range. He’s smart. I can’t say enough good things about him.”

Photo via USA Today
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